Tteokguk Soup and the Korean New Year Festival

tteokguk Korean New Year

Lunar New Year Soup

I was sitting in my apartment today, minding my own business, when the intercom buzzed twice. Talking to the friendly people downstairs is always a challenge because they speak so little English. But after a few words and pointing to the intercom, they understood my question. But they just kept saying Tteokduk. Then one of them made an eating gesture, something about New Year’s. Finally, he asked me to follow him. So I did.

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20170324_162935-1024x576 Tteokguk Soup and the Korean New Year Festival

Lost in Translation

A man came into my quiet space announcing something. I ignored it until he came on again 30 minutes later and made the same announcement. Then I got curious. I figured it involved all those ladies carrying pots and pans around the building.

So I followed him. Knowing that I would have to eat something, something I might not like because my curiosity got the best of me. It’s also one of the reasons I started duffelbagspouse. A lot of people are just as curious but a little less adventurous.

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New Years Tradition in Korea

He led me back across the courtyard to the small room next to the entrance back to my building. But through the double doors, I was met with various shoes. I had never been here. I stepped out of my boots into a warm dining area with two long tables. They were practically on the floor.

Two old men at the far table and the nice ladies guided me to a pillow at the closest table. I took off my gloves and placed my purse beside me.

A moment later a bowl of soup was placed before me. Some kimchi and dried seaweed (gim) would soon follow. I found out later, I was given a bowl of tteokguk.

What is Tteokduk?

Tteokguk is a traditional Korean dish eaten during the celebration of the Korean New Year. The dish consists of the broth/soup (guk) with thinly sliced rice cakes (tteok). It is tradition to eat tteokguk on New Year’s Day because it is believed to grant the consumer good luck for the year. Once you eat it you also grow one year older. It is usually garnished with thin julienned cooked eggs, marinated meat, and slivers of dried seaweed.

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I’m Just Not that Flexible

I sat on my knees and one of the ladies came over and pulled my legs for me to sit down on my butt and we shared a laugh. Thank goodness, cause that wasn’t comfortable at all. I have no idea who those ladies are, except that they have a building ladies group or something. A sort of FRG (family readiness group) that we have in the military and I’m quite acquainted with as an Army wife.

Anyway, they were nice, tried to talk to me a little bit, and smiled at me a lot… something I’ve become used to as a form of conversation here in South Korea. Then I recognized the rice cake soup, except that all my research said it was supposed to be white. Maybe one of you guys knows why mine wasn’t… is it because it’s NOT actually the New or the Lunar Year-end yet?

20151218_090945 Tteokguk Soup and the Korean New Year Festival

Are you kidding, More Kimchi?

It has a very simple taste. Rice and thin rice cakes in a thin beef-like gravy (without the salt or a lot of taste actually). It wasn’t bad, just ok. The irony wasn’t lost that I had more kimchi in my refrigerator (two red Tupperware on the bottom shelf) than I could ever eat, and now I was served even more. The kimchi was very good though and I also enjoyed the dried seaweed, but there was no way I could eat that entire bowl of soup. After consuming the side dishes and a few big spoons of Tteokduk, I rose and took my bowl to the sink, knowing that I’ve done my part in securing one more year on this beautiful planet.

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Celebrating-the-Korean-New-Year-With-Tteokduk-Soup-2-519x778 Tteokguk Soup and the Korean New Year Festival



  1. Christi

    The commissary has been out of kimchi for two weeks now. I could kill for some kimichi or ddukbokgi… Or I could figure out if Frankfurt has an Asian market! LoL Truly this looks divine. Happy New Year!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      That sucks, you’ NEVER run out here in Korea!! Ever think of trying to make it yourself? And Happy New Year to you. I hope you took the time to subscribe.

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