Korean, Swedish and Persian dishes for the winter solstice

Korean, Swedish and Persian dishes for the winter solstice

In addition to red beans, an essential ingredient in patjuk is small rice balls, which symbolize bird eggs and new life. “You’re supposed to eat the number of rice balls that match your age. But you really can’t when you reach a certain age,” Lee says, laughing. “You can’t eat 40 rice balls.”

Lee adds: “I would love to make this my own tradition now and share stories with my followers, especially Korean-Americans, if they were born here, I’m sure they have not been exposed to it.”

Red bean porridge (Dongji Patjuk)
Serves 4-6 servings
By Selina S. Lee

2 cups red beans (aka azuki beans)
½ cup of sweet rice flour (aka mochiko rice flour)
Pine kernels – optional

· Wash your beans in cold water and soak them for about 30 minutes. You can pick out crushed beans.

· In a large saucepan, add clean beans to 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour the water out after the first boil, and return the beans to the pot with 4 cups of fresh water. Cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour with lid on. Stir the beans a few times to make sure they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. If necessary, lower the heat.

· While the beans are cooking, you can make your sweet rice balls (called ‘sae al shim’) by making a dough with ½ cup sweet rice flour, 2 teaspoons sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup hot boiling water. Add the hot water a little at a time and mix and fold / knead gently with your fingers (when it is not piping hot!) Into a long 1 inch thick dough sheet. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 15 minutes.

· Roll out your dough by hand until it is 8-10 inches long, then cut it evenly into pieces to shape into small round balls using the palm of your hand. I like to keep them at about ½ inch size. Cover your rice balls so they do not dry out.

· After approx. 1 hour cooking, the beans should be soft and mashable. Drain, wait until slightly cooled, then add the beans to the blender with approx. ¼ cup water until it is a smooth, silky texture. I do this in 2 games. You can add more water if needed. It will initially be slightly grainy due to the skin, but will be smoothed out when you cook it. You can store this mixture in your freezer for later use.

· Add mixed red beans and sweet rice balls to your pan and bring to a boil by adding a little more water (approx. ¼ cup), sugar (1 teaspoon) and salt (pinch). Keep stirring for about 10-15 minutes until you achieve the desired consistency. I like mine a little more liquid than a thick porridge.

Serve with a little pine nuts, salt or sugar next to it. I prefer to eat it with salt first, and then eat another bowl with a little sugar.

Lussekatt boller.
Lussekatt boller. (Birgitta Holma Durell)

Lussekatt boller

St. Lucia Day (Swedish culture)

Instead of soup, the Swedes hunger for warm, saffron-scented buns on the cold, dark morning on Saint Lucia Day. The Swedish holiday features a procession of singing children dressed in white dresses, led by the appointed “St. Lucia,” who wears a crown of lit candles (or today a safer battery-powered version).

Berkeley resident Birgitta Holma Durell, who grew up in a small town in southern Sweden, fondly remembers the ritual. “My sister and brother and I got up early in the morning. My mother had already baked the lucia rolls, which we heated in the oven. Then we made coffee for my parents. We put on our white dresses, and my brother wore the cone-shaped hat. stars on. Because I had blonde hair, I got the crown on and we went upstairs to my parents’ bedroom and sang Lucia songs and brought them coffee and Lucia rolls. I liked that we kids did something for our parents. “

The co-founder of Berkeley-based Cult Crackers (which is inspired by Swedish crispbread) explains that after the morning ritual, another procession began at school, and often one at church. The choir would sing the darkness and the darkness away and hasten rosy skies. “A girl was chosen to be Lucia with candles on her head and a red ribbon around her waist,” says Durell. “The rest of us wanted mica in our hair and around our waist. Then everyone ate lucia rolls and gingerbread with tea or cocoa.”

Little girls celebrate St. Lucia's day.
Little girls celebrate St. Lucia’s day. (Birgitta Holma Durrell)

Although St. Lucia Day celebrates the return of light, the Swedes celebrate it on December 13 (not the 21st), because when Sweden followed the old Julian calendar, it was the date of the winter solstice. In the early 18th century, the country switched to the Gregorian calendar, but retained their traditional celebration on the 13th.

Santa Lucia was a Sicilian weekend. Her name means “light bearer”. Legend has it that Lucia secretly brought food to persecuted Christians who hid in the catacombs of Rome. She carried candles on her head to keep her hands free to carry more food. She died a martyr in 304, and her holy day is December 13th.

The traditional Swedish rolls, called Lussekatt (Luciakat), are only eaten in December. Their curly shape represents a sleeping cat (an animal believed to be the devil in disguise). To keep the devil away, the sweet buns are colored a cheerful yellow with the precious spice saffron and adorned with two raisins to represent the cat’s eyes.

