With the Lunar New Year coming up, supermarkets here in the Philippines are all stocking up on tikoy – large translucent discs of steamed glutinous rice dough that are usually sliced up, dipped in egg wash, deep-fried, and eaten for breakfast. Practically the same thing as Japanese mochi, tikoy is supposed to symbolise good fortune and prosperity for the coming year.
Unfortunately, as a food, it isn’t very exciting. Even the kind flavoured with ube (purple yam) and pandan (screwpine) tend to be bland and just faintly sweet. Again: not a very exciting thing to eat and bother the fact that it represents good fortune and wealth.
For those of us who are just so done with tikoy, Korean grocers here in the Philippines offer several interesting variations on the classic glutinous rice cake. Baram tteok, shown at the top of this post, is one of them.
These are half-moons made by folding discs of steamed glutinous rice dough over a mildly sweet, slightly nutty-tasting red bean [adzuki] paste (an in Japanese). The pink ones are tinted with food colouring, but the dark green ones in the bottom row are flavoured with green tea or a blend of edible herbs. The resulting deep-green cakes have an exterior whose flavour has a pleasant bitterness that is balanced by the bean paste within.
For those of you wanting something chunkier and more substantial to sink your teeth into, kyeotteok may grab your fancy.
These are slabs of steamed glutinous rice dough over which a sumptuous, lightly sweetened topping is scattered. The mixture scattered over kyeotteok can be a simple mix of sweetened beans and nuts; more elaborate confections may also include jujubes and oriental dates, perhaps some shreds of dried peach or apricot and diced dried persimmon for a honeyed sweetness. The resulting cake is then sliced into more manageable slabs for serving.
May I just say that both are particularly comforting and satisfying when eaten with a good cup of green or jasmine tea, or perhaps a mug of bittersweet and citrusy yujacha. Whichever you prefer, these Korean rice cakes make an interesting alternative to a traditional Oriental sweet.
Incidentally… For those who want to try these Korean desserts, I bought them over at Sun-Han Korean Mart on the Ground Floor of Fort Palm Spring, 1st Ave. corner 30th St., Upper West Side, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The baram tteok goes for P 100.00 for a tray of nine pieces; the kyeotteok is P 25.00 for a tray of four slabs.