Culinary Culture of Korea

“An Oldie But A Goodie”


Yakpap is one of the traditional dishes of Korea.

Honey, one of the first foods man obtained from nature, has long been used as a medicinal substance for its pharmacological effects, according to Kim Ji Won, section chief at the Folklore Research Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Jong Yak Yong (1762-1836), a representative scholar of the Silhak school, wrote in a book entitled Aongakpi: “As honey is a medicine, the liquor brewed with it is called yakju, rice boiled with it yakpap and cake made with it yakkwa.”

The history book Samgukyusa (History of the Three Kingdoms) traces the origin of yakpap in the following story.

During the reign of King Soji of the Silla Kingdom, the queen committed adultery with a man and plotted with him to murder the king and usurp the throne.

She hid the man in the komungo (a kind of stringed instrument) chest in a separate room and waited for a chance to shoot an arrow at the king. But a crow informed the king of their plot so that he could escape death and execute the queen and her paramour for treason.

That day was Jongwoldaeborum or the First Full Moon Day and the king who owed the crow his life issued a royal command to cook yakpap at the palace and all the houses in the country and feed it to crows.

Since then, yakpap became a dish for the folk holiday.

A history book about annual folklore events written by feudal Joson dynasty official Kim Mae Sun records the recipe for yakpap as follows: “Steamed glutinous rice is mixed with sesame oil, honey and aged soy sauce and then with sliced dates whose seeds are removed and peeled chestnuts.”

Nowadays, it is made in the following way: Steam glutinous rice which was swollen in water for about three hours, season it with sugar and soy sauce, mix it with chestnuts, dates, sesame oil and honey, put the mixture into a pot, put the pot in an oven filled with water to boil it for half an hour and then steam it for 8-24 hours while adjusting fire intensity, place the content of the pot in a bowl and sprinkle it with pine nuts and powdered cinnamon before serving.

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