중앙데일리

Lotus leaf dish contains the power of prayer

[FOOD & KOREA] Yeunipbap, Punggok-ri, Gimpo

July 29,2010
Yeunipbap, steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaves Provided by the Korea Tourism Organization
Yeunipbap, or steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaves, is a traditional, healthy “slow food” dish that not only satisfies the taste buds but is also visually pleasing.

Steam rolls up from the hot lotus leaf, and inside there is a mixture of sticky rice, sorghum, millet, ginko nuts, jujubes and other herbs. As you peel off the lotus leaf to expose the sticky rice, the scent intensifies. The rice is full of nutrition, as are the lotus roots, which are boiled, cut up and added to the mixture.

The dish has long been one of the most luxurious dishes served at Buddhist temples. In Buddhism, lotus flowers represent nirvana. When important guests came to the temple, this dish was almost always on the menu.

Perhaps because the dish was often served in Buddhist temples, it has a reputation of carrying certain mystical powers.

The legend of the Cho family, which formed a town within Punggok-ri, Gimpo, in the 17th century, is just one story that illustrates the rejuvenating powers of the dish.

One day after giving birth to a baby girl, one of the Cho daughters-in-law suddenly became ill. Her body swelled, her face was bluish and dark and she could not eat. As she was the wife of the eldest son, everyone was worried about whether she would be able to have a son to continue the family line.

When it became evident that the daughter-in-law might not be able to fulfill her duty, some in the family began to argue that she be ejected from the family and the eldest son allowed to remarry.

The daughter-in-law was terrified of the future that lay before her and prayed day and night at a Buddhist temple on Unyang Mountain. Fortunately, one of the monks took pity on her. When she arrived at the temple, he gave her steamed rice wrapped in a lotus leaf. Whether it was because of her prayers or because of the nutritious dish, she slowly regained her health and even eventually gave birth to a son.

Since then, it has been a tradition in the Cho family to cook this dish to encourage someone who was wishing for something. Even now, the town formed by the Cho family exists in Gimpo, and the daughters-in-law of the family still steam rice in lotus leaves whenever they are praying for something they need.


By Angela Park Contributing writer [angelapark89@gmail.com]



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