Florally Fabulous Foods from Korea 🌼

By Rūta Balžekaitė

Flowers, flowers, flowers… You cannot get enough of them! Flowers in your garden blooming vigorously, flowers on your windowsill catching rays of warm sunlight and flowers in your plate… That’s right! There are plenty of edible flowers nowadays, so making your meal look even more elegant and interesting becomes much easier.

The Korean word hwa (화) means “flower” and can be seen in the names of some Korean desserts and drinks. The flowery pattern is often used to adorn the food to make it look good, and some use the flowers for cooking. There is a Korean proverb “what looks good, tastes good” (보기 좋은 떡이 먹기도 좋다), and it is very prominent in Korean cuisine. Ever considered eating flowers for breakfast?  Here are some desserts and drinks that include edible flowers in the making and decorating of the most wonderful Korean foods out there.

  • Hwajeon (화전)

Hwajeon, also known as “flower cake”, lives up to its name—the small pan-fried rice cake is made of glutinous rice flour, honey and petals of edible seasonal flowers such as azalea, violets, cherry blossoms and rhododendron in the spring, rose petals in the summer and chrysanthemums in the autumn. The flowers are arranged on top of the small cake as it is fried in the pan with sesame oil. Hwajeon is such a wonderful dessert and it is perfect after eating marinated meat, leaving a light taste in your mouth.

  • Hwachae (화채)

Hwachae is used to describe traditional Korean punches made with various fruits or edible flower petals. Pine nuts are commonly used to garnish the punch before serving. After you have made hwajeon, it is nice to have something to drink together with the rice cakes. The leftover azalea flowers, omija berries, mung bean starch and honey are great for making a tasty punch.

Of course, there are various types of flowery punches that you can make to add to your meals. Bae-hwachae (배화채) or “pear punch,” made in autumn with honeyed magnolia berry juice (omija) and flower-shaped Korean pear, and sagwa-hwachae, made the same way only with flower-shaped apples. To make a true flowery punch you can also add actual flower petals. Some of those include rose petals (jangmi-hwachae – “rose punch”), Korean rhododendron petals (jindallae-hwachae – “rhododendron punch”) and water-shield leaves (sunchae-hwachae – “water-shield punch”).

  • Flower Sanbyeong (꽃산병)

This rice cake is a round, glutinous dessert, filled with sweet red beans and decorated with a pretty imprint. Using a wooden mold of a wanted pattern, the cakes are made and each mark has its own meaning. The wheel-shaped pattern means that everything will go smoothly the whole year. The peony-shaped pattern is for wealth and prosperity. Chrysanthemums are for longevity, and lotuses mean blessings. The finished colorful rice cakes are then decorated with tiny details to make it look even more appealing for festive celebrations.

Fruity Toast

There is a coffee shop called East Dulwich in Gangnam that has many modern desserts and drinks with a flowery twist. It is proudly showing off the most aesthetically pleasing, pretty-flower adorned drinks and desserts to their customers. The most popular being a toast with sweet jam and whipped cream, almost buried in colorful flowers and berries. The cafe also has a tasty tiramisu decorated with cute blossoms, canelés with a small flower on top, many refreshing drinks with flowers and their petals floating on the surface and other desserts. It must feel like eating in a heavenly garden, especially in the winter, when the flowery menu keeps the feeling of springtime and summer alive, adding some holiday decorations to it as well.

Flowers are a pretty, delicate creation of nature. Either as a decoration or a nutritious addition to a meal, the flowers have been used in Korean culture for a long time. Many flowery patterns were and still are used for inspiration in various forms of art, and is prominent in traditional, as well as modern Korean cuisine.

Have you ever tried any of these flowery foods or drinks? If not, which one would you be most excited to try? Comment below and share with us!

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Written by Ruta Balzekaite

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