Everything about Korean New Year (Seollal Food)

Happy Korean New Year! 🙂 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (Saehae bok mani ba-deu-sae-yo).

Today is Seollal (설날; Korean new year). Koreans celebrate the new year of the lunar calendar, and it is the biggest holiday when people gather together with their relatives, eat a lot of food, play games, etc. It is like Christmas in the States. We celebrate it for three to four days.


seollal food

On Seollal, Koreans used to wear Hanbok, which is Korean traditional clothes, but most of them do not wear it these days because it is expensive (especially since even if you buy it, you don’t wear it on normal days but just keep it in the closet) and uncomfortable. Usually just the kids wear them. The girl in the picture above is my niece 🙂


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Seabae (세배; bowing) is a very important part on Seollal. Kids bow to the elder family members. I bowed to my parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents with respect. Then the elders give the kids money, which is called Sae-baet-don (세뱃돈; New year’s money). However, once the kids are grown up and get jobs, they do not receive Saebaetdon anymore.

I will introduce you to several types of Seollal foods which are very basic and popular.

1. Mandu (만두)

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Mandu are Korean dumplings which have a combination of chopped Kimchi, meat, and different types of vegetables inside. The outside is just made from flour dough. Depending on the ingredients inside, it tastes different. My favorite is Kimchi mandu which is spicy. You can steam it, boil it as soup, and fry it.


2. Tteokguk (떡국)

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‘Tteok’ means rice cake and ‘guk’ means soup. It literally means rice soup made with rice cakes. The rice cakes are originally long, cylindrical rice cakes, kind of like a roll of quarters, which are then cut into slices, and don’t really have taste. The long white rice cake is called Garaetteok (가래떡) and it means good health and the longevity. It also has the meaning of prosperity because Garaetteok in Tteokguk is cut like coins.

When cooking Tteokguk, many people put Mandu (만두; Korean dumplings) in it then it is called Tteok Manduguk. If there is only Mandu, it is called Manduguk.


3. Jeon (전)

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Jean is a fried pancake-like Korean dish. It has various types and has two big categories. One looks like the ingredients itself and the other looks like a pancake. What I had was fish Jeon and vegetable Jeon made with different types of chopped vegetables, eggs, and flour.


4. Makgeoli (막걸리) or different types of alcohol

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When eating Jeon, Makgeoli (막걸리; rice wine) cannot be missed. Since the relatives gather together, they like to drink and enjoy the Korean biggest holiday. Not only Makgeoli, but also other types of Korean alcohols like Soju are welcomed.


5. It’s a feast.

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FEAST! Every meal on Seollal holidays is like a feast. Many side dishes, Galbi, soup, and other things  make your stomach full. Eating and eating and more eating…


6. Shikhye (식혜)

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Shikhye is served as a dessert and made with cooked rice and malt. I love it! It is sweet and cold and helps your digestion. Cooked rice is at the bottom 🙂 Basically it is just sweet tea with rice and it’s really good!

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