My 3 Favorite Meals for Chuseok
Crispy jeon, delicious japchae, and sweet Asian pears are just the tip of the iceberg of mouth-watering foods served on one of Korea’s most important holidays, Chuseok. Often referred to as “Korean Thanksgiving,” Chuseok originated as a way to both honor a family’s ancestors and celebrate the harvest, and it occurs on the fifteenth day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar (1).
While there are many formal components to Chuseok that center around honoring your ancestors, when I think of Chuseok, I primarily think of all the delicious food. Growing up, my memories of Chuseok included things like spending time with family and playing games with my cousins in between stealing bits of kimchi pancake from the kitchen. My mom would cook galbi, japchae, and all sorts of side dishes, filling the whole house with savory, mouthwatering scents.
In my book, Pippa Park Raises Her Game, Chuseok also revolves around amazing food and spending time with family. So, in honor of the holiday, I’ll give y’all the rundown on some of the foods both Pippa Park and I enjoy on Chuseok.
"Mina frowned, obviously debating whether to let me off the hook so easily. A beat passed, and she relented. ‘Jung-Hwa forgot to get shrimp for the saeujeon. I need you to go to David’s Divinities to pick up half a pound.’”
Jeon is a kind of Korean “pancake” and can be customized in a variety of different ways. As a kid, I loved when my mom made kimchi or seafood pancakes. When I made my own saeujeon (shrimp) and hobak-jeon (zucchini), the hobak-jeon was both delicious and easy to make, but I overcooked the shrimp! I wasn’t too disappointed; it gave me an excuse to try them again.
“‘This is delicious,’ Mrs. Lee said as she picked out a bit of sweet potato from her japchae and popped it into her mouth. ‘It reminds me of home.’”
When I was growing up, japchae was one of my sister’s favorite foods. Shown above, the glass noodles are stir-fried and mixed with soy sauce and a whole array of tasty additions, including sliced carrots, boiled, seasoned spinach, and beef. As a kid, I liked to steal bits of my favorite ingredients before we sat down to eat. The small pieces of the meat were a popular pick for me... so was the spinach. My mom would blanch it and add sesame oil and salt to the greens before adding it to the japchae. I would have eaten a whole bowl of spinach and been happy!
“While Jung-Hwa grilled pork belly, Mina stuffed rice cakes with a blend of ground-up, sweetened sesame seeds and set them aside to be steamed over a bed of fragrant pine needles.”
When I was younger, my mom sent me to a class where I studied Korean with other children from her Korean church. There, I learned how to make songpyeon. These delicious delectables are an iconic food served during Chuseok. They’re rice cakes that are stuffed with a sweet filling, such as sweetened sesame seeds, and then traditionally steamed on a bed of pine needles. The rice cakes are often beautifully colored, and the sesame seeds are a perfectly sweet, nutty complement to the chewy rice cakes.
For more food inspiration, check out Pippa Park: My Journal About Life!