There are a few dishes that are synonymous with New Year’s Day. In Korea, it’s necessary to eat a bowl of tteok-guk, a Korean rice cake soup, a silky, milky broth with chewy rice cakes that’s dressed up with different toppings, such as eggs, scallions, and even dumplings. It’s an essential Korean tradition to spoon this comforting soup to become a year older for the new year.
In America’s South, many people welcome the new year by noshing on collard greens and black-eyed peas soup, often served with crispy cornbread on the side. Collard greens become super tender as they’re cooked in a nourishing broth with meaty sausages, and the black-eyed peas add extra texture to the bite.
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Although these two dishes are cooked on opposite ends of the world, the key ingredients hold similar values: It’s believed rice cakes and black-eyed peas will bring prosperity in the new year. As a Korean who grew up in Alabama, I was inspired to combine my two cultures into one perfect New Year’s Day soup—one which will bring all the luck in 2020.
Typically, rice cake soup is made with milky bone broth. Nowadays, it’s really easy to find a premade one or flavor-packed ones at Asian grocery stores like H-mart. Although you can heat the prepackaged ones for a shortcut, it’s also easy to make a beef broth by simmering cubed beef in water. Because we don’t want the broth to be brown, simmering cubed beef for a short period does the job. Be sure to remove impurities that float to the top to prevent the broth from becoming musky. You can also combine these two methods by simmering the cubed beef in the premade bone broth for a next-level, rich beef broth.
The Collard Greens
In a traditional Southern recipe, collard greens are braised in the broth. Even though the leaves get tender, they make the broth a tad musky. Blanching the greens not only cooks them, but also keeps the color bright. Sautéing them with garlic-infused oil also adds another complexity of flavors to the soup. Unlike the Southern version, these collard greens have a little bit of crunch instead of being completely tender, which makes them a perfect topping for a Korean rice cake soup.
The Rice Cakes
There is a particular kind of rice cake that is used for the soup. Unlike the fatty, cylinder shape that’s used for another Korean favorite, tteokbokki, this sliced rice cake, called tteok-guk tteok, is already sliced into rounds shaped like coins. Because they are starchy, once they get added, they will thicken the soup slightly. If you think the soup is too thick, you can always add more water to adjust the thickness. These rice cakes are exceptional pantry items, perfect for stir fry and soup toppings, so I highly recommend getting extra.
Some traditional Korean rice cakes are topped with a sliced egg omelet, but I prefer cracked eggs which are swirled and cooked in the soup. The texture is similar to an egg drop soup, and as the eggs cook, they add another layer of silky bite.
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You can season the soup with a Korean soup soy sauce, which is milder than a typical soy sauce, but it could turn the broth brown. To keep the soup milky colored, I recommend just using salt. If you do have Korean soup soy sauce, use a small amount: about 1-2 teaspoons.
Korean Rice Cake Soup with Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas Recipe
Collard greens and sesame seeds are often sprinkled on top, but you can also use other garnishes like scallions, toasted seaweed, and red peppers for a pop of color. Adding dumplings is also a great way to make the soup even more hearty.
Korean Rice Cake Soup with Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas
- 6 cups of water (or bone broth)
- 1 lb of beef chuck (or brisket), sliced into a 1-inch cube or bite-sized
- 1 bundle of collard greens, sliced, tough stems removed
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 medium-sized onion, sliced
- 2 cups of rice cake
- 1 can of black-eyed peas, drained and washed
- 2 eggs, beat
- 1 tsp of sesame oil
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, add water (or broth). When it boils, add the cubed beef. Let the mixture simmer for 25 minutes or so. Be sure to take out impurities that float on top.
- Meanwhile, prepare to blanch sliced collard greens. In a pot of boiling water, add about 1 tbsp of salt and sliced collard greens. Let it cook in the salted boiling water for about a minute until the greens get tender. Take the greens out using a colander and immediately transfer to cold water to stop cooking. Squeeze as much excess moisture as possible.
- In a skillet, add about 1 tbsp of olive oil. When it heats up, add minced garlic until it’s fragrant and saute collard greens in the skillet. Put it aside.
- In the pot of simmering beef broth, add sliced onion and simmer for 5 minutes until it gets translucent. Add rice cake, followed by black-eyed peas. Stir around so that things don’t get stuck with each other. Cook for another 5 minutes until rice cake gets tender.
- Right before you finish, add eggs to the soup mixture. Don’t stir it right away; let the egg rise on top naturally. Season the soup with salt to your preference.
- Drizzle sesame oil to finish.
- To serve, garnish the soup with sauteed collard greens and sesame seeds.
Header image courtesy of Jamesy Park.