Here in Korea, there is a wonderful custom. When something special happens, everyone eats cake, but not the kind of cake that you are used to. They eat seongpyeong and dock, types of rice cakes. In Japan, I also ate rice cake called O’mochi, but O’mochi was slightly different from seongpyeong and dock. O’mochi is also sold in Korea. These cakes are not made with wheat flour, and there is no sugar in them. There is also no icing. However, these kinds of cakes are still very good.
Seongpyeong or dock is often served on holidays or at weddings. When I was teaching at the university, if someone had a death or wedding in their family, they would supply seongpyeong or dock for all of the professors. That is a lot of cake! Today, I received seong pyeong and dock from church. Everyone in the church got some. They were celebrating their anniversary for having been a church now for nine years.
Seongpyeong is a small roundish cake with a filling. Usually, the filling is some sort of seeds, but could be sweet beans. They always seem rather oily on the outside, and in the beginning, I didn’t want them because they seemed oily. However, once I tasted them, I wanted them. They are delicious!
Dock is also rice cake, but it usually comes in more of a rectangular or square shape. However, at times, I have seen in for sale in long round shapes. Dock is usually just completely plain rice cake. I have seen regular sized cakes like we make in America all made from dock and decorated for Christmas. There is no sugar or wheat flour. It is all made from rice flour. Dock isn’t sweet, but it is still good. Probably, these kinds of cakes were invented before Korea had sugar because there was a time there was no sugar in Korea. Even today, many Korean mothers are suspicious of sugar and won’t let their kids eat it.
The third kind I mentioned is similar to seongpyeong, O’mochi. The Koreans call them just mochi, but the Japanese put the “O” before the word mochi. They put “O” before a word to show respect. They are showing respect to their cakes when they call them O’mochi, and not just mochi like the Koreans do. O’ mochi or just mochi are small white, pink, green, or yellow roundish rice cakes with a filling of sweet red bean paste. They don’t have oil on the outside, but powdered sugar. They are delicious! I used to go by a place here that sold them often, and I would buy a package and give them out to the people I was working with, and they automatically made me popular because everyone loves them.
In Japan, they explained to me that the different colors, the green, pink, and yellow are because different plants have been ground up and added to the rice flour. The green ones actually have a kind of eatable grass ground up and added, but all the cakes taste the same regardless of what color they are. In Japan, the custom is that if you travel, each area of Japan has a slightly different kind of O’mochi, so the Japanese buy souvenirs of O’mochi to take to their friends back home.
At times, here in Korea, we have lived close to places that sold these kinds of cakes, and I like stopping in to get some because they are delicious. The boxes of seongpyeong and dock my kids got today at church were eaten before they got home, but I saved mine to take a picture for you so I could tell you about them, but while typing this blog, I have eaten half of them, and now I am going to finish them. If you want to try them, but don’t live in Korea, go to a Korean import shop. I have tried to make O’mochi unsuccessful. You have to make the dough and then break it off into pieces and boil it, but mine turned out looking like some sort of space aliens. I just haven’t been able to master making them. I have lots of friends who live in Granbury, Texas. When I was in Granbury, I used to go to a Korean import shop in Fort Worth where I could buy O’mochi. That was before I had eaten seongpyeong and dock, but that store probably has them too. I am going to finish enjoying my dock now. If you want some, I hope you can find it. Eat cake!