The Other New Year’s Tradition…

We drove up to Arlington on New Year’s Day. Like all good Koreans do, we came to pay our respects to our elders. We came to have New Year’s Soup. We came to start the year off right, by spending the first day of 2015 with the people we love most in the world. Most importantly, we came to play the annual, cut-throat, no-holds-barred, winner-take-all, fight-to-the-death Monopoly tournament.

This year’s winner, and our very first two-time champion, has made a career of shrewdly buying up the slums of Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues and studding them with a lavish and deadly combination of houses and hotels. With this winning strategy, he once again systematically and ruthlessly picked off his sister-in-law, wife, and children one by one to win the highly coveted trophy:

New Year’s Soup

We spent the New Year in Arlington with my parents, my sister, and my cousin Tina.

On New Year’s Eve we had an epic Monopoly game. It may be the first time we’ve ever played an entire game all the way through.

One by one players were knocked out. In the final moments, it was down to my sister and daughter…After some ruthless wheeling and dealing that included making puppy eyes at my sister to induce her to trade her Park Place for some inferior property, and then bankrupting everyone with her hotel on Boardwalk, my daughter emerged as the world’s youngest real estate tycoon and the 2012 Monopoly Champion!

The next day we had traditional Korean New Year’s Soup, or  “Dduk Gook.”

Koreans believe that when you eat a bowl of New Year Soup, it marks another year of your life and you become one year older. The white rice cakes represent purity and possibly the moon (for the lunar new year).

It’s hard to find the ingredients for this soup unless you happen to live near a Korean grocery store, but here’s a recipe for my favorite food of all time:

Korean New Year’s Soup

1 package (about a pound) of dduk (chewy oval rice cakes)

8 cups broth (this can be beef, chicken, anchovy broth, etc.)

4 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tbsps. soy sauce

2-3 scallions cut into 2 inch long pieces

1/3 lb. lean beef sliced into thin slivers, marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper and minced garlic and sautéed

4 eggs

Mandu (frozen dumplings)

Salt and pepper

Sesame oil

Toasted seaweed julienned

1. Soak rice cakes in cold water for 20 minutes

2. Heat broth, add garlic, soy sauce, scallions, salt & pepper. Simmer 10 minutes.

3. Add dumplings and rice cakes to broth and simmer until rice cakes are soft, about ten more minutes.

4. Lightly beat eggs, then stir slowly into simmering soup. (As you’ll see in the photo, my mom separated the yolks and whites of eggs and fried them separately to use as garnish).

5. Stir in 1-2 tsps. sesame oil.

6. Ladle into large bowls and garnish with beef and seaweed strips.

“Saehae bok mah nee bah duh sae yo!” (May your New Year be filled with many blessings).
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