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The many regional flavors of songpyeon, a Korean holiday dessert

By Park Ye-eun

Published : Sept. 29, 2023 - 16:01

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(Herald DB) (Herald DB)

Chuseok is a time for enjoying many different traditional foods in Korea. Among them, one of the must-have sweet treats is songpyeon.

Songpyeon is a Korean traditional rice cake, or tteok, with filling that varies from region to region.

Vibrant five-colored songpyeon of Seoul

Seoul-style songpyeon are colorful and small, while most of the images of songpyeon that people know well are osaek songpyeon.

Osaek, or five-colored, songpyeon is traditionally dyed with natural colorants including omija, gardenia and mugwort. These small songpyeon are half-moon shaped and stuffed with sweet filling such as sesame seeds and sugar.

(Getty Image Bank) (Getty Image Bank)

Potato songpyeon in Gangwon Province

Gangwon Province is known for its potatoes, or gamja in Korean. As the name suggests, Gangwon Province's gamja songpyeon is made from potato starch instead of the usual rice flour. In particular, it has a chewy and nutty flavor due to its red bean or kidney bean filling. People leave their handprints on the songpyeon. In the northern regions, they also make it by steaming frozen potatoes.

(Getty Image Bank) (Getty Image Bank)

Pumpkin songpyeon in North and South Chungcheong Provinces

North and South Chungcheong Provinces have been known since ancient times for pumpkin farming, and are famous for hobak, or pumpkin songpyeon. Hobak songpyeon is made by either mixing powdered or steamed pumpkin with rice dough. These songpyeon are shaped like pumpkins and boast a vivid yellow hue, and stuffed with sesame and chestnuts.

(Herald DB) (Herald DB)

Ramie songpyeon in North and South Jeolla Provinces

In North and South Jeolla Provinces, a lot of ramie is grown in Yeonggwang and Goheung. Mosi, or ramie, songpyeon is made by boiling ramie leaves and mixing them with rice flour dough. Its stuffing is made from various ingredients that suits all tastes, including beans, red beans, chestnuts, jujubes and sesame seeds. With ramie leaves, it is chewy and can go for a long time without congealing.

Arrowroot songpyeon in North and South Gyeongsang Provinces

Chik, or arrowroot, songpyeon features a sweet and bitter taste along with a unique scent. Its rice-based paste is mixed with arrowroot powder and then stuffed with kidney beans and red beans. Also, Gyeongsang-style songpyeon is characterized by its homely look and large size compared to songpyeon from other regions.

(Herald DB) (Herald DB)

Green pea songpyeon in Jeju Island

Green pea, or nokdu, songyeon is enjoyed in Jeju Island, which is characterized by its green stuffing. Rather than the typical half-moon-shape, nokdu songyeon has the shape of a flat flying saucer.

(Jeju Special Self-Governing Province) (Jeju Special Self-Governing Province)