Korean Food : Flower Decorated Rice cake, Hwajeon



Nearly 20 years ago

It was a day spring revived with newly born colors. The street along my school was filled with diverse colors, yellow, dark red, crimson, pink and green. Among them, the pink was the most noticeable color of all. That was from fully bloomed Azaleas.

My grandma said
You are lucky to have them.

I didn't understand what she meant.
I assumed that maybe because it was so much beautiful.

One day, 

 my grandma called us and asked us to pluck some azalea petals on the street. I felt reluctant to do what she said. How dare I pick off flowers! I defiantly asked her why. She said there was something she wanted to make with it and I would be surprised. Yes, I love surprises.

Picking up petals
I felt unconscientious for the end of a life, even it was a plant. (I think I was more emotional than now.) After a moment, I forgot that thought and fell into the amusement of collecting pretty petals. Finally we ended up gathering a small basket of azalea and came back home.

Entering home, I saw my grandma kneading dough, sitting on the living room floor. Around her there were a gas burner, a frying pan and other ingredients and utensils. We sat beside her, showing off what we’ve got by ourselves. She grinned and asked us to wash them throughly and bring them back.

Grandma let us grab a hand-sized dough and round it rolling with two hands. Then, she flattened the dough, and placed it on the preheated frying pan. Around 1 minute later, she flipped it over and reheated it. I recognized that she was making a rice pancake, frying it. It must be super-yum with warm, chewy texture.

Petals Attached

All of a sudden, She glanced at us with a mysterious smile and attached a petal into one side of well cooked rice pancake. We were astonished and stared curiously at what she was doing. She let it firmly fixed, looking at us, giggling.

My sister and I were so excited and shouted at her in unison, “What’s next? What? What?”. She moved a azalea decorated pancake to the dish, and drizzled a teaspoon of syrup on it.

It is called 'Hwajeon'

She said, “It’s done. It’s called Hwajeon(meaning ‘flower pancake’). Precisely, Jindalle Hwajeon(azalea flower pancake). I made this beautiful dish very often when I was young. Nowadays, it’s not easy to find wild azalea in the city. You are lucky to have them around our house.”

I am lucky to have them.

Finally, I understood what she meant, and I truly thought I was lucky to have them.  And I also thought I was very lucky to have my grandma to let me know this beautiful plate of flowers.


On that day, We made hundreds of hwajeon trying as many different designs of it as I could imagine. How about the taste?

It was as delicious as my grandma’s love.


What is Hwajoen?

Hwajeon is a small rice cake(tteok) adorned with edible flower petals including azalea and chrysanthemums.

Hwajeon was commonly eaten at a traditional custom called hwajeonnori meaning flower rice-cake play. Every March 3 in the lunar calendar, named ‘Samjinnal’, azaleas blooming, women and children went out to pluck azaleas or other edible flowers. They also carried all ingredients and a thick frying pan to make it outside.

20 years Later

I have grown up and I could make Hwajeon by myself without any help from my grandma. But sadly, there’s no azaleas around my house anymore, as the city has grown larger. I am not lucky anymore in terms of azalea.

But I am lucky to have this beautiful memory
with my wonderful grandma


* Samjinnal(March 3 of lunar calendar) is March 24 this year 2012.

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Korean Food : Gun Mandu Service, Free dumplings : Chinese Restaurant.

Dad ordered a Sweet and Sour pork, called Tangsuyuk, to the chinese restaurant. It was around 8:30 in the evening, that means it was a bit late for dinner time in Korean culture. Actually, I ate dinner about 1 hour before. But I am a big fan of Tangsuyuk, so I was no doubt to join him.

gun mandu dumpling

Tangsuyuk was delivered half an hour later. The odors of food whirled around the living room, and stimulated my appetite regardless my full stomach. I hurried to wrapped them off, and see the luminous color of the sauce and the crisps of the deep-fried pork. They looked so much delicious.

gun mandu dumplinggun mandu dumplingThe colors of the sauce is so beautiful.

A plate of dumplings, called Gun-Mandu in Korean, lay beside the Tangsuyuk, They are always served like a combo in my town restaurant. I don’t pay extra for dumplings, shortly they are totally free. They are an unseparable package according to my notion.

gun mandu dumpling

Anyway, at that moment, I was happy with free stuff.

