Jeongwol Daeboreum (정월 대보름) is a celebration of the first full moon after Seollal (설날, Lunar New Year), or January 15th on the lunar calendar. This year (2017), on the Gregorian calendar, it falls on Saturday, February 11th. You can read about the different kinds of traditions and activities that happen on Jeongwol Daeboreum, as well as where to celebrate over at Visit Korea (hint: lots of fire!), but here at bburi kitchen we’ll stick to talking about the food.
Ogok-bap: Legend has it that long ago, the 21st king of Silla, King Soji (r. 479–500), was saved from assassins on the year’s first full moon day by a rat, a horse, a pig and crow.* The first three animals all had zodiac days to their name, but the lowly crow, without a day of its own, was henceforth honored every January 15th with a ceremonial offering of mixed-grain sticky rice. While the exact ingredients of ogok-bap vary from region to region (some use plain white rice, others barley), these days most ogok-bap eaten in Seoul contains chap-ssal (찹쌀, glutinous rice), susu (수수, sorghum), chajo (차조, glutinous millet), gijang-ssal (기장쌀, proso millet), pat (팥, red bean), and other kinds of beans. During the days when such a rich and plentiful variety of grains all at once was a rare treat, eating nutritious ogok-bap on this day was supposed to give family members the strength to provide for a plentiful year ahead.
Mugeun-namul: Alongside ogok-bap, we serve several different kinds of mugeun-namul (묵은나물, aged greens). These namul are rehydrated, cooked and seasoned before serving. Traditional tables will have nine kinds of namul—since three was considered a lucky number and three times three is extra lucky. Not all families go to this extreme, though (and at the bburi kitchen, we kept it simple with three types of namul). Eating mugeun-namul on this day is said to help you beat the heat later on in the year.
Bureom: Last but not least of the Daeboreum food traditions is bureom (부럼), or cracking nuts with your teeth. The list often included peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts, gingko nuts and chestnuts, though nowadays you’ll find mostly packs of peanuts and walnuts for sale around this holiday. The saying goes, if you crack the number of nuts equal to your age, you’ll avoid boils and have healthy teeth all year. (We’re not convinced that cracking walnuts with your teeth is a good way to start the year… This might be why there are more peanuts than walnuts for sale.)
– Make sure to soak your beans overnight and your chap-ssal for around 30 minutes beforehand.
– Simmer your pat (red beans) before adding them to the rest of your grains in the ogok-bap if using a pot. But if you’re using a pressure-cooker or an electric rice cooker, you can just throw everything in together.
– When cooking mugeun-namul, you need to soak them overnight, but it’s also very inexpensive to buy them at the mart already soaked.
– To prepare your mugeun-namul side dishes, sautée the soaked namul in a frying pan with minced garlic, deul-gireum (perilla oil), minced daepah (giant scallion) and roasted sesame seed. We have a couple of more precise recipes below, but that’s the gist of it for most mugeun-namul! 🙂
Gosari namul, sautéed bracken fiddleheads
Shiraegi namul, braised radish greens
*Ok, so the story goes like this: King Soji was vacationing at the Cheoncheon Pavilion, when suddenly, a rat and a crow came up to him. The rat began to speak in a human-like voice: “Your Highness, please follow this crow! You must do this,” it said urgently. It’s not every day that you see a talking rat, but King Soji was a practical king (and a monarch after all), so he sent some loyal vassals off after the crow in his place. The vassals jumped on their horses and took off after the bird. Upon arriving in the village of Pichon, however, the sight of two pigs fighting furiously distracted them and they lost sight of the crow. Under normal folk tale conventions, this mistake would have been disastrous for the distracted vassals… but no! Lo and behold, while searching high and low for the lost crow, a mysterious old man appeared. “Give this to the king,” the old man instructed them, handing them an envelope before disappearing as mysteriously as he had arrived. “You think the crow was supposed to lead us here?” one vassal asked the other. “Eh,” shrugged the second, more jaded, vassal. “Probably.” So they rode back to the king, and handed him the envelope. On the outside was written: “If you open this envelope, two people will die. If you leave it sealed, one person will die.” “Well,” reasoned the king, since he was a pretty fair person, “it would be better to let just one person die instead of two.” “But your highness,” the young vassal interjected hesitantly, “surely ‘two people’ refers to mere subjects, but ‘one person’ refers to yourself?” “Wise thinking!” said the king, suddenly remembering his policy of realpolitik (a king’s life is infinitely more valuable, after all), and he hastily tore open the seal. “Shoot an arrow into the zither case.” It read. Nothing more, nothing less. Not wishing to risk his life, the king hastened into the royal music chamber and shot an arrow into the zither case, where it buried itself deep into the wood with a gasp and a grunt. Inside were a monk and a court lady, who had been conspiring against the king’s life. So this is how a crow saved the king’s life.