Recipe to Warm Hearts, Ward Away Evil Spirits And Please the Palate

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Recipe to Warm Hearts, Ward Away Evil Spirits And Please the Palate

According to the lunar calendar, in which each year is divided into 24 seasons, this year the winter solstice or Dongji falls on Thursday. On the day of dongji, the night is at its longest and the day at its shortest. Dongji has been celebrated by Koreans since the 5th century, in the time of the Shilla Dynasty. A myth relating to how to pass the long dark night comes from a legend in China which originated in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The story of dongji begins with the evil son of a mythical Chinese figure named Gong-gong. The son dies on the day of dongji and becomes a demon that haunts the village. When he was alive, the son despised red beans. To ward off the lurking evil and prevent the ghost spreading diseases in the dark on dongji, villagers placed red beans at the door and ate red bean porridge. The color red in China was also believed to be the color of yang, the positive force of the sun, and is still considered good luck today. Because of their color, red beans were believed to have the power to ward off evil.

In keeping with the Chinese legend, which was adopted into ancient Korean tradition, a tasty recipe for a homemade red bean-based meal called Patjuk may help ward away the winter blues.

Ingredients: 1/2 cup of bulgeunpat (red beans), about 25 cups of water, a dash of salt, 1 cup of chapssal (sticky rice), 1 cup of chapssalkaru (sticky rice powder) and, if you wish, the juice extract from a small piece of saengkang (ginger)

1. Wash the chapssal and drain off the water using a fine strainer. Add 3 cups of water and set aside at least three hours.

2. Wash the beans in running water and drain.

3. Put the beans in a saucepan and add enough water to immerse the beans. When the water boils, discard the water using a strainer. This is to remove a substance called saponin which may cause diarrhea in some people.

4. Pour in about 20 cups of water and bring to the boil on a low heat. Remove from heat when beans have softened.

5. Put aside the beans until they cool.

6. In a separate bowl, pour the rice powder, a dash of salt, a little juice from the crushed ginger (optional) and 1/2 cup of water and mix thoroughly.

7. Mold small balls out of the rice power dough and set aside.

8. Mash the beans with hands or using a wooden spatula and leave to separate into solid and liquid.

9. Separate the liquid from the precipitated bean paste by pouring off into a saucepan.

10. Put the moist rice and the half of the liquid in a blender and make a puree.

11. Slowly bring the other half of the liquid to boil and add the bean paste and the puree. Cook while stirring until the liquid turns gooey.

12. When the porridge boils, drop in the rice cake balls and simmer until the balls become clear and tender. Stir gently to retain the shape of the balls.

13. Serve with sugar or honey.

Cooking tip: Be sure to stir thoroughly with a wooden spatula when cooking as the paste tends to scorch.

by Ines Cho

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