Yaksik (약식) – Korean sweet rice dessert

Yaksik (약식 Korean Sweet Rice Dessert)

Yaksik (Korean Sweet Rice Dessert)

Here it is – FINALLY a Yaksik recipe that I’m happy with. One that’s easy and quick but also authentic tasting. I wanted to post about Yaksik much sooner but the recipe I got from my mother-in-law takes about 8 hours (not including the time to soak the rice in water) which was just too time consuming for anyone to really try. I  have to confess that I couldn’t even get myself to try it!!! There are many Yaksik recipes that requires much less time but I did not like the taste of most of them. Most were too mushy, too sweet, not sweet enough or flavorful enough. The rice in Yaksik should be a bit chewy and many recipes fail to yield the right texture. Anyway, I am proud to finally post this recipe which is my own unique version based on various recipes from my friends and also from a couple of old cook books that I had.

Before we get into cooking, a few quick comments – Yaksik was created by the same person who invented Yakwa (check my story of two Korean sweets) and is meant to be a snack or a dessert. Yaksik is eaten at room temperature and will keep for a few days (during cool season) since it is quite well seasoned. For longer storage, you can refrigerate or freeze it and thaw or heat quickly in the microwave. Yaksik not only tastes good but is also very healthy. The fabulous nutritional properties about sweet rice is that it’s very easy on the stomach (it’s great for people who have digestion problems) and also coats the stomach which means it’s great for people who have frequent heartburn. My sister #2 always had heartburn problems and her father-in-law told her that she could actually cure it by eating sweet rice cakes (찹쌀떡 chapssal-dduk) for breakfast everyday. Her heartburn went away after eating sweet rice cakes for 6 months!! In addition to sweet rice, jujube (대추 Daechoo) and chestnuts are added to Yaksik. Jujube has long been known to be an anti-aging food in eastern medicine and it also has calming effects that can help with nervous tension, anxiety and insomnia. Jujube tea is also great for preventing colds (it keeps your body warm) and strengthening the liver. Chestnuts have tons of vitamin C and vitamin Bs which help to also strengthen your stomach, especially with diarrhea. Finally, this dessert does not contain any flour so it’s almost gluten free. Soy sauce is made from wheat so I can’t say it’s totally gluten free but should be fine for people who are gluten sensitive like me. (I tested negative for Celiac disease but I know eating a lot of breads, cakes and pasta will lead to bloating and diarrhea. So therefore I’m “gluten sensitive”.)

A note about my mother-in-law’s original, authentic recipe – the rice is soaked for 5 hours, steamed for an hour (you can use a bamboo steamer and line it with some cheese cloth and spread out the soaked sweet rice before steaming) and then cooked further in a double boiler for 6 hours after it is seasoned. So that’s 12 hours or more!! It does taste divine though… :) but we have modern inventions like steam rice cookers so let’s just take advantage of that.

The following recipe takes about 2 hours in total and about an hour of actual cooking time when using a pressure cooker.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 C sweet rice
  • 2 C water
  • (1 1/3 to 1 1/2 C sugar + 3 T honey) OR (1 1/2 C dark brown sugar)
  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 4 T sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder (optional – not in my MIL’s recipe)
  • 1 13 oz canned chestnuts or 1 1/2 C peeled chestnuts (uncooked)
  • 1 C dried jujubes (aka dried red dates)
  • 2 T pine nuts

You need: a pressure cooker (pressure rice cooker works best), 8×8 cake pan or 12 or more cupcake liners or remekins.

Directions

1. Measure the sweet rice and soak in cold water for 1 hour (soak 5 hours if you are cooking in the microwave instead of a pressure cooker).

2. Measure and prepare the pine nuts, chestnuts and jujubes. Drain the syrup from the canned chestnuts and set aside. Canned chestnuts work best but you can also use uncooked peeled chestnuts.

canned chestnuts

canned chestnuts

 

 

Wash the dried jujubes, making sure the dust in between the wrinkles are completely washed away. Dry them with a towel. If they are seeded, cut around the seed. If they are seedless, one less thing to do! Cut the flesh into small squares (1/2 inch) or strips.

 

 

pine nuts and jujubes

pine nuts and jujube

Save the seeds and make some jujube water by boiling and then simmering the seeds in 2  cups of water for 10 min. Now you have jujube tea (대추차 daechucha) which you can drink with some honey and also use some to cook the rice later. Jujube water adds much more flavor.

Preparing jujubes

Preparing jujubes

3. After the sweet rice has soaked for an hour, drain the water from the rice. Cook the rice in a pressure rice cooker by adding 2 C of water (use 1/2 C of the jujube water from step 2 if you can) and follow the instructions for cooking regular white rice. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can cook the rice in the microwave – add about 1 C of water and cook on high for 10 minutes.

