[Seasonal Recipe] Dongji Patjuk: A Time-Honored Winter Solstice Tradition (2024)

Dongji Patjuk is a seasonal dish eaten on Dongji (동지, 冬至, Winter Solstice), also referred to as Little Lunar New Year.

As the day with the shortest daylight hours and the longest night, Dongji has traditionally been considered to be a day full of negative energy. Our ancestors ate red bean porridge on the day of the Winter Solstice because they believed the red beans had the power to chase away evil spirits. The color of the red bean was believed to symbolize positive energy or ‘yang’ and hence effective in thwarting dark energy or ‘yin.’

According to tradition, families first place a bowl of red bean porridge in the ancestral shrine, and then place more bowls of porridge around the house – in the rooms, in the barn, by the well, and by the jars containing fermented foods. It was also common practice to smear some porridge on the main gate and the outer walls of the house in the belief that this will keep evil spirits and misfortune at bay.

The tradition of eating red bean porridge on Winter Solstice can be traced back to China’s Zhou Dynasty (c. 1046 BC–256 BC). According to Jing-Chu Suishi Ji(荊楚歲時記) or “Festivals and Seasonal Customs of the Jing-Chu Region(modern Hubei and Hunan)”, the young son of Gong Gong (共工氏) died on the day of the Winter Solstice and thereafter turned into a plague-spreading ghost. It is said that during his life, the child hated red beans. In order to ward off this ghost, locals scattered red beans around their homes, and prepared and ate red bean porridge.

The Zhou Dynasty, which set standards for seasonal subdivisions–24 solar terms–and ritual etiquette, officially adopted the Winter Solstice as New Year’s Day. Koreans also celebrated the New Year on Winter Solstice until 1309 when Goryeo switched to the Shoushi Calendar of the Yuan Dynasty. Hence the old sayings, “After the Winter Solstice, you are one year older,” or “Eat red bean porridge on Winter Solstice and you are one year older.”

Dongji patjuk is thick in consistency, rich and immensely satisfying. It is often served with small glutinous rice balls known as saealsim (새알심, bird’s egg balls); in some parts of Korea, family members are served as many saealsims as their age.

Although the custom of eating red bean porridge on Winter Solstice is still observed to this day, I doubt many eat it for the same reasons as our ancestors did all those years ago. Nevertheless, Dongji is an important turning point on the yearly calendar: from here on out, the days will become brighter and that, for me, is definitely a cause for celebration. This year, Winter Solstice falls on December 21. How about a soul-warming bowl of red bean porridge? My mom’s own recipe follows.

[Red Bean Porridge]

Ingredients for the Porridge:

1 C red beans(1C = 200cc)

1 C pre-soaked (non-glutinous Korean) rice

12 C water

Salt

Ingredients for the Saealsim(Glutinous Rice Balls):

2/3 C glutinous rice flour

1/3 C non-glutinous rice flour

2 TBSP boiling water

Method:

1. In a pot of cold water, add the red beans and turn on heat. When the water starts to boil, add a cup of cold water to the boiling pot. When the water starts to boil again, turn off heat and discard water.

2. Add 4 cups of water to the par-boiled red beans and turn on heat. As the water starts to boil, add 4 additional cups of water to the pot little by little until the red beans are cooked through.

3. Once the red beans turn soft to the touch, push the beans through a fine sieve into a bowl while still hot. Pour the remaining 4 cups of water over the beans as you mash the beans through the sieve.

4. Let the bowl of watery mashed red beans sit until the finely-mashed bean residue sinks to the bottom.

5. Sift 2/3 cups of glutinous rice flour and 1/3 cups of non-glutinous rice flour. Mix with the 2 tablespoons of boiling water and form into a dough. Knead until smooth. Form the dough into small round balls. Place a single pine nut at the center of the ball if you’d like. Drop the rice balls into a pot of boiling water. Once they float to the surface, they are ready. Remove the balls from the pot and drop them into a bowl of cold water.

6. In a pot, carefully pour the water separated from the mashed red beans and boil. Add the pre-soaked rice and stir so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the rice turns soft and start to bloat, add the mashed red beans. Once it starts to boil, drop the glutinous rice balls into the porridge.

7. Season to taste with salt.

[Seasonal Recipe] Dongji Patjuk: A Time-Honored Winter Solstice Tradition (1)

Written by Yerica Park

Yerica Park is the Digital Editor of the Michelin Guide Seoul. Born in Morocco and raised in Korea, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Italy, the former radio personality loves traveling for food and entertaining at home.

[Seasonal Recipe] Dongji Patjuk: A Time-Honored Winter Solstice Tradition (2024)

FAQs

[Seasonal Recipe] Dongji Patjuk: A Time-Honored Winter Solstice Tradition? ›

In a pot, carefully pour the water separated from the mashed red beans and boil. Add the pre-soaked rice and stir so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the rice turns soft and start to bloat, add the mashed red beans. Once it starts to boil, drop the glutinous rice balls into the porridge.

