Korean Culture:

Things to Eat During Special Occasions

K-food is becoming very popular nowadays. Anywhere that mentions K-food, we see bibimbap, kimbap, tteobbokki, etc. However, there are many traditional foods that you might not have heard of....During special occasions, such as traditional festivals, there are certain foods that Koreans eat.

Let’s go through some of them!

Traditional Festivals

1. Thanksgiving ( Chuseok • 추석 ) 

Chewy & Aromatic Rice Cake: Songpyeon • 송편 


What is songpyeon?

Songpyeon is made of rice dough filled with beans, sugar or other nutritious ingredients and then steamed. The rice cakes are usually steamed  over a bed of pine needles which gives them their signature scents and they get their name from "song" which means pine in Korean. The shape and fillings differ according to regions but the most common ones are bite-sized and shaped like a half-moon.

Why do Koreans eat songpyeon?

Such offerings are viewed as signs of respect and efforts to avoid bad luck within the family.

When: 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar (night of the full moon)

2. Lunar New Year: Seollal •설날

When: 1st day of the 1st month of the lunar calendar

Rice Cake Soup: Tteokguk • ​떡국


What is tteokguk?

Tteokguk is a dish which consists of broth/soup (guk) with thinly sliced rice cakes (tteok). The broth is generally made by simmering meat (beef, chicken, pork, or seafood) in a ganjang-seasoned stock.

Why do Koreans eat tteokguk?

It is tradition to eat tteokguk on New Year's Day because it is believed to grant good luck for the year and also gain a year of age. As the colour of the tteok is white, it can also symbolise purity and cleanliness, suggest a fresh start for the new year.

3. Great Full Moon Festival:

Jeongwol Daeboreum정월 대보름 

When: 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar

i. Cracking Nuts: Bureom Ggaegi • 부럼 깨기


What is bureom?

Bureom translates into nuts and a variety of nuts can usually be found.

The more common nuts are:

Peanuts: Ttangkong땅공

Walnuts: Hodu• 호두

Why do Koreans eat bureom?

Koreans crack the shells of nuts with their teeth because they believe that the ritual can help prevent boils on the skin, keep their teeth healthy and bring good luck.




ii. Korean Five-grained Rice: Ogokbap • 오곡밥 

What is ogokbap?

Glutinous rice or plain white rice is typically combined with four other grains and beans in this traditional South Korean rice dish called ogokbap or five-grain rice. The selection of grains and beans varies between different regions, but it usually includes glutinous millet, glutinous sorghum, red beans, and black beans, although some versions call for using soybeans or even chickpeas.


Why do Koreans eat ogokbap?

 helped people replenish nutrients that have been lost during the winter monthsHealthy

4. Winter Solstice: Dongji • 동지  (Shortest day & Longest night)

When: 22nd solar term of the lunar calendar

Red Bean Porridge: Patjuk • 팥죽 


What is patjuk?

As it's name suggests, pat (팥) is red bean and juk (죽) is porridge.

Why do Koreans eat patjuk?

The colour of the porridge is said to chase bad luck  and evil spirits away.

Other Events

5. College Scholastic Ability Test :  

Suneung •수능  

i. Glutinous Rice Cake: Chapssal-tteok • 찹살떡 


What is chapssal-tteok?

Is made out of glutinous rice (chapssal) and rice cakes (tteok) and can

contain different fillings such as red beans. 

Why do Koreans eat chapssal-tteok?

Students tend to eat chapssal-tteok on the day of suneung because of the sticky

texture which symbolises how all the information that was learnt should be stuck in your head.




ii. Korean Traditional Confectionery: Yeot • 엿  

What is yeot?

Yeot is a traditional Korean sweet made from steamed glutinous rice, sweet

potatoes, and corn.

Why do students eat yeot?

Yeot has a very chewy and sticky texture which also symbolises how all the information learnt should be stuck in your head. 


iii. Soybean Sprout Soup: Kongnamul-guk  • 콩나물국  

What is kongnamul-guk?

Kongnamul-guk is a type of soup that is considered as a staple food in Korea.

You can also find this soup as a side dish at some Korean restaurants.

Why do students eat kongnamul-guk?

On a soybean sprout, the head is biggest part which is thought to help make students smarter.

When: Every 3rd Thursday of November

6. Birthday: Saengil •생일

Seaweed Soup: Miyeokguk • 미역국

What is miyeokguk?

As the name suggests miyeok is seawwed and guk means soup. The seaweed is usually soaked in water until soft and then boiled in a meat  or fish stock. 

Why do Koreans eat miyeok-guk?

During pregnancy, the barer eats seaweed soup as it is full of iodine and iron. Korean people eat seaweed soup on their birthday to respect and remember their mother’s love that they have to put up with eating only seaweed soup after bearing a child.

Did you learn something new about Korean cuisine today? 

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