Gun Mandu Service : Free Dumplings

In Korea, it is common to provide free dumplings, Gun-mandu, if ordering over a certain price in the chinese restaurant. The exact figure for free dumplings is not assured. It varies depending on the region, town, and each restaurant.

This gap of figures was put up as a comedy(gag)-show topic, how much should be the standard for free dumplings. Some say cheaper is better, and others insist more than 15,000won. No matter how much is correct, there is one premise, Dumplings are free. 

Owners gain any margin?
Picking up a dumpling, all of a sudden, I came up with a wondering; Whether they gain any margin, offering a dozen of dumplings.

Economy of Scale?

I supposed they sold this food product according to quick-returns policy. Though it leaves a low unit margin, sufficient volumes of sale will offset its low profit. But it works only in where exists a huge market of a plenty of demands, like in the downtown, or near universities.

But most small chinese restaurants cover a limited district, even sharing with other competitors, in the town. They usually target at neighborhood within its territory. In other words, it’s hard to apply economy of scale under their condition.

Then, to get profits, with low demand, they should make unit margin higher, by lowering its cost. Cost-cutting directly leads to low cost and low quality ingredients. Some owners, who haven’t the ethics, of small restaurants probably use bad stuff. Imagine polluted sauce, bruised fruits. tainted meat or stale fish.

Why do they provide free dumplings?

In fact, Small chinese restaurants offer them, with burden of costs. The major cause of this phenomenon is customers’ strong want for cheap and a large amount of dish. Customers got used to having free dumplings. They take it for granted, but feel unsatisfied if a restaurant don’t. This situation was being fixed as a fettered custom for chinese restaurants.

Deterioration of Food Quality

We must reconsider free dumpling, and objectively see through what is occurring in the kitchen and admit the brutal fact. The strong pursue of cheap food results in the deterioration of the food quality.

gun mandu dumplingIn the end, I am not happy with free stuff anymore.       

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    이 식품에 찾아 untasty. 나는 그것을 먹지 않을 거예요.

Korean Food : Highway Service Station Food is way Expensive! (Hyugeso)

The Last winter trip to High1 

My b-friend and I went on the last trip of this winter, to High-one, one of the biggest ski-resort in Korea, located in Gangwon province. We spent 2 nights and 3 days with his friends.

On a first day, we arrived late at night, so we just grab a bottle of beer and had a rest. On the next day, we all snow-boarded nearly for 8 hours, trembling, tumbling, sliding, shrieking, bumping, crashing, shouting, sprawling, and laughing. To shortly say, Exhilarated.

At night, we ate pork belly, called Samgyupsal, with beer and soju. Samgyupsal after hard-working of snow-boarding was very wonderful. We played several games that we used to do during schooltime and chattered about our daily lives and again, laughed and laughed.

When the sun rose in the third day morning, it was time to turn back to own lives. After having said goodbye to each other, we took a car for own destination, Seoul, Gumi, and Busan.

It would be a long journey for my b-friend and me. To Busan to Gangwon, it takes 4 to 5 hours through express way by car. Before departure, we decided to drop by a service station, called Hyugeso in Korean, and have late lunch there.

I was a Service Station Snacker

During my childhood, when my family visited relatives’ house on traditional holiday, like a new year or a thanks-giving day, we took a highway to get there. For me, only thing I longed for, during the boring time staying in the stuffed car, was snack time in a highway service station(Hyugeso).

It was me who popped out first as soon as Dad finished parking the car. I dashed out to the snack area, rubbing my abdomen. Then, Mom, behind me, cautioned me to be attentive against cars with a worrying voice. Later, Mom arriving, I excitedly said to mom a list of want-to-eat snacks.

Mom bought whatever I demanded, grinning. Mom did never reject to buy them for me, since she knew it was the only interest for me on a way. My favorite was walnut bread, named Hodugwaja, a symbol of service station snack, and baked or steamed corn. I was so happy with them.

Cheongdo Service Station

Korea service stationKorea service station
We arrived at Cheongdo service station around 4 o’clock, 3-4 hours after departure. We felt a bit hungry and start to wander around for snack.

There were typical service-service station snacks including Walnut bread(Hodugwaja), Ddeokbokki, Oden, Baked potatoes, Sausage-bar(Hot bar), Hotdog, Corn and Coffee. We splitted, for saving time, to choose snack to buy.

