On Tuesday, people all over the world celebrated the Lunar New Year and the first day of the year of the tiger.
If you were born in the year 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998 or 2010, then you are a tiger like me, my sister and my dad. Tigers are courageous, charismatic and born leaders, but can be impulsive, petulant and vain.
The year of your sign is traditionally a bad luck year, but there are ways for tigers to combat this: Wear red on important days, don’t move houses, and don’t start a new business venture. However, tigers who get married or have a baby this year can expect exceptional good fortune.
In Korea, this holiday is called “Seollal,” and all the best fried and sweet treats are served. But the most iconic and important dish is the rice cake soup.
The bright white rice cakes symbolize purity and the fresh start of a new year. The coin shape represents money and is meant as a wish for good luck and good fortune. It is the traditional meal for New Year’s Day, but it is so delicious and easy it is also a common, everyday food.
For this one I’m afraid I had to enlist the help of family to get the rice cakes from the Korean market in Anchorage. They can be made at home, but I have never been able to make them as well as I can buy them.
In fact, most Korean cooks do not make their own rice cakes but go to specialty stores to purchase them fresh from professionals, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
Rice Cake Soup
1 pound beef brisket (or any lean, bone-out cut)
2 cups frozen rice cakes
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 stalks green onion
2 eggs, separated
2 sheets toasted sushi nori (or 4-6 sheets of roasted seaweed snacks)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak your rice cakes in cold water for 30 minutes.
While the rice cakes are soaking, bring 8 cups of water to a boil, drop in your whole cut of meat and the minced garlic, reduce the heat to a very slow simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Do not let the water boil or your broth will be cloudy.
Gently whisk your egg yolks and add a pinch of salt.
Add a small amount of oil to a nonstick fry pan and heat on high until hot.
Turn off the heat and pour your egg yolks into the pan. Swirl around to spread the yolks out to cover as much of the pan as possible.
When the yolk looks opaque it is ready to flip. Cook for just 10 seconds on the other side and remove. Slice into very thin strips. This is called “egg paper” and is used as a garnish for the soup.
Crumble your roasted seaweed and set aside.
Thinly slice your green onions on the diagonal and set aside.
Remove the meat and allow to cool just enough to handle.
Tear the meat into bite-sized pieces and return to the broth.
Add your rice cakes, fish sauce and green onions and bring it back up to a simmer.
Very slowly pour your egg whites into the broth while gently stirring.
When your rice cakes float, the soup is done.
Turn off the heat and add your sesame oil.
Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Top with your egg paper strips and crumbled roasted seaweed.
Always serve with kimchi (trust me, this is very important).
Happy New Year to everyone, and especially my fellow tigers! May you receive many blessings and stay smart and healthy all year.