Korean pastries are a culinary experience to try at least once in a lifetime. Today, we are talking about baram tteok (바람떡) that is also commonly called gaepi-tteok (개피떡) or chapssaltteok or chapssaddteok. It will be difficult to forget their flavor, but even more their colors!
The origins of Korean cuisine go back more than 2000 years. This Asian cuisine, although not as popular as Japanese or Chinese cuisine, is gaining more and more popularity thanks to its wealth of flavors and healthy ingredients that make it so unique.
Korean meals are generally composed of 3 main elements: steamed rice (bap), soup (guk) and various small dishes (banchan) that are served at the same time.
Rice is undoubtedly one of the most used ingredients in Korean cuisine. Rice (usually steamed) can also be cooked with other cereals such as barley, sorghum, but also with beans, corn and seeds.
Soups have two main variants: the first one is guk, which is an liquid soup sometimes called ttang. The second is called jjigae and is more similar to a stew. It is less liquid and stronger in taste.
In Korean cuisine, there is a wide variety of accompaniments. The most ubiquitous is undoubtedly the famous kimchi (김치), composed of fermented vegetables: the most popular being made with napa cabbage but also horseradish, cucumber, eggplant, zucchini, onions, prepared with chili powder red, fermented fish sauce, garlic and ginger.
The most commonly used ingredients for seasoning are spicy pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce, soy paste and chili.
Koreans often use certain herbs in their dishes. The leaves of parrilla, a plant with many virtues, from the same family as sesame and mint, have a truly unique scent.
In terms of cooking methods, the main ones are boiling, steaming or a lot of grilling. Frying is only used for very few traditional dishes, although today this method of cooking is increasingly used because of the influence of Western and Chinese cuisine.
As for baking, Koreans like to mix rice, beans, seeds, pine nuts, honey, to create unique and colorful desserts that will accompany a cup of excellent Korean green tea.
Korean desserts are generally divided into two categories:
– Hangwa, which means “traditional pastries”, are small cakes usually made with honey, cereal flour, sugar, fruits, roots and spices.
– Tteok, which gather all the specialties prepared with glutinous rice.
What is baram tteok?
First of all, tteok (떡), also known as ddeock, duk, dduk, ddeog, or thuck, is a variety of Korean pastries made from steamed glutinous rice flour (찹쌀 chapssal). In some tteok recipes, standard rice flour can be used. There are hundreds of varieties of tteok prepared all year round.
But tteok is also used for some varieties of soups. Indeed, in Korea, consumption of tteok guk (tteok soup) is a traditional New Year holiday, and the consumption of sweet tteok is common at weddings and birthdays.
All tteok pastries are considered a food associated with various celebrations.
What is the origin of tteok?
Tteok rice cakes are an integral part of Korean history. Discoveries have shown that stones and mortars were used to grind and refine grain since the 7th and 8th centuries BC, an important testimony to the practice of agriculture in Korea. Some types of pots were used in the Bronze Age. Their characteristic was the presence of holes in the lower part of each side, necessary for steaming rice.
What are the different versions of tteok?
In Korean pastry, the versions of tteok are numerous.
Common ingredients include mung bean, sweet red bean paste, Korean wormwood, jujube or other dried fruits, seeds, sesame oil, sugar, pine nuts, and, as for our baram tteok, the azuki bean.
In Korean, baram means wind. Indeed, in Korea, this dessert is called the “wind cake” because this little cake is filled with air while it is stuffed with azuki bean paste and given the shape of a half-moon.
What is azuki?
Azuki defines a variety of red beans (Vigna angularis) originating in Asia. It appears that they were first grown in the Himalayas, then in China and Korea, then in Japan, where it is the most consumed vegetable after soybeans.
The azuki paste is a paste made from red beans called azuki or azuki beans, used in many East Asian cuisines. The dough is prepared by boiling the beans and grinding them. The dough can be sweetened or left as is. The color of the dough is usually dark red, due to the color of the bean shell. In Korean cuisine, azuki beans can also be shelled before cooking, giving the dough a white color.
In Japanese cuisine, this paste is called anko (餡子) or ogura (小 倉) in the red version, and shiroan (白 餡) in the white version. In Chinese cuisine, it is called dousha (豆沙), an ingredient also used in savory recipes such as the steamed fish that is prepared for the Chinese New Year.
In Korean cuisine, the most commonly used types of azuki dough are:
– the basic patso (팥소), a dark red paste obtained by boiling and then grinding red beans.
– danpat (단팥) or danpat-so (단팥 소), a sweet red bean paste. A patso that incorporates honey and/or sugar. The skin of the beans is removed, making it a very smooth paste.
– geopipat-so (소), a white paste obtained by boiling peeled kidney beans, then crushing or grinding them.
Azuki bean paste is used in some famous Korean confectionery including:
– bungeo-ppang, a fish-shaped pastry, filled with danpat-so.
– halbori-ppang, which consists of two small sweet crepes, stuffed with danpat-so.
– gyeongdan, a rice ball stuffed with danpat-so.
– hodu-gwaja, a biscuit stuffed with danpat-so.
– hoppang, a hot and fluffy cake stuffed with danpat-so.
– jjinppang, a hot and soft pastry filled with patso.
In Japanese cuisine, this dough is also used to prepare the famous mochi or the famous dorayaki.
What is sticky rice?
Sticky rice (also known as glutinous rice) is a special rice grown in South East Asia which owes its stickiness to its very low amylose content and its high amylopectin content, which are the two components of starch. The name of this rice comes from its glue-like consistency but it does not contain any gluten.
In Korea, glutinous rice is called chapssal, hence the name of chapssaltteok or chapssaddteok for our confectionery today, and its typical stickiness is called chalgi.
For the story, know that every country, especially in Asia, has its beliefs about what brings or does not bring luck.
Tteok is supposed to bring luck in Korea. Indeed, before an exam, there are specific rules about what can be done or not, so that the final result of the exam is positive. Eating a lot of tteok is considered lucky because Koreans think that the very sticky nature of these confectionery will help all the lessons stick to the brain in order to use them fully during the exam.
On the other hand, eating miyeoggug, a seaweed soup, before any exam, is absolutely forbidden. In fact, unlike the sticky nature of tteok, seaweed is slimy and slippery. Koreans believe that eating them before an exam makes you lose all knowledge.
But do not wait to take an exam before enjoying baram tteok, it would be a shame!
- 2 cups glutinous rice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 7 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup water (or more if necessary)
- 1½ cup red bean paste (azuki)
- Green food coloring (or green tea powder)
- Red food coloring
- Some cornstarch
- In a bowl, add the glutinous rice flour, sugar, salt and food coloring. Stir.
- Add the water gradually stirring until all ingredients are mixed.
- Cover with a plastic film. Bake in microwave for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on microwave) at maximum power.
- Mix the dough again for at least 3 minutes. The dough must be quite consistent and rather difficult to mix.
- Divide the red bean paste in 12 to 16 balls the size of a ping-pong ball. You can adjust the amount of red bean paste depending on your taste.
- Sprinkle cornstarch on the work surface.
- Roll the dough into two long cylinders. Cut each dough into eight 2 inch-pieces.
- Flatten a piece and place the ball of beans in the center.
- Wrap the ball with the dough of rice.
- Roll smoothly. Cover with the cornstarch.
- Repeat for all the pieces of dough.