What is the tradition of patjuk? ›

Patjuk is commonly eaten during the winter season, and is associated with dongji (winter solstice), the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. Cooking and eating patjuk was also a ritual to prevent bad luck, epidemic disease, and influences from malevolent spirits.

How do Koreans celebrate winter solstice? ›

Korean people always eat a special food on Dongji called 팥죽(Patjuk) or “azuki-bean porridge.” After boiling red beans and making a porridge, they add a rice cake made from sticky rice and boil the porridge once more to make the porridge named 팥죽(Patjuk).

What is dongji in korea? ›

"Dongji" (冬至) is one of the two annual solstices along with the summer solstice. The day celebrates the longest night and the shortest day of the year.

Why is red bean so popular in Korea? ›

This small red bean, scientifically referred to as Vigna angularis, is not only a staple food crop but also a symbol of health and prosperity in Korean folklore. The cultivation and consumption of azuki beans have been an integral part of Korean society, reflecting its importance in both the diet and cultural rituals.

What do red beans symbolize? ›

It is pretty known that red beans have symbolized love and fidelity in Chinese culture, compared to blood and tears shed for a loved one, as the poet wished his friend to collect red beans since they would have reminded the love they shared.

What is Korean red bean paste? ›

Red bean paste (traditional Chinese: 豆沙/紅豆沙; simplified Chinese: 豆沙/红豆沙; Japanese: あんこ or 小豆餡; Korean: 팥소) or red bean jam, also called adzuki bean paste or anko (a Japanese word), is a paste made of red beans (also called "adzuki beans"), used in East Asian cuisine.

What food do you eat on winter solstice? ›

Grate, steam or roast turnips, celeriac, beets both red and golden, carrots, parsnips and cabbages both red and green. Use fruits like apples, pomegranates and citrus to add sparkle. Don't forget the dried fruits— cranberries, blueberries and figs are indispensable.

What do Koreans eat for winter solstice? ›

Koreans eat red bean porridge on Dongji (winter solstice around December 22 or 23), which marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year, believing that the color red wards off evil spirits. Eat a spoonful of this soft porridge and the gentle sweet taste will fill your mouth.

What do people eat on Dongji? ›

Red bean porridge is mostly eaten on Dongji, as it's believed to expel evil ghosts and protect one's yang energy. Nutrition wise, it can supplement vitamin B, which is lacking in rice. Red bean porridge also goes well with radish water kimchi, or dongchimi.

What is the meaning of Dongji in English? ›

Dongji, Winter Solstice. Traditionally Korean people used lunar calendar, and we still have a lot of holidays based on the lunar calendar. On this 동지 (dongji), falls in November, and the past Korean people divided one year into 24, and 동지 (dongji) falls in the 22nd part of this 24 seasons.

What is the origin of the Dongji? ›

The earliest records on Dongji can be found in historical documents from the Goryeo Dynasty. Collections of literary works from the time detail customs practiced on Dongji, including holding national rites, eating adzuki-bean porridge, and giving calendars as a gift.

What kind of beans do Koreans eat? ›

Red beans, or pat in Korean, are a popular ingredient that Koreans think of when picturing warm comfort staples. On Dongji, the day with the shortest daylight hours, Koreans traditionally eat patjuk, or red beans porridge.

Why do Koreans love coffee so much? ›

Koreans were curious about foreign cultures and the new beverage. Because it came from the West and resembled Asian herbal medicine that only the rich could afford, it was consumed as a symbol of westernization and modernization. In the early days, people called coffee shop or café "dabang".

Do they eat beans in Korea? ›

It's a great side dish for rice. When I lived in Korea green beans was an unusual ingredient, but these days it's a different story and many Koreans cook with them. Green beans are known as being full of vitamins, nutrients and fiber.

Do Koreans celebrate winter solstice? ›

This year the winter solstice falls on Dec. 22. South Koreans also enjoy eating patjuk (red bean porridge) with their family on this day, which traditionally marked the actual beginning of the New Year. This is why this day is also called "little lunar New Year".

What is the Korean festival of the winter solstice called? ›

The episode usually falls on December 21 or 22—and around the world, members of the Korean diaspora mark the day, called Dongji, with bowls of patjuk. "Historically, Winter Solstice was viewed as akin to the beginning of the new year," says Mina Park, who owns the Korean eatery Shiku in Los Angeles.

How is winter solstice traditionally celebrated? ›

One tradition that overlaps many cultures is to celebrate the solstice with a winter feast. Since the winter solstice falls at the end of the harvest season, families have long celebrated with an abundance of in-season food. Get the kids involved in the kitchen by letting them help prepare the family meal.

How do people celebrate winter solstice? ›

Astronomically, the winter solstice marks the end of fall and beginning of winter, and early pagan winter solstice traditions were created to celebrate the “birth of the sun.” The occasion is marked with sweet and traditional winter solstice rituals—from brewing mulled cider and eating winter solstice foods, to ...

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