April 23, 2021 12:59
Hwajeon or flat rice cakes decorated with flower petals are bringing a little spring color into the drab lives of Koreans at a time when there is no end in sight to the coronavirus epidemic.
More than 20,000 posts with hashtags including #azalea, the most common petals used for hwajeon, have been trending on Instagram this week.
"Dongguksesigi," a book about seasonal customs from 1849, says that Koreans pick azalea flowers on Samjinnal, a day that falls on the third day of the third lunar month.
Hwajeon can be only made only while the flowers are in bloom, so it is only available during a very short season.
"I've been making hwajeon for over 10 years," says Korea's leading rice-cake chef Shin Yong-il. "Last year I got almost five times more orders than the previous year, and this year I got double that again."
He expressed delight that young Koreans are embracing traditional customs.
Shin, who graduated from renowned French culinary school École Lenôtre, says if azaleas are hard to find, pansies make a great substitute and can be found in any supermarket. "Edible flowers are usually used in salads and difficult to fry. If you use roses, violets and other petals for hwajeon, they will discolor in the heat."
He also suggested that while some people may prefer honey on their rice cakes, a sprinkling of icing sugar can add extra charm and color.
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