Do you have any New Year's cooking traditions? For some, the day brings black-eyed peas. With my boyfriend's Korean family, we always sip dduk gook, a clean and soothing soup made with rice cakes, green onions, eggs, and seaweed. In addition to being a lucky New Year dish, dduk gook can also be a simple comfort food for any winter day. One of my cooking resolutions is to document family members' recipes, so it was really special to start the year learning how to make this dish from my boyfriend's mom. Because I'm a vegetarian, she has adapted many of her traditional recipes, and in this case, my boyfriend says he actually prefers the meatless version!
Traditionally, dduk gook is made with beef, chicken, or anchovy broth and sometimes includes meat-filled mandoo, or dumplings. This version uses vegetarian broth made from radish, onion, carrot, and kombu (which, as you can see from the pictures, were then transferred to another pot and incorporated into a fish stew – a wonderful example of frugal cooking).
This soup's main ingredient, dduk, is made of rice, and the texture is a cross between mochi and pasta – chewy, filling, and comforting. You can find flat ovals of dduk at Korean markets or online at KoaMart and HMart.
For the roasted seaweed, Korean-style seaweed seasoned with sesame oil and salt is preferable, but plain roasted seaweed sheets are also fine to use (just season the soup with sesame oil and salt or soy sauce, if desired).
Vegetarian Dduk Gook (Korean Rice Cake Soup)
6 cups water
1/4 pound Korean radish or daikon, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
6-inch strip kombu
1 pound dduk (oval rice cakes), soaked in water overnight or at least 2 hours
3 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 sheets roasted seaweed
To make broth
Combine broth ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain.
To make soup
Bring broth to a simmer. Add dduk and simmer for 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine scallions and egg. Add to the pot and stir until distributed.
Tear and crumble seaweed into the pot and stir until combined.
Serve hot. Garnish with black pepper to taste.
(Images: Emily Ho)