What is Songpyeon?

By Catherine Tai

Chuseok, Korea’s autumn harvest festival, is right around the corner, and Koreans are busily preparing for the celebration. Starting this year on Sunday, September 23rd, the annual three-day holiday celebrates the beginning of the fall season. Families gather to watch traditional plays, dance traditional songs and play traditional games. Most importantly, Koreans celebrate Chuseok with a variety of amazing traditional Korean food. One, in particular, must never be forgotten to be placed at the dinner table during the holiday: songpyeon.

Songpyeon is one of the many traditional Korean foods that are symbolic in the culture. Historically, it was created using the first rice harvest. Songpyeon is a half-moon shaped rice cake that is filled with either a sweet or semi-sweet filling such as sesame seeds, nuts, or bean powder. The rice cake is steamed, usually over pine needles to give it a subtle pine tree flavor. This method of steaming the rice cake is also the reason why songpyeon directly translates to “pine cakes.”

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Songpyeon typically comes in 5 cardinal colors- green, yellow, red, pink, and purple. Each color are all made naturally: green is made with mugwort powder; yellow with pumpkin powder; red with the cockscomb flower; pink with different berries; and purple with a purple potato or with grapes and blueberries.

Making songpyeon is a common tradition among Korean families during Chuseok. It is an essential food for the holiday and will be for many more years. For other traditional Chuseok foods, check out this article on other traditional foods for this holiday.

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