Happy Lunar New Year! Personally, I don’t really ever go by the lunar calendar for anything, so the only New Year that counts for me was on January 1st. But I’ll go along anyways and make a big deal that it is the lunar New Year. My parents always go by everything on the lunar calendar. My siblings and I don’t. Their birthday is different each year. We often get yelled at, “How could you forget your own parent’s birthday? How many mother/father do you think you have that you can forget?” Well, that’s because it’s a different date every year and we (my brothers and I) don’t really look at the lunar calendar. So not long ago, we all decided to do everything (birthday-wise) by the solar calendar. When I was younger, my family and I always made a big deal of both New Years, solar and lunar. On January 1st, we’d always have to dress in hanbok (Korean traditional clothes), ate ddukguk, do our bowing rituals to the adults, and receive money. The kids hated having to dress in hanbok. Up until I was about 6-7, my parents used to dress me in hanbok a little too much. They even put me in a hanbok to go to Disneyland. I remember people taking pictures of and with me, thinking I was one of the characters from It’s a Small World. I have no idea why my parents did that to me. That’s me, one of the Korean characters from It’s a Small World lol.
We hated the hanbok, but loved receiving money! I don’t have too many relatives here, just my dad’s side. And I’d make about $100-$200 from bowing. My friends with lots of relatives made way more, and I’d always feel jipped. We’d always go to Toy’s R Us after, eager to spend our New Year’s earning. For the kids, that was the highlight of New Years. We’d also bow to the table with all the food, which symbolizes bowing to our ancestors, and offering them the food at the table. The table always had so much food. Nobody could eat until everybody has finished bowing. We always got up early on solar New Years, so the meal was breakfast. The Lunar New Years was usually celebrated during dinner time, with pretty much the similar setting, minus the bowing money. My aunt was usually the one that did most of the cooking. She used to cook at a hotel in Korea way back when, like in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Her cooking is pretty tasty.
I remember there being all kinds of dishes that I used to just drool over while trying to get done with the bowing as soon as I could. The food was always placed on one of those old traditional tables. There was dduk (rice cakes), various juns (pan fried stuff), yakgwa (Korean cookie), fruits, beef, chicken (some kind of braised chicken that was so delicious), japchae, dongchimi, kimchi, gosari (fern), different types of namul (veggie side dishes), and of course, the star of the New Year’s table, ddukguk (rice cake soup)! We actually ate ddukguk for both of the New Years. Of course, as a kid, I used to love eating a bowl of ddukguk. Even when I wasn’t in the mood for it, I always wanted some because I wanted to become older. To eat a bowl of ddukguk on New Years means to “eat” another year, not really something I’d be thrilled about today.
These days, we only celebrate solar New Years. I think we have become too Americanized to really celebrate the lunar New Year. I think my parents still acknowledge it. They call relatives and friends in Korea and here to wish them a Happy New Year and all. But my siblings and I don’t really celebrate it.
I was kakao-ing with my aunt in Korea yesterday. And she was talking about how they were celebrating the lunar New Years over there (15 hours ahead of us in LA). Most people have a 3-4day weekend there. I’m jealous! Maybe I should start celebrating so I can get an excuse (ahem, for cultural reasons) to not go to work lol. Anyways, she was telling me that she doesn’t really like ddukguk, so she was eating kalguksu.
The mention of kalguksu really had me craving some. That craving started from last night until all day today. Unfortunately, I did not have time to go out and get some today. When I got home from work, the Korean markets were closed. I think there might be some restaurants opened late in Ktown, but I didn’t really feel like making the drive all the way there just to eat. I guess ddukguk was the next best thing. And hey, it’s seol nal (lunar New Year), so why not? If you know me, you’d know that I often crave soupy dishes because I find them so comforting.
I looked in the fridge and I was out of beef. I usually like to make the broth with beef and also use that or some kind of other beef for garnish. So I had to improvise. I prefer making the broth with beef, but I had to make it with dried anchovies, which is good too but I still prefer the beefy flavor in ddukguk. With beef, I usually like to let it simmer (along with garlic gloves) for a while to allow it to develop a deep flavor. But tonight, I had no beef of any sort and had no patience for anything time consuming. I made a quick and easy version.