Korea service stationThey look so yum, don't they?

Highway Service Station Food is way Expensive!

Soon I gaped at the prices of the snack.
It was unreasonably expensive than that in other places.

For example, Walnut bread, called hodugwaja, one of the famous snacks in highway service station, was sold in a packet of 8 balls at 2,000won, meaning 250 won per ball. In comparison with walnut bread in Cheon-an city, it’s 20% more expensive. Oden and Sausage stick(Hot-bar) cost 2,000won each, of which prices are 1,500won each in the city-market. It is way costly.

Unfortunately, I had no choice but to buy them. We bought a bowl of Ddeokbokki and a skew of Oden, paying 5,000won in total. I expected the taste to be good in suit of its high price. But the tastes of them was just fair, but not satisfying enough.

Korea service stationKorean service stationIt's my he eating a piece of ddeokbokki!

Korea service stationA skew of Oden is 2,500won!!

Please Keep price fair!

For me, it was still the biggest delight on a highway.
There’s something special on that service station, with cheering atmosphere.

The quality of snack in such areas cannot be guaranteed, due to its locational advantage for monopoly. But as it remains as a citizens’ rest area, providing convenience for exhausted drivers and passengers through long trips, it should keep its food price fair. 


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Korean Food : Nak gob sae (Nakji bokkeum) : Small octopus + Beef instestine + Shrimp

Nak gob sae (Nakji bokkeum)

My b-friend and I went to a
 Nakji bokkem restaurant near my house. There were several menus including Stir-fried small octompus(Nakji bokkem), Stir-fried small optopus with shrimp(Nak-sae), Spicy small octopus with bean strouts (Mae-un Kongnamul nakji).

I chose Nak-gob-sae, one of my favorite Korean food, consisting of samll octopus, beef intestine and shrimps. The name was driven by initials of each ingredient, Nakji(octobpus), Gobchang(intestine) and Saewoo(Shrimp).

nakjiThey serve an enormous amount of rice in this area. You cannot eat this all.


Waiting for this to be done,
I asked my b-friend to make a pity face
for fun.

How cure!

Look so Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
But sadly, I couldn't save one strip of noodle, it burnt and died... Sorry....... : (

nakjiDone, we usually top it on the rice and mix them. And then you just enjoy it!!

Nakji Bokkeum

Nakji Bokkeum is a spicy octopus dish. Octopus tentacles are cut into pieces and it is stir-fried with spicy red pepper paste(gochujang), sesame oil, red pepper powder, green onions, carrots and onions. As Octopus is considered as a healthy ingredient in Korea, people come to eat when they feel weak and frail. It's a Korean energy food!

Caution: It can be felt too spicy for foreinger sometimes. So you should ask a staff to make it less spicy, or you should dilute it with water while eating.

But it's a famous and delicious dish in Korea, so you must try it.

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Korean Food : Winter Hobbang, a kind of Dumpling?



On a cold winter day, I ask mom to heat hobbang at home. Around 15 minutes later, mom gives me a white flour ball with steams on it. It looks so hot, but I pleasurably hold it with few fingers, of course to change fingers time to time avoiding possible skin burns. I hasten to bite side of it.

OMG. It’s damn hot and I got tongue burnt. I rapidly move my tongue, tossing that firing red bean paste in my mouth. Inside is hotter than outside. After being shocked by its temperature, I immediately divide it into two part in order to release the heat outside. Soon it becomes edible cooled, I again hurry on to put one piece into my mouth and enjoy.

Hobbang. Guess what it is?

It is a variation of dumpling with red bean inside instead of meat or vegetables. It looks similar to a dumpling on that reason. It originated from China, the country of dumplings. Then, it was introduced to Japan in 1341 by a Chinese, Jeong-in Im, who came along to Japan with his Japanese friend. He first made chinese dumplings.

But Japan prohibited eating meat at that moment, so he put red bean paste substitute for pork in the original recipe. Red bean dumpling hit the Japan, became very popular.

Later, in Korea, at its colonized period by Japan, Those dumplings were introduced and sold as a street food. It was called Jjinbbang meaning ‘steamed bread’ in Korean. A food company recognizing the product potential on it, they mass-produced red bean dumpling branding as Hobbang.

