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[Temple to Table] Precious, revitalizing ingredient: Ssuk injeolmi

Ssuk injeolmi (Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism)
Ssuk injeolmi (Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism)
Located in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, Geungnaksa is a quiet, beautiful place. Surrounded by Gubongsan and a small creek running beside the temple compound, the temple looks well situated, even to someone who doesn’t know geomancy.

The Ven. Yeogeo is well known to the general public as a teacher of temple food. Emphasizing the value of seasonal ingredients, she creates different dishes every season based on the veggies, fruits, and flowers available to be harvested from the mountains and fields.

At Geungnaksa, Yeogeo harvests spring in her basket. When she feels the first sign of spring, she goes out to the nearby fields and mountains with her basket. These days, edible plants abound in the fields, including mugwort, winged spindle, dandelion and stringy stonecrop. A short trip to the fields soon fills her basket. Of all the wild edible plants, mugwort is what she enjoys most in spring, especially these days when its texture is tender and soft.

“Ssuk injeolmi --which is prepared by mixing mugwort and glutinous rice and steaming them -- is good to nibble on and can be a meal in itself. That’s why I recommend it a lot at temple food classes. These days I have a new recipe called babal injeolmi in which the chewy texture of the rice is enlivened by not pounding the steamed rice too much,” Yeogeo said.

When mugwort grows too big, it gets tough, so she blanches them and takes them to a mill. The mugwort and hydrated rice (made by soaking in water for a while) are ground there. She takes this home and keeps it in the freezer, so she can make mugwort rice cake whenever she wants. Sometimes she uses mugwort extract to make sujebi dough (hand-pulled dough in soup); at other times she roasts the mugwort to make tea.

“Ssuk (mugwort) is an excellent ingredient because it gives warm energy to our body. With our body temperature at the proper level, blood circulation and immunity are enhanced. When I was young, senior monastics used to say, ‘If you eat mugwort rice cake at least three times in spring, you will have no frequent minor illnesses.’ Now I understand,” she said.

Ingredients

- 3 cups hydrated glutinous rice

- 400 g mugwort

- 1 cup roasted soybean powder

- 1 tbsp salt

- 1 1/2 cups water



Directions

1. Trim mugwort and rinse. Blanch and cool in cold water.

2. Collect mugwort in a colander, remove excess water and chop finely.

3. In an electric rice cooker, add hydrated glutinous rice, mugwort, water (1 cup), and salt. Cook rice.

4. Put the hot mugwort rice in a mortar and pound with a wooden pestle while applying salt water (1/2 cup water, 1/2 tbsp salt) to the pestle between each pounding.

5. Put rice on a cutting board, roll it around to make thin strips, and cut into bite-sized pieces.

6. Cover with roasted soybean powder.

Provided by Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism

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Temple food is food of the ascetics who express gratitude for all forms of life and wish for peace for the whole world. The Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism operates the Korean Temple Food Center where guests can learn and experience temple food. -- Ed.

By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)
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