Tuesday, May 28, 2013

인절미

A large blob of rice cake in the making.
인절미 (injeolmi) is a traditional Korean snack. (When I say it, it kind of sounds like "Enjoy me!") It is a variety of 떡 (ddeok), or rice cake, that is first pounded into a sticky, glutinous blob before being coated with bean flour and sugar. I've eaten 인절미 often, since rice cakes of all kinds are a common gift for teachers, but there's definitely nothing like eating a fresh batch that you yourself have helped make!

This past weekend, I went up to Hwacheon (화천) to attend the annual Hwacheon Peace Forum, a twenty-four-hour camp that combines an excursion to locations around the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone between North and South Korea) with a language and cultural exchange between Korean students and Americans. On the evening of the first day of the camp, we visited a hanok (한옥) village, a collection of dwellings built in the traditional Korean style that often serve as host to these sorts of camps. The first thing we did there was get the lowdown on how to pound our own 떡.
My student partner HL and me pounding at the 떡. (taken by SY)
Delicious 인절미!
It's not too difficult, really. You grab a giant wooden mallet and swing it down onto the blob of rice. Accuracy and strength are key, but it was a little bit tricky to engage both at the same time. I had a good time pounding away at the 떡-to-be, even though I wasn't doing it very well, but I also realized that our efforts were minimal compared to how much work must have been put into creating the blob in the first place.

Anyway, everyone who wanted to work out their aggression via giant wooden mallet got a chance to do so, and then we coated our rice cakes in the sweet bean powder and started nomming.

Afterward, we had a nice outdoor barbecue dinner and I got to hang out with all of the Korean students and get to know them much better. It was neat how quickly we all became close. All it takes is a few enthusiastic circle/icebreaker games and food, and suddenly you've got tons of new friends. I introduced everyone to Ninja, a favorite from college, and also got really into many rounds of Mafia later in the evening. I'll elaborate on what this Peace Forum was actually about in the next post. To come: the non-touristy DMZ, the World Peace Bell, and otters!
Korean students and American teachers having some fun before dinner.

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