Like many other cultures, Koreans have many food traditions associated with holidays. On New Year's Day, Koreans always gather with their families and enjoy a steaming hot, nourishing bowl of dduk gook, Korean rice dumpling soup. (I call them rice "dumplings," though it is more often called rice "cake," but I've just found "cake" to be a very misleading term.)
I haven't quite figured out why we eat dduk gook on the first of the year. I'm sure there is some symbolism, as noodles in Chinese New Year represent a long life ahead, etc. I've asked my mother, and even she doesn't know the real meaning behind the dduk gook on New Year's Day. She only knows that, as do I now, we simply eat dduk gook. We've done this every year since as far back as I have a memory.
Every restaurant in LA's Koreatown serves dduk gook, but it's very easy to make at home. And of course, every family has their own little taste variations that have been taught from grandmother to mother to daughter.
"Sae-hae-bohk mahn-hee bah-duh-sae-yo!" (Happy New Year!)
Dduk Mahn-doo Gook (Rice Cake/Dumpling Soup)
1 package dduk (oval slices)
8 c. rich chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2-3 T soy sauce (basically, to taste)
2-3 scallions (green parts only) cut into 2" long pieces
mahn-doo enough for all the people who are eating (fresh or frozen)
salt and pepper to taste
sesame oil to taste
toasted gim (seaweed, or nori), julienned/crumbled for garnish
Soak dduk in cold water for at least 20 minutes, or until soft.
In large pot, heat chicken broth, then add garlic (more if you prefer), soy sauce, scallions, and salt/pepper to taste, and let simmer for about 10 minutes (to flavor the broth).
Add mahn-doo to broth to cook, then add dduk. Allow to simmer until dduk is soft.
Lightly beat eggs, then stir slowly into simmering soup.
To serve, ladle into large bowls, drizzle with sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and gim, if you'd like.
*Note: Once it is cooked, dduk does not keep well. Add only enough dduk to the soup that you know you will eat immediately. You can always add more later.