The Korea Herald


[Korea Quiz] (36) Rice cake soup’s ‘magical’ effect

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 1, 2023 - 10:33

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According to Korean tradition, eating a bowl of tteokguk, or rice cake soup, on New Year’s Day is supposed to make the person one year older.

This stems from the Korean custom of counting ages, in which a person gets one year older on Jan. 1 of each year, not on their birthday. As such, the day Koreans eat tteokguk is usually the day they become one year older.

It is unclear when this tradition began. But a 19th-century document written by scholar Hong Seok-mo introduces baekttang -- which means white soup -- as a dish to be eaten in the first month of the lunar year.

Tteokguk is made using broth made from beef or a cow’s bones, but some regions also use chicken, anchovy and other ingredients. The main ingredient is chopped up pieces of cylinder-shaped tteok called gaeraetteok, often complimented with ground beef, the nori seaweed and egg garnish.

Using gaeraetteok also has an added meaning. The long rice cake symbolizes longevity and good health, and the chopped-up cakes that look like ancient Korean coins are supposed to mean financial prosperity.

Answer: b)