Rice cake soup 'tteokguk,' a Lunar New Year tradition
Speaking of Seollal traditions, the food most identified with the holiday is tteokguk, or rice cake soup.
It's a Korean custom at the Lunar New Year to have a bowl of it as you turn a year older.
And as our Seo Eun-kyung explains, the shapes of the rice cakes and the noodles are symbolic.
On the first day of the lunar calendar, many Koreans have a bowl of tteokguk in the morning. The earliest record of this tradition is in a document from 1795, and the tradition could date back even earlier than that.
"Garaetteok or long, thin rice cakes are the main ingredient in Tteokguk . They symbolize a healthy, long life with the extra meaning of steadily accumulating property. When you cut them into slices, they represent a desire to have a financially successful year as sliced rice cakes look like coins."
The most well-known type of tteokguk is made up of slices of tteok and simmered beef broth.
However, tteokguk has different varieties depending on the region.
"Local produce and customs differ in accordance with seasonal and geographic conditions, resulting in a range of tteokguk."
For instance, in mountainous inland parts of Jeolla-do Province in southwestern Korea, seafood and beef are rare, so locals use marinated chickens as the main ingredient for soup.
Pheasants were used originally, but as these became harder to find, locals gradually switched to chicken. This is the origin of the Korean proverb "a chicken instead of a pheasant", meaning "settle for second best".
On the other hand, parts of Chungcheong-do Province in the west of Korea had easier access to seaweed.
Locals used boiled seaweed from the West Sea to make the broth.
Unlike Garaetteok which is boiled when it's first made, the type of tteokguk uses raw rice cake made from rice flour.
Though the way of making tteokguk varies across the country, the wisdom and tradition of ancient Korea is reflected in a bowl of the broth, offering a glimpse into Korean traditional food culture.