As our team gets ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, it was necessary to remember that the Korean Thanksgiving, known as Chuseok, had its celebration a few months earlier.
Every year, as the full moon rises on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, families across South Korea celebrate Chuseok, the Harvest Moon Festival. An event deeply rooted in Korean culture; it is often referred to as “Korean Thanksgiving.” The holiday embodies the spirit of gratitude, commemorating good harvests and honoring ancestors. At the heart of this festival lie various delicious traditional foods that satiate taste buds and carry significant cultural symbolism. Let us dive into the world of Chuseok food traditions to understand how they elevate the significance of this beautiful festival.
- Songpyeon (송편)
The most iconic Chuseok treat, songpyeon, is a small, crescent-shaped rice cake stuffed with fillings like sesame seeds, honey, chestnuts, or sweetened red bean paste. After being filled, they steam over a bed of fresh pine needles, which gives them a subtle pine aroma. Songpyeon’s shape symbolizes the moon, and the process of families coming together to make these treats is a cherished tradition.
- Jeon (전)
Jeon are Korean pancakes made with a variety of ingredients. They can be both savory and sweet, containing fish, meat, vegetables, or even fruits, all coated in a batter and pan-fried to perfection. Jeon is often served during Chuseok, representing bounty and the harmonious mixture of various ingredients.
- Japchae (잡채)
Currently served as a hot topping in a store near you, Japchae (aka our Sweet Potato Noodles) Japchae combines glass noodles made from sweet potato starch with colorful vegetables and sometimes meat. This dish is seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil, giving it a savory and slightly sweet taste. Fun Fact: Many believe Japchae’s transparent noodles represent the full moon’s clarity.
- Galbi-jjim (갈비찜)
Galbi-jjim is a rich and flavorful braised beef rib dish. The ribs marinate in soy sauce, sugar, and other seasonings before being simmered with ingredients like jujubes, chestnuts, and ginseng. The resultant dish is soft, juicy, and deeply satisfying, representing the luxury of sharing a hearty meal with loved ones. Find one of our favorite recipes here.
- Hangwa (한과)
These Traditional Korean confections include grains, fruits, roots, and honey or sugar. They come in various shapes, colors, and flavors and often have intricate designs. Hangwa is not only delightful to eat but is also visually appealing, embodying the artistry and beauty of Korean culture.
Honoring Ancestors with Food
One of the essential aspects of Chuseok is Charye, an ancestral rite performed to show respect and gratitude to deceased family members. Families prepare a table laden with various foods, including fruits, meats, and traditional dishes, which are offered ceremonially to the spirits of ancestors. This ritual strengthens familial ties and emphasizes the importance of remembering and respecting one’s roots.
Chuseok is a festival highlighting the importance of family, tradition, and gratitude. The food consumed during this holiday is more than just sustenance; it symbolizes shared heritage, the passage of time, and the bonds that tie generations together. Whether you are of Korean descent or simply a food enthusiast, immersing yourself in these Chuseok food traditions is a delightful way to understand and appreciate the rich tapestry of Korean culture. Happy belated Chuseok!