Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Saturday, August 6th - 100 Day Celebration - 축 백 일

Dhuk Cake - Rice Cake
We don't live in the same city as my folks so lil T's 축 백 일 (chook baek il), hundred day celebration was delayed until our trip out east. It's a traditional Korean celebration for babies to recognise surviving the difficult and sensitive first few months of life. Presumably, as is the case for many such traditions, it arose from a history of high infant mortality. This is emphasised by the typical foods served at the fête which fall into categories of purpose and often, by many, specific foods. The foods and gifts should represent what you want for your child: longevity, cleanliness, luck, knowledge, patience and wealth. There is also a polytheistic aspect which I'm sure tore my grandma up as she has been a converted catholic for over 50 years. In the end, we did not pay homage to the gods who watch over children with an altar with rice, soup and sometimes, red beans.
BBQ'd Vegetables
Traditionally, longevity may be given in the form of chains, rings, bangles or string. Or from an edible perspective you give rice cakes to as many people as you can and the more people to partake, the longer the child will live.

Spicy BBQ'd Squid with Bell Peppers - Maewon Ojing Bokum
We kept our meal simple and in the spirit of the summer and we barbecued Kalbi and Spicy Squid as well as some seasonal Squash and Eggplant from the yard for the main. Mom tosses the Squash with Olive Oil to place on the grill then tosses it with some Sesame Seed Oil and coarse salt before serving.

BBQ Kalbi - BBQ Korean Beef Short Ribs
Many of the foods used may represent wealth by the nature of its scarcity or cost. Though many of those foods are actually quite common and easily accessible now such as White Rice, Rice Cake, Meat and some fruits. As carnivorous as Koreans are thought to be nowadays, meat was an exceptional treat and reserved for the extremely wealthy or powerful. Rice was scarce amongst the masses and to this day, my uncles cannot stand the sight of Barley, which they were fed as children.  In lieu of rice, the commoners would have eaten Barley. My dad finds the cost of a small pack of Barley vs a 10 kg bag of Rice ever so amusing and ironic. Dad thinks it's very ironic how expensive Barley is now compared to plain Rice as well as it's promotion for nutritional value.  Mom likes to add grains, in small quantities, to her rice like Barley, Millet, and Quinoa. The Rice Cake or Dhuk would have been reserved for very special occasions because of the cost.  Actually, this hunk of cake above cost a lot more than I would have expected.  We could have bought ten nice butter cream kin.

Chook Baek Il Table
Also, on the table is Egg Battered Fish is ubiquitous.  It is, adorably, the only thing my Halmonyee (Grandmother) knows how to cook.  Well, she cooks other things but as Mom is the better cook, she does not presume to try to do other things.  So whenever we visit, she shows up with Egg Battered Fish.

Mung Bean Jelly Salad - Cheongpomuk (청포묵)
Another well known celebration food is Mung Bean Jelly, Cheongpomuk (청포묵) which is a clear, nearly flavourless jelly made from the starch from mung beans.  Mom tossed it with Cucumbers, Kaenyip (Perilla) leaves, which she grows in the backyard, and Radishes.  It was lightly dressed with Rice Wine Vinegar, Sesame Oil and Toasted Sesame Seeds. Mom's friend also made us Acorn Jelly, Dotorimuk Muchim (도토리묵무침) the brownish form of the Mung Bean Jelly.  Mom tossed it with Chives, Kym (Seaweed aka Nori)and dressed with homemade Soy Sauce, Rice Wine Vinegar and Sesame Oil/Toasted Seeds.

Acorn Jelly Salad - Dotorimuk Muchim (도토리묵무침)
Omu/ Fishcake with Peppers is one of my favourites.  You can choose from many different shapes of Omu in the frozen food section of the Korean market or buy it fresh.  Mom stir-fries (Bokum) with Peppers (Gochu) from her garden.  She grows about half a dozen different Gochu of various scales of heat.  For this dish, you'd want to go medium hot.  Fried with homemade Soy Sauce and Anchovy (Fish) Sauce and Garlic.

Fish Cake Stir Fry - Omu Bokum
Along side these dishes and Banchan, were also a few different Kimchees made from Cabbage and Daikon and of course Rice. We finished the meal by slicing the Dhuk Cake which lil T, though limited in dexterity, tried to attack.  Funny how all babies do that.  As we lingered and passed lil T around, we cut some Watermelon and Korean Pears and Mom and my aunts when 'farming' in her backyard garden to collect bagfuls of Gochu and Kaenyip Leaves.  Topped off with containers full of leftovers. No one goes home empty handed from Mom and Dad's. 


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