7th Seoul International Tteok (Rice Cake) Fair, May 8-9


Mmm, pretty rice cakes. Photograph from the Institute of Traditional Korean Food.

When I was little, the term rice cake meant fat, round, mostly flavorless disks of puffed rice that I thought people only ate if they were on a diet. At some point this image left my mental food dictionary, and now rice cakes can only mean the soft, squidgy Asian variety made of pounded glutinous rice transformed into sweet and savory dishes.

Growing up in a Chinese family with an affinity for Japanese cuisine, I've tried a variety of Chinese and Japanese rice cakes, but Korean rice cakes—in particular the sweet varieties—have been off my radar until now. In Korea, different kinds of rice cakes, or tteok in Korean, are traditionally eaten through the year on holidays and at festivals—lots of different kinds, if this glossary from Life in Korea is any indication.

If you're as clueless about tteok as I am, or if you're a lover of these pounded rice cakes, attend the 7th Annual Tteok Fair next weekend on May 8 and 9 in Seoul, South Korea, at the aT Center. Don't live in Seoul? I'll be attending the fair to report on all the tteok goodness that occurs. More information after the jump.

The fair is hosted by the Institute of Traditional Korean Food and will feature seminars, exhibitions, and activities for all ages. Fifty international trading companies and business-consulting services will also be attending for those interested in the rice cake business.

For the first time, the fair is featuring an international rice cake competition in which residents from outside of South Korea are welcome to compete for the grand prize of 2 million won ($1,800). Korean-American chef Rachel Yang of Seattle's award-winning Joule is the special guest of the competition. Yang, a French-trained chef who has worked with Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller, will be giving cooking demonstrations on both days. The competition takes place on May 8 at 3 p.m.

Events at the fair include demonstrations on making rice flour and rice cakes, and tasting sessions for different rice wines and rice cakes. Spots may be reserved for the free rice-cake-making classes (conducted in English) by calling 02-741-5477 or emailing Soo-hyun at [email protected].

Doors open at 10 a.m. each day. If you'll be there, let me know!