Lucias cat Boller
By Birgitta Holma Durell

2 teaspoons dry active yeast
¾ cup butter
2 cups milk
½ tsp saffron threads
½ cup natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6½ cups universal flour
1 egg

To finish:
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup raisins

· Put the saffron threads in a mortar with a spoonful of sugar, and crush the saffron with sugar.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the saffron / sugar mixture.
· Add the milk to butter and saffron / sugar. Heat to about 110 ° F.
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 4 tablespoons of the warm milk mixture and set aside for a few minutes until small bubbles form.
Whisk 1 egg in a large bowl and mix in the rest of the sugar, salt and then the saffron / milk mixture. Stir until well mixed.
Slowly add the flour to the liquid. Mix with a wooden spoon until you can make a ball of the dough.
Knead the dough until it is smooth. If the dough sticks to the fingers and the bowl, add a little more flour.
· Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place it in a warm and draft-free place until it has doubled in size (approx. 1 hour).
· Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk an egg for washing.
· Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it a little more.
· Cut the dough into 35 equal pieces. Roll them into balls and then into snake shapes.
· Curl the top of the hose in one direction and the bottom in the other direction (so that it resembles the letter “S”).
· After your 35 “lice cats” have been rolled up and placed on plate pans, cover them with a tea towel and put them back in the same warm place. Let them rise for another 40 minutes.
· Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 ° F.
· Brush the rollers with the egg and add two raisin eyes to each “lice cat”, one in the middle of each spiral
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Ash Reshteh.
Ash Reshteh. (Azita Mehran)

Ash Reshteh

Yalda Night (Persian culture)

A hearty soup is also common food for Yalda Night, an ancient Zoroastrian celebration of winter solstice, observed in Iran and the Persian diaspora. But the essential elements of Yalda are watermelons (traditionally stored from the summer in cellars) and pomegranates. These are traditionally put together with dried fruit, nuts and candles on a low table with a heater underneath where the family gathers around. To protect against evil forces on the longest night, guests keep the party atmosphere going until after midnight, drinking wine, telling stories and reading poetry. The red colors of the fruit symbolize the crimson dawn and life; the word “yalda” means “birth” or “rebirth.”

Yalda Modabber is the co-founder and CEO of Golestan, the first Persian immersion school in the United States, located in El Cerrito. She happens to share her name with the holiday. “It was unusual when my parents named me, like calling your child Easter. But now it’s become more popular as a name.”

Watermelon and pomegranate.
Watermelon and pomegranate. (Golestan School)

“I did not celebrate Yalda as a child because it was over my bedtime,” Modabber says. “But at Golestan, this has traditionally been our biggest event of the year, recognizing Yalda and all the holidays that celebrate the light rooted in the solstice. That month, the kids make lanterns and learn about how different cultures celebrate their candlelight vigils. tonight we hold a big bonfire with hundreds of people gathering outside, where we all stand around the bonfire and sing songs. ”

This year, due to the pandemic, school families will not be able to come together as a community, but class teachers will continue the tradition of letting each child peel their own pomegranate. At Golestan, food is recognized as an important cultural remedy, and the school chef always makes Ash (pronounced “osh”), a thick, full-bodied soup that includes a mixture of beans, lots of herbs, turmeric, onions and special noodles.

Ash Reshteh – bean and noodle soup
Serves 4-6
By Azita Mehran


1 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight, drained
1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained
1 cup lenses
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 bunch spinach, fresh, chopped
1 bunch scallion or chives, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces of dried noodles to ash; you can find reshteh (noodles) in Persian / Iranian grocery stores.

For decoration:

1 large onion, cut into thin slices
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons dried mint
½ tsp turmeric
Vegetable oil or olive oil
1 cup kashk (liquid whey)
2 teaspoons liquid saffron, optional

· Put chickpeas, beans and lentils in a large saucepan with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 1 1 / 2-2 hours, or until beans are tender.

· Add the chopped vegetables, noodles, salt and pepper. Stir well, put lid on and cook for another 30-40 minutes on medium-low heat.

· Add more water if needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

· Heat 3-4 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add sliced ​​onions and fry until golden.

· Add garlic and sauté for another 3-5 minutes.

· Add the turmeric powder, stir well.

· Add the dried mint and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

· Pour the soup into a large serving bowl, top with fried onions, garlic and mint mixture, drizzle with liquid saffron and a generous amount of liquid cash. Serve hot with hot bread and extra kashk next to it.

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