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.
History of Yaksik
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. Add the jujubes, chestnuts and pine nuts. Fold them into the rice.
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.
- 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.