Dessert lovers say no more macarons, opting for traditional dishes
Both sweet and savory snacks enjoyed by royals and noble scholars in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) have been recreated as part of a dessert set by the Korea House in central Seoul’s Jung District. Prior to the pandemic, Korea House predominantly catered to foreigners interested in learning more about traditional Korean culture. It consists of traditional Korean style hanok buildings where people can dine, while its terrace area is often used as a wedding location for couples who want a traditional ceremony.
Each visitor will be given one hour to enjoy the dessert set against the backdrop of hanok. Many choose to linger even after the first hour outside the hanok to take photos or go on a stroll.
“We wanted to add a little bit of a modern twist to make traditional desserts more accessible and comfortable, such as using modern tableware made by today's ceramists,” said Jin Na-ra, manager of Korea House’s Marketing and Planning team.
“We even tried to make bingsu (shaved ice) in our own style, different from currently trending ones with milk ice or condensed milk.”
Another summer season delight to come is wonsobyeong. This dish is made up of chewy glutinous rice balls in a yuja (yuzu) drink. Given that many are familiar with bubble tea with chewy tapioca balls, the Korea House came up with its own version.
Spurred on by the popularity of the year-long promotion, the Korea House is now developing a kit that will help people make their own Korean-style desserts at home. It also plans to make a tutorial video so that people can easily follow the instructions. It plans to unveil the kit sometime in the fall. It has also collaborated with Lotte and opened a cafe called Gohojae at Lotte World Mall in Songpa District’s Jamsil in southern Seoul in April.
Tickets for the Gohojae dessert set are released through Naver Booking at the beginning of each season and usually sell out quickly, but you can check the website for cancellations if you're unable to get your hands on a ticket during the initial offerings. There are five different seating a day and up to 12 people can reserve a spot for each session. For more information, go to www.chf.or.kr/kh or call (02)2266-9101~3.
While a prior reservation is needed for Gohojae, there are other shops offering traditional Korean snacks that welcome walk-ins.
“Since it is more difficult to find Korean dessert spots compared to a couple of decades ago, what’s actually more traditional may seem like something new to the eyes of youngsters,” said Kim Min-seo, the daughter of the family that runs Dosuhyang. She added that the shop sees a steady mix of customers of all ages and genders.
It is recommended to freeze any tteok that you do not consume on the day you purchase it, leading to many recommendations about how to enjoy frozen rice cake. Some say they eat the frozen tteok as if it were a popsicle but most say they grill it on a pan or heat it up in an air fryer with a sprinkle of brown sugar. Topping the grilled tteok with a drizzle of honey and sliced almonds adds another layer of texture.
The Dosuhyang family spread their frozen tteok on a pan with a few drops of oil and crisp up both sides before adding brown sugar. Then they roll it before cutting it into small pieces, and enjoy.
Gangjeong House in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul’s Gangnam District has even more options. It is focused on serving a variety of gangjeong, or crispy fried snacks. Many different grains are combined, either with or without fruit, before the entire thing is deep fried, and then cover in honey. Gangjeong House offers many different combinations of grains and fruits and each pack costs around 10,000 won. While gangjeong is the main item on the shelves, it offers other yakgwa, juak (round-shape fried sticky rice), sikhye (a rice drink) as well as bingsu to cater to different taste buds.
Haap in northern Seoul’s Wonseo-dong in Jongno District has it all. Located in the building right next to Arario Museum, the shop offers a wide variety of options. It has yuja-flavored bingsu ready for the summer season. It is particularly popular for its packaging using white cloth. The floor-to-ceiling window offers a view of Changdeok Palace so you can feel like a royal while enjoying a traditional dessert.
If you are looking for traditional recipes handed down from generation to generation, visit Howondang in southern Seoul’s Sinsa-dong. It is run by the third generation of the family that originally started the dessert shop and the appearance and taste of the gangjeong and yakgwa on offer is more classic compared to other shops.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [email@example.com]