How Crescent-Shaped Rice Cakes Became Chuseok Food

      September 13, 2019 07:10

      Households across Korea celebrate the harvest under a full moon each year during Chuseok with sumptuous meals.

      Farmers used to calculate and plan their harvest according to the moon, which also served as a source of awe and light. That is why rice cakes shaped like crescent moons are eaten during Chuseok. Family members traditionally gather around to make songpyeon from freshly harvested rice and other ingredients.

      The history of songpyeon dates back to times of times of the Three Kingdoms (BC18 to AD 660). A legend has it that during the reign of King Uija of Baekje, a turtle's shell was found under the ground of the royal palace, and on it was written, "Baekje is full moon while Shilla is half moon."

      A geomancer said that means that Baekje would fall while Shilla would rise. Shilla people began making rice cakes shaped as half moons since then hoping for prosperity. Shilla did go on to unify the three Kingdoms and the half moon grew to represent prosperity and abundance.

      But Chuseok rice cakes are not all the same. Gangwon Province is known for potato and acorn-based rice cakes that are made in the shape of hands, while Chungcheong provinces is famous for pumpkin-shaped cakes. Jeolla provinces makes rice cakes using omija and mugwort for coloring and shaped like flowers. In Gyeongsang provinces, kudzu roots are added.

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