Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kim Mi-ju's Article on the Tteok Fair for the Joongahn Ilbo

I met Mi-ju at the rice fair and I was happy to here that she and I went to the same school: The University of Delaware! Wow! Well here is her article on the Tteok Fair that she wrote for the Joongahn Ilbo.


As part of efforts by the government to promote Korean cuisine, the Institute of Traditional Korean Food held a rice cake, or tteok, competition at the AT center in Yangjae-dong, southern Seoul.

The contest, part of the annual Seoul International Tteok Fair, held from May 8 to 9 this year, had a new twist aimed at drawing in newcomers to the tteok world. A fourth category was added to the three existing sections of the contest - students, amateurs, professionals. The new section gives non-Koreans a chance to show off their rice cake making skills.

News spread fast and 40 participants turned up on Friday to have a go.

Contestants were given an hour to make their rice cake. The options were to make a coffee rice cake, pressed flower rice cake or come up with their own original concoction.

The contestants from Canada, Gabon, Japan, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia and the United States, among others, worked on their tteok creations in the early part of the afternoon.

“When I first tried tteok, there was no feeling of dislike or like, it was something new ... a new taste and texture,” said Wafa Alghamdi, who arrived in Korea five weeks ago from Saudi Arabia to study Korean and marketing at Sookmyung Women’s University. She made round yellow dumplings stuffed with apple, sugar and cinnamon, a typical recipe from her homeland. She also used chocolate to put smiles on each dumpling.

Of the different tteok she has tried so far, Alghamdi said she liked coffee rice cake best because it tasted very similar to bread eaten in the Alghamdi region in Saudi Arabia.

“Coffee cake has a potential to be liked by Arabian people. If you want to promote Korean tteok, like coffee rice cake, you need to try to put Korean and foreign foods together. For example, at McDonald’s, I can order Arabian bread in my country,” she said.

Sophia Aristou, an English teacher at Hongik Middle School, who made peppermint mocha tteok, said she was taking part in the festival because she wanted to have interesting memories before she goes back home to Vancouver Island, Canada.

“I only have a few months left in Korea and I wanted to take home a special skill, so I was googling tteok-making lessons and I came across this competition. I love tteok and I love chocolate and coffee, so I put them together,” Aristou said. “I went home last summer and brought some tteok as a gift. I really hoped it would stay fresh, but it got hard [while traveling]. But this time I’m going to make it for them! I told my family I will make it for them.”

Rie Tamaoka, a Japanese woman who came to Korea a year ago and studies Korean traditional food at the institute, won the first prize of 2 million won ($1,605). Tamaoka said she wants to open her own Korean traditional food institute where she can teach Korean traditional dishes.

Yoon Sook-ja, the president of the institute, said the new category was added to the competition because the best way to promote tteok globally is to have foreigners experience making it.

“We initially had over 100 foreigners signed up for the competition. We narrowed the field to 40 through a preliminary test. This is a positive sign that a growing number of foreigners are eager to learn and try tteok,” Yoon said.

By Kim Mi-ju []