Songpyeon was one of the first Korean dishes I ever made, a number of years ago while studying in Korea post-college. At the time, I was staying with a friend’s relatives outside of Seoul for Korean Thanksgiving (Chuseok).
Songpyeon is one of the traditional foods Koreans eat during Chuseok. [NOTE: Chuseok typically takes place in either September or early October — it’s the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.] My friend’s aunt made a large batch of songpyeon dough and asked us to stuff it with filling and shape it into dumplings. I helped with those two steps, but I didn’t learn how to make songpyeon on my own. That’s why I’m attempting it now, as part of my Korean Food Project.
I have fond memories of that day and of songpyeon and I’m excited to revisit the dish using this recipe.
Songpyeon (Pine-Flavored Rice Dumplings) — 송편
Makes about 50 small dumplings
- 4 c. rice flour*
- pinch of salt
- enough water to make soft dough
Three types of fillings:
- 1 c. raisins
- 1 c. chestnuts — cooked 15 minutes then shelled, skinned and mashed.**
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 c. ground sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 lb. pine needles (Can be omitted if difficult to find)
- sesame oil – small amount
*You can buy rice flour at Asian grocery stores or the Bob’s Red Mill brand on Amazon.com for about $4. See photo above. As I mentioned in my earlier post about tteokguk, you can also make rice flour from scratch, but it is quite laborious (involving the soaking, straining and grinding of short-grain white rice.) The necessary steps are outlined here on Maangchi’s blog, which I think is the best English-language blog about Korean cooking.
**You can also use dried chestnuts (see photo above), but you will have to soften them first. Here are directions: Put 10 dried chestnuts in a bowl, cover with boiling water and let stand 30 minutes. Discard the water. Put the chestnuts in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer until they are soft, about 45 minutes. Chop them finely and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. honey. Nuts.com sells dried chestnuts for $14 per 1 lb. bag. As a shortcut, you could also use ready-to-eat roasted chestnuts, which Amazon sells for $10 (for 20 oz.)
- Knead all dough ingredients together.
- Form dough into chestnut-size balls and set aside, covered with a damp towel.
To assemble dumplings:
- Make a hole in each ball of dough and stuff with all 3 kinds of filling: 3-4 raisins, ½ tsp. chestnut mixture, ½ tsp. sesame seed mixture.
- Seal the opening and form a clamshell dumpling.***
- Repeat until all dough is used.
- Spread washed pine needles over bottom of steamer rack.****
- Arrange one layer of dumplings over needles; repeat with needles and dumplings.
- Steam over high heat until cooked through.
- With wet fingers, remove pine needles and brush sesame oil over each dumpling (to lend flavor and prevent dumplings from sticking together.)
- Drizzle honey over dumplings just before serving.
***Songpyeon are usually shaped like half-moons, clamshells, teardrops or round balls. But, as you can see above, mine came out looking like triangles. Over time, I hope I will improve my songpyeon-shaping skills.
****I used a circular, 10-inch, bamboo steamer, like this one.
[Recipe from “Korean Cooking”]