Ghost Bodyguard during Winter Solstice, Dongji Patjuk

19 Oct

Patjuk is red bean soup and is cooked during winter solstice (Dongji in Korean) when the length of daylight is at its shortest and nighttime at its longest. Traditionally, Patjuk has been prepared to prevent bad luck and shared with neighbors on the Korean traditional holiday (Dongjinal) on December 22. Korean people usually eat Donji Patjuk with Saealsim, which looks like a small bird’s ball, which is made of sticky flour.

According to Chinese mythological stories handed down, once upon a time, there was a man called Gong Gong. He had a spoiled son who had a cruel temper. After his son died, he became a ghost of epidemic disease and many people died due to the epidemic disease. While Gong Gong tried to figure out how to prevent the disease, he remembered that while his son was alive, his son hated ‘red bean soup’. He made Patjuk and shared with his neighborhood. Because of this myth, Korean people have made Patjuk as well as scattered it in the kitchen, yard, gate, and storage to drive ghosts away. In old Korean tradition, the red color represents a positive energy, which can ward off bad luck, epidemic disease, and evil spirits. The story behind the custom of Patjuk is believed to be a mythical food that drives evil spirits away; however, here it’s a logical ancient’s wisdom. Red beans are good for warming and replenishing the human body. Red Bean contains an abundant amount of vitamin B1 of all grains.

Patjuk is made of simple ingredients which includes a cup of red beans that are soaked overnight in water, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sweet/glutinous rice power, and 4-5 tablespoons of warm water. First, wash red beans thoroughly in cold water then soak the red beans in water for 2 to 3 hours. Then, drain the beans by keeping the water as well as discarding the left over skin, and add 3 cups of water. While boiling until they begin to soften, add sugar and a pinch of salt, and put the glutinous rice power. Stir altogether and leave red beans until they all become soft. For Saearshim, take the 2 cups of glutinous rice flour and make small round pieces approximately 1.5~2cm in size by using hot water and salt and circling them in one’s palms. Put the rice balls in boiling salt water for 5 to 6 minutes until the small pieces float to the surface. At the end, mix up the red bean soup and rice balls (Saearshim) together and serve it warm. Overall, Patjuk is a traditional dish served during the winter days that not only expels evil spirits, but also warms the souls of the neighbors with a healthy and hearty bowl of red bean soup.

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