4. When the rice is cooked (the rice will be very sticky but should not be too mushy), add the sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and cinnamon powder. Mix the rice well but not too much because it will become too starchy. Stir only until the rice is evenly seasoned.

sweet rice with seasonings

seasoned sweet rice

5. Add the jujubes, chestnuts and pine nuts. Fold them into the rice.

sweet rice with everything added

sweet rice with everything added

6. Put everything back in the pressure cooker and if you have a ‘steam’ option, steam for 20 minutes. If you don’t have a ‘steam’ option, just choose the shortest rice cook time and cook it again.

7. You are ready to serve Yaksik now (or later). Fill a 8×8 cake pan with the Yaksik and let it cool. Once it’s cool to touch, cover it to keep it from drying.  Cut it into small squares or 2/3 in thick slices and serve. You can also spoon them into cupcake cups or ramekins like the picture below. Again, when it’s cooled, cover with some plastic wrap.

Yaksik served in a ramekin

Yaksik served in a ramekin

Variations

  • Some recipes add caramel sauce instead of honey. My sister #1 actually adds about 2 T of molasses instead of honey. I did not get to test it this time around but I do remember my sister’s Yaksik tasting really good too so you can give that a try.
  • Sister #1 also likes to add other dried fruits (apricots, raisins..) and I think that’s a great way to add more fiber to the dish.
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14 thoughts on “Yaksik (약식) – Korean sweet rice dessert

  1. [...] Yak-Sik was made with sweet rice, chestnut and dates which not only tasted great but was a great food to take along. It was the first time people had something that was portable but was also filling kept pretty well whether it was hot or cold. Yak-Kwa on the other hand was more of a decadent dessert that people could buy to treat themselves. [...]

  2. Kattty April 4, 2012 at 10:46 pm Reply

    Woo! I like it, thaak you! I come frome thailand,But like food korean or so.

  3. Cam September 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm Reply

    I’m gonna try recipe out! Just need to buy some chestnuts and pinenuts. I had this once while i was aboard Korean air, and have been wondering how to make it since. Thanks for this, although I’m also interested in trying your MIL’s long version (anyway you can share her recipe as well? ^^ ) Can’t wait! I’m already drooling at the thought of eating this again LOL.

    • JinJoo September 13, 2012 at 5:04 am Reply

      Glad you will be able to make this on your own. My MIL’s version is soaking the sweet rice in water overnight and then steaming it until cooked and then adding the seasoning + chestnuts, jujube, pinenuts and then steaming some more! I think the rice cooker version comes out almost as good so hopefully you will like it! Just adjust the sweetness and saltiness to your taste. Thanks!

  4. [...] my latest food discovery: yaksik. My landlord and his wife are Korean, and she made my housemate and me some of this stuff because [...]

  5. kat January 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm Reply

    what about the chestnut syrup?

    • JinJoo January 7, 2013 at 1:20 am Reply

      Do you mean to use the chestnut syrup instead of sugar? I suppose that will work but not sure if you can get the same sweetness without adding too much liquid into the mix. You could use part sugar and a bit of chestnut syrup (more for the flavor) and that will probably work well. Just make sure you add a little bit at a time, taste it as you go and check the consistency of the yaksik. Thanks for asking!

  6. lt June 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm Reply

    Hi there. Could I use my rice cooker to make the rice, instead of a pressure cooker? If so, how should I should I adjust the cooking time and water? Thanks!

    • JinJoo June 11, 2013 at 8:22 am Reply

      Hi! So sorry for the late reply. Have been traveling..Yes, you can use your rice cooker. You should soak the sweet rice longer (prob. 5 hrs or so) and prob. about the same amount of water or a little less (2-3 TBS less) depending on how you like it. Soaking it longer means the rice has absorbed more liquid so that’s why you can use less water. In general, pressure cooker needs less water than regular non-pressure rice cooker so hopefully it will turn out well for you. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. […] 4. Yaksik (약식) – This authentic Korean sweet rice dessert uses dried jujubes for a super sweet and light treat. […]

  8. Jean February 14, 2014 at 7:32 am Reply

    Excited to try your yakshik recipe! Silly question though. Do you mean one American cup or the cup that comes with the rice cooker? :)

    • JinJoo February 14, 2014 at 9:06 am Reply

      Hi! Oh, it’s not a silly question – yes, it’s one American cup = 240 ml = 8 oz = 16 TBS. Thanks for asking!!

  9. Anna June 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm Reply

    Hi! I really want to try this recipe, but I have one question: Is it okay to use regular dates (like the baking kind that’s in big tubs) instead of jujubes? They definitely aren’t dry like jujubes but I dont know what the difference in taste is since I’ve never had a jujube before…thank you for posting this recipe, I’ve been lookig for a yummy looking yaksik recipe for a while and this one looks delish~ ^^

    • JinJoo June 18, 2014 at 1:36 am Reply

      Hi! I have not tried using regular dates but I don’t see why not. You will just not have the flavor and aroma of jujubes but it shouldn’t be too bad. The dates may also get a bit too mushy (since jujubes are dried) so I would recommend that you just stir it in at the end. Dates sold in the markets are usually sugared so it’s a lot sweeter than the jujubes so you may want to add less than more when adding them. I would love to hear from you how they turn out~ good luck! Thanks for asking!

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