It’s my weekly treat, the Korean Cuisine class at Kingston Adult Education. Hyung Soo’s Cheshire Cat grin fills us with a sense of optimism. His chuckle is infectious as he explained there are over 200 rice cake recipes to choose from and these can be cooked using 4 main methods of steaming, shallow frying, kneading and baking.
This time, we’re covering Songpyun (Korean Moon Cake). Historically, Korean cuisine was influenced by trade with the Turks. All sweets were expensive and difficult to get. The Koreans elected not to grow wheat due to the cycle of the seasons, so they’re made from popped rice and rice powder instead. (You can find sushi rice powder in the freezer at Oriental shops.) If you use glutenous rice instead of sushi rice, you get a jelly like sweet. When you taste the floral notes in Korean sweets, there’s no mistaking the link with Turkish Delight. Various natural flowery flavourings are used: pink from cactus flower, yellow from pumpkin and green from Moxa, a Korean medicinal herb similar to Mugwort that is said to control body temperature and is used in Acupuncture to aid bloodflow.
Sae-ch’am (Snack Time) is a family affair and includes the tea ceremony. We try Ginseng tea with pine nuts floating in it, Omiga-cha 5 Flavours Tea – a delicious and nutritious brew made from steeped red Schizandra berries.
Moon Cake Recipe
500g fresh sushi rice powder (found in the freezer at the shop)
100ml boiling water
5g natural food colourings
Chopped caramelised chestnut, toasted sesame, sugar, pinch of salt, edamame beans
Divide the rice powder and add a different colour to each lot.
Add boiling water slowly to each part, stirring slowly with a spoon until the liquid cools enough to knead for 10 minutes. (No burns please!) The mix should have the texture of bread dough or cake icing. Rest the dough for 10 minutes.
Tear off golf ball sized pieces (erring on the small side), rolling them between your hands until circular. For a bit of variety, you can mix the different coloured doughs for a marbling effect. Press you thumb into the centre to make a well large enough to take the filling. Fill the hole with edamame beans, ground sugar and sesame seed, chopped chestnut or a mix of them all. You can also use chopped dried fruits, nuts or chocolate.
Close the hole up by pinching closed, roll again and sculpt into a moon shape. If you wish to decorate you can do so now.
Steam the finished moon cakes for 15 minutes.
Drop a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil in a large bowl and add the cakes, stirring around until they are all lightly coated.