To celebrate Lunar New Year, we talked to food blogger and content creator Maddy Park. She shares her favorite Seol-nal traditions growing up, the new traditions she’s made for herself, and the one dish her family makes sure to eat every year…
How does your heritage/culture influence your home cooking?
For me, cooking Korean food is a very tangible way of staying close to my heritage, explore my country's history, and building tools to pass onto the next generation.
Does the dish you’re sharing today have a story behind it?
"Seol-nal" is what we call the Lunar New Year in Korean. The word “seol” means “new” or “unfamiliar” and “nal” means day. In Korea, 설날 is celebrated for three days — the day before, the Lunar New Year, and the day after. As a tradition, Korean people eat dduk gook for Seol-nal — it’s made with rice cakes, beef, and eggs. We say that only after you eat this soup can you add another year to your life.
I don’t think there’s been a single year that I did not eat dduk guk for Lunar New Year. It’s enjoyed especially on this day and is strongly associated with Seol-nal, but can be enjoyed all year round.
Dduk guk has always been something I associated with eating at a big table full of family members, just as I grew up eating it in Korea. But since my family and I immigrated to the states, it became a small family tradition we kept going, and the past few years, when I couldn't make it home for the Lunar New Year, I started making it for myself to keep the tradition going, even if I was by myself (well, I had to, in order to properly age one year). Also, in order to pass it onto my own future family.
How would you describe your relationship to home cooking?
I didn't start cooking regularly until I started to live by myself away from my family. There was a lot of trial and error, and there were times when I was too intimidated by it, but I warmed up to cooking by trying out quick and easy recipes.
In what ways are your current Lunar New Year traditions different from when you were growing up? In what ways are they the same?
I've been missing out on so many things since we immigrated to the States from Korea. Growing up, every Seol-nal, we always got together with our extended family. There was a tradition of wearing Hanbok, bowing to our elders (and there was a very specific way of bowing, with different hand and feet positions for men and women), and getting money from them after bowing. Traditionally, my grandparents would sit and face the rest of the family, and each person would take turns bowing to them, and then received envelopes with money in it. As a shy kid growing up, I remember running away from the bowing because I felt embarrassed to bow in front of everyone. My grandparents would laugh and secretly sneak in the money afterwards, although technically if you don't bow in respect, there's no money given…Now the only thing we've kept going in the States as an immigrant nuclear family is getting together and eating dduk guk.
What makes a place ours?
In America, a positive curiosity makes a place "ours." We're in a melting pot. Being curious and learning about other people's culture and story makes a lot of us feel seen and heard.
Maddy’s Dduk Guk for Lunar New Year
1 kombu piece for broth
2 1/2 cups water
3 oz. of stew beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of frozen dduk (the flat kind specifically for dduk guk)
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. fish sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Boil 2/12 cups of water with the anchovies and kombu while prepping the rest of the ingredients.
- Beat the egg with a pinch of salt, and spread it over your Always Pan to make a thin crepe.
- Mince the garlic, chop the scallions, and fold the egg crepe to cut it into thin strips.
- Cut the beef into strips or bite-size pieces. In a heated Perfect Pot, add 1 tablespoon each of sesame and vegetable oil, then stir fry the beef.
- Once the beef is mostly brown, add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Add half the broth (from step 1), bring to a boil, then add the other half.
- Add 1 teaspoon each of fish sauce and minced garlic to the broth, then season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Add the rice cakes and boil for another 3-4 minutes.
- At the end of the 3-4 minutes, carefully add in another beaten egg, and gently swirl the Perfect Pot. Cover and let it simmer for another 2 minutes.
- Ladle the soup with rice cakes into a bowl. Garnish with chopped scallions, egg crepe, and thin sliced seaweed, and enjoy with some kimchi 🙂