Yakbap (Medicinal Rice)

Yakbap (medicinal rice) is a dish made with steamed glutinous rice mixed with honey, sesame oil, chestnut, jujube, pine nut and soybean sauce.

Yakbap (Medicinal Rice)

(Photo Credit Uriminzokkiri)

Honey is regarded as medicine, so the dish is also called medicinal rice as it is mixed with honey.

The dish began to be eaten by Koreans in the period of the Three Kingdoms— Koguryo, Paekje and Silla—and the people of Koryo (918–1392), too, loved to cook and eat the dish.

Made into a lump and mixed evenly with honey,

The cooked glutinous rice is beautiful in colour.

And mixed with jujube, chestnut and pine nut,

The rice becomes further sweeter.

The verse is part of a poem about the rice in the period of Koryo. In the period of the feudal Joson dynasty (1392–1910) the rice was more widely popularized, and the method of cooking the dish improved. Books from the period record details about the cooking method.

First, soak, wash and steam the rice. Peel the endocarp off chestnuts and slice the nuts. Remove the seeds from jujubes and boil the flesh into thick juice. Mix the steamed rice evenly with honey, and season it with soybean sauce. Then mix together the rice, sesame oil, chestnut slices and jujube juice, and put the mixture in a pot or a hollow vessel. Now seal the mouth of the vessel, and steam the vessel on a steamer or on water in a cauldron over strong fire. When it is steaming hard, adjust the fire while steaming it for a long while. Then the color of the rice turns red and the dish becomes glossy. Scoop the rice in a bowl, put pine nuts on the rice in a shapely manner and sprinkle cinnamon powder on it.

Formerly, dried persimmons, dried bracken, mushroom and walnuts were also used for the cooking of the rice.

Besides, the glutinous rice would be mixed evenly with honey, jujubes, chestnuts, sesame oil and soybean sauce before being put in a cauldron or on a steamer. This time the chestnuts and jujubes would be put among the other components, and they would be covered with glutinous rice flour before being steamed. Then, it is said, the rice becomes dark red.

According to old documents, the rice was also called Hyangban (aromatic rice), Michan (beautiful dish) and Japgwaban (fruit-mixture dish).

Foreigners called the dish Koryo rice praising its taste as fantastic.

The dish is a special one mainly for the 15th of the first lunar month.

With a very long history, the dish has been widely known as the one peculiar to the Korean nation. It is still regarded as a unique dish.

(Uriminzokkiri - February 14, 2021)

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