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This Thursday, February 3rd, is Seolnal/Seollal (설날), Lunar New Year’s Day, marking the beginning of the year of the rabbit.  It is celebrated with a long holiday weekend in Korea and festivities of memorial services for ancestors, sharing tteok guk (떡국; rice cake soup for New Year’s Day) and wishing another great year with extended family members gathered together.  

For me, it is the day I get to re-set my new year resolutions that I renewed from the previous year but already forgot.  We’ll be eating tteok guk (떡국) and savory pancakes to celebrate our own Seolnal, a token effort to recognize another chance to set my mind back to the beginning of the year.

This year, I also have gangjeong (강정), a sweet treat made by mixing seeds, grains and nuts with syrup.  Although the balance between the seed mix and the syrup can be quite tricky, it can be made quickly and easily – and the result won’t disappoint you.  You can play with different mixes of seeds, sweeteners and shapes and find your favorite, creating your own gangjeong or a treat similar to granola bars with a Korean twist.

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I rolled sesame seeds (깨; ggae) and sunflower seeds into little balls, looking like chocolate truffles, with mini chocolate chips inside.  The nutty flavor of seeds and chocolate chips are always a great match, and these sesame truffles take much less time and effort to make than chocolate truffles.

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You can use a mix of sugar and corn syrup as a binder.  If you can find it from a nearby Korean grocery store, try using Korean rice syrup (조청; jo cheong or 쌀엿; ssal yeot).  Traditionally this natural sweetener is made by reducing the liquid strained after soaking malted barley powder and cooked short grain rice.  From what I can tell, Korean rice syrup is a cross between rice syrup and barley malt syrup sold in the U.S.  Rice syrup is lighter in color and taste whereas barley malt syrup is rather thicker and stronger in taste, closer to molasses, compared to Korean rice syrup.


SESAME TRUFFLES

Makes 20

Seed Mix) Toast 1/2 C of sun flower seeds, 1/4 C of sesame seeds and 1/4 C of black sesame seeds separately.  Mix together.

Syrup) Add 1/3 C Korean rice syrup (조청; jo cheong or 쌀엿; ssal yeot), 1 TBSP sugar and 1/4 ts salt together in a pot over low heat just enough to dissolve sugar.  Alternatively, use 3 TBSP corn syrup, 3 TBSP sugar and 1/4 ts salt.  These syrup mixes will give you a rather sticky (vs. crunchy) consistency, which is also easier to handle.  Feel free to reduce the amount of syrup depending on your preference.

Pour the sesame mix and stir to combine quickly and thoroughly.  Remove from heat and pour the mix on a plate to cool enough to handle with your hands.

While the mix is still warm, take about 2 ts of the mix and roll with your hands to make a ball.  If the mix is too sticky to handle, wet your hands with sugar water (1 TBSP of sugar stirred into 1/2 C of water).

Optional) Before shaping the mix into a ball, flatten out just enough to insert 2-3 mini chocolate chips.  Seal and roll with your hands to shape it into a ball.  You’ll need about 1/4C of mini chocolate chips total.

Any leftover can be stored in the freezer, which will also help the sesame truffles get crunchy.

KOREAN WORDS

sunflower 해바라기 (hae ba ra gi)

seed           씨       (si)

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