Blogging 1. Intro to Rice Cakes…

If you aren’t familiar with Korean desserts, you’re probably wondering, what is a rice cake? There are many different types of rice cakes (or dduk, in Korean), but the rice cake that Rice Blossoms typically offers is called baek-sul-gi. It is a simple rice cake created by steaming rice flour, sugar, water and just a little bit of salt. That’s right, you only need four basic ingredients but the resulting flavor and texture is delicious and most importantly, baek-sul-gi is both vegan and gluten-free!

Despite baek-sul-gi’s humble foundations, it has a long and rich history – in Korean culture, it has traditionally been consumed on special occasions, such as the 100 Days Celebration (or baek-il), first birthdays and on holidays with family. It has also been used as an offering to ancestors as a way of giving thanks and praying for health and wealth.

For both decorative and taste purposes, other ingredients such as raisins, pine nuts, dates, and mugwort (or ssook) are sometimes mixed in to baek-sul-gi as well. While baek-sul-gi can technically be served in any shape, it is typically served in square or rectangle shapes; at Rice Blossoms, we like to serve baek-sul-gi in lovely rounds as well!

Baek-sul-gi with pine nuts

Baek-sul-gi with pine nuts

Given the increasing popularity of Korean food in today’s American restaurant scene, Korean rice cakes have the opportunity to step into the spotlight as well, but with a modernized touch – which is what Rice Blossoms is all about! We personally steam each of our homemade rice cakes and pipe intricate flowers on top, which makes for a sophisticated and elegant presentation fit for any special occasion (or a daily treat, whatever floats your boat!). We pride ourselves on making rice cakes that are not only pleasing to the palate but to the eye as well!

The flowers themselves are piped with white bean paste, an ingredient commonly used in Korean desserts. While that may sound strange to some, this white bean paste is actually perfectly, subtly sweet and pairs perfectly with the rice cakes. It is a white bean paste (or ang-geum) that consists of lima beans (or white kidney beans) that are soaked in water, then boiled, ground and dried with sugar, salt and starch syrup mixed in. This process usually has to be repeated a few times to get the right amount of moisture and consistency for precise piping. Most people are familiar with red bean paste (often used in mochi treats or other Asian pastries), but white bean paste has not yet found its way into mainstream western culture yet, which makes Rice Blossoms rice cakes even more unique!

The baek-sul-gi rice cakes themselves also have a subdued flavor with just a hint of mild sweetness. We love the original taste because it satisfies your sweet tooth while not being too rich and because it is somewhat muted, it makes a great base for infusion with other flavors. At Rice Blossoms, we like to experiment with flavors like chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, black sesame, kabocha, earl grey, coffee and sweet potato, just to name a few! As you can see, the possibilities are endless.  

Rice Cupcake & Bites (photo :  SYKIM Photography

Rice Cupcake & Bites (photo : SYKIM Photography

The texture of baek-sul-gi is fluffy and soft – not quite as soft as your typical sheet cake (as it has a bit of a firmer touch than that), but certainly not as chewy or dense as mochi. It has a slight bounce when pressed but a feather-weight lightness. Using an exact amount of water in rice cakes is critical because that determines how fluffy they will be. As a word of caution, please note that because water is used in rice cakes, they tend to have a short shelf life. Rice cakes will remain moist at room temperature for about 12 hours and should be concealed in an airtight container at all times until they are ready to be devoured! If you want to store our rice cakes, they will need to be frozen and re-steamed before consumption; as a result, we’d recommend that you eat them on a same-day basis.  

I hope this post gives you a better idea of what a rice cake is and in particular, the baek-sul-gi rice cake that we love to make at Rice Blossoms! We know that if you ever have a chance to try one of our rice cakes, you will agree that they are preciously delicious.

Steamed with love,

Mama Ban