Where to buy Hobbang(Jjinbbang)

Just Eat it!

There used to be dumpling specialized stores in the past. Nowadays, We hardly see them on the sweet. I assumed it lost its competitive due to the season limit sales of it.

Don’t worry, although you cannot find the specialized store, you can have better access to hobbang anywhere easily. How? You can buy hobbang at the convenience stores. The season is quite limited from December to Febuary. But, thanks to the wide chain system of convenience companies, you can have them anytime 24 hours.


Just Heat it!


We can buy pre-cooked package of hobbang at any store including discount stores, supermarkets, and convenience store. Just go to the bread section, and look for it. They are usually sold 4 hobbangs in one packages priced around 3000-4000won.





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How to cool a burning tongue

1. milk

burning tongue

The easiest way to cool your tongue is drinking milk. it’s readily accessible at the nearest convenience store. Before dying of tongue burning, just run and grab a milk carton, and gulp it. Too exaggerating?

There was a tv show that experimented to figure out the best antidote for pain of spiciness. There were several options including water, milk, coolpis and boiled overcooked rice crust. The winner was milk indeed.

On the tongue

The fat in milk helps remove an element causing spiciness called capsicin from taste buds. Because Milk contains 3.4% of fat and Capsicin is oil-soluble. Keeping milk inside mouth extinguishes a fire for good.

Inside the body

Milk temporarily covers inner surface of the stomach preventing pricking feeling. But the positive effect lasts only few seconds, the it worsen the situation. Stomach lets out acid to digest protein from milk. It acidifies and causess gastric hyperacidity.

Milk is a makeshift. Although it is an effective and efficient method for cooling tongue, it also brings about side effect. Therefore, drink milk only in case of emergency.

2. Coolpis

burning tongue

The most popular way to save your burning tongue is drinking Coolpis. You might never heard of this name, if you are out of Korea. But it’s very common in spicy food serving restaurant. You can spot cartons of coolpis in the refrigerators there. The only savior from those hot places.

When Korean youngsters eat out spicy food, Coolpis must accompany them. If the restaurant don’t carry it, they sometimes buy and bring it there. There’s even a equation like ‘A drink for Spicy food = Coolpis’

Why Coolpis?

The most effective way was with milk, but milk cannot be a commonly drinkable menu. Some people have lactose intolerance and just don’t like its flavor. The owners of restaurant wanted to find the substitute for milk. That is Coolpis.

3. Other ways

The cool temperature and sweet taste soothe the tongue burning. The spicy taste feels more intensely when hot, so cooling down the tongue with cold drink is a good way. Sweetness also makes you flee from spiciness for a while.


Related Article :    Korean Food : Korean Food is Super-Spicy?


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    좋은 게시물이 해줘서 고맙습니다

Korean food is [                 ]

When characterizing Korean Food, there will be various answers.


And Spicy.

Korean Food is Super-Spicy.

On the statement, I would partly agree.

1. Not All Food is spicy.

All Korean food is not spicy. There are so very many foods that are not. In fact, the history of a pepper in Korea is relatively short compared to the entire Korean history of 5,000. It’s true that it spreaded throughout Korea rapidly and influenced Korean cuisine at significant extent. But there still exist a number of wonderful dishes without it.

The reason why Korean food is branded with spiciness is ‘pepper spiciness is stimulative and more unforgettable.’ When foreigners taste tongue burning food once, they perceive Korean food is mostly hot.

2. But Some Food are very spicy.

Some Korean dishes are very spicy. Korean truly love spicy food indeed. They make spicy food spicier and spicier. Some of them are addicted to it. Craving for more stimuli that bump your head and sweat all body.


Domestic Pepper Consumption in Korea

The domestic pepper consumption is 200,000~250,000ton and 3.8kg per capita. IT is the highest figure among vegetables. Why Koreans are so crazy about spiciness?

People prefer spiciness when they get stressed socially or individually.

According to a research by a folklorist, a pepper is introduced around 18 century when Kimchi and Pepper paste(Gochujang) were generalized. Especially around 1950, due to stress caused by Korean war, poverty and famine, the craving for spiciness enhanced. Its spiciness let out endorphin and relieve stress level. Nowadays, spicy food are popular among twenties, and it supposedly driven from employment troubles.

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