The Korea Herald


[Korea Quiz] Resurgence of Korean traditional desserts

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : March 27, 2024 - 16:08

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Find the answer at the bottom.

Retro has become the latest dessert fad in South Korea. Dubbed “halmaenial,” the trend has seen millennials embrace the tastes and preferences traditionally associated with their grandparents' generation. Halmaenial is a portmanteau of "halmae," the Korean word for granny, and "millennial."

Enjoying renewed popularity are traditional Korean snacks yanggaeng, yakgwa and yugwa.

Recently, yanggaeng, or sweet red bean jelly, has seen a sudden upsurge in popularity, after K-pop artist Bibi released the song "Bam Yang Gang," where she reminisces about the sweet, chestnut-flavored jelly shared with a past love.

Originating from Japan and becoming popular in Korea during the late Joseon era and Japanese occupation, yanggaeng is made from red bean paste, sugar and either agar or gelatin, resulting in its jellylike consistency. Its sweet and smooth texture once made it a beloved treat, before the country was introduced to Western-style desserts.

Yakgwa was widely popular during the Goryeo Kingdom (918–1392). As a luxurious, high-quality snack, it was eaten on New Year's Day and was an essential treat for holidays, feasts and ancestral rites.

Made from wheat flour, honey, sesame oil and ginger juice, the dough is deep-fried and soaked in honey syrup, creating a deliciously moist and sweet pastry. In recent years, confectionery makers have revived the popularity of yakgwa by introducing individually packaged, bite-sized products.

Yugwa, another traditional Korean snack, also traces its origins back to the Goryeo Kingdom, and is known for its delicate texture and subtle sweetness. The process of making yugwa is intricate, designed to achieve its distinctive crunch and puffiness. It begins by soaking glutinous rice for several hours before grinding it into a fine powder. This powder is shaped and deep-fried in oil until it puffs up and crisps. After frying, the yugwa pieces are coated in a sweet syrup, enhancing their flavor.

Yugwa is now often packaged and sold as a gourmet snack, making it more accessible to people beyond Korea's borders.

Doenjang, meanwhile, is a savory soybean-based condiment widely used in Korean cuisine, along with gochujang and gangjang.

Answer: (c) Doenjang