It’s Lunar New Year, and it’s one of the biggest holidays in Korea as in China and some other Asian countries.
Traditionally, all the extended family members get together, make the holiday food like mandu together, do the ritual to the ancestors, make a deep bow to the elders in the family, and play traditional games. These days, however, not everyone goes back home; some buy food at discount stores; and others refuse to have a ritual for religious reasons. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed yet and would probably never change: We eat ddeokguk on the New Year’s day.
“Did you have ddeokguk?” is a common greeting during the season. And eating ddeokguk, one “officially” gets one year older. When I was young, I remember, my neighbors used to ask me “How many ddeokguk have you had?” instead of asking “How old are you?” (Now thinking of it, I wonder why they don’t use that expression any more, at least to me. Hmmm.)
So, I had ddeokguk today, and I am one year older than yesterday.
Speaking of which, Korean age system is different from most of the rest of the world. In Korea, as soon as you’re born, you’re already one year old as we count the nine or ten months in mom’s womb as life (and we round it up). AND on Jan. 1, you get another year. (Thankfully, you don’t get another on your birthday in Korea. lol)
In theory, if you’re born on Dec. 31, you become two on your second day of being born. (But we usually count by days, weeks or months until a baby celebrates its one-year birthday, which is called dol, so no one would call a two-day baby two years old in this case.)
So, Korean age is always one or two years older than in other countries. Confusing, huh? But to make it more confusing, we do also count age as others do, that is referred as man[mahn], roughly “in full.” The man age is used for something very official as in newspapers, government documents, and regulations.
So, how old am I? Which one would you like to know? (Not that I’m going to tell you. *wink*)
Happy Lunar New Year!!
+ My rather simple recipe
0. Soak thinly sliced ddeok, or rice cake specially made for the dish, in water for about an hour. Drain right before making ddeokguk.
1. Boil water with anchovies and kelp to make broth.
2. Take them out of the pot.
3. Add the soaked ddeok to the boiling broth.
4. When the ddeok floats above the water, it’s ready to go.
While waiting for the ddeok to float, prepare egg and gim, or dried seaweed, garnishes:
1. Egg garnish: Separate an egg and whisk them. Pour them separately on a heated pan, you know, just as you would do to make crepe. When they’re cooked, slice them into thin strips.
2. Gim garnish: Roast a sheet of gim and cut it into thin strips.
(Many people have beef garnish as well, but I’m simply not a big fan of meat-in-da-soup.)