On Saturday, I joined CICI for a day-trip to the Hangwa Cultural Museum (Hangaone) (한과문화박물관 한가원) [Gmap link] and the Pyunggang Botanical Garden (병강식물원) [Gmap link]. They’re quite close together, around 55 km north-east of Seoul. It seemed a fairly rural part of the country, and again I’m struck by how densely forested Korea is now.
The Museum is dedicated to “HanGwa”, a traditional Korean sweet. First, we watched a couple of short videos about HanGwa, and a short talk by Kim Gyuheum, the Master of HanGwa. We were offered a bit of tea and some HanGwa to sustain us during the videos; well begun is half done. There are two basic kinds of HanGwa, and, of the type he makes, over 250 variations, of which Mr. Kim has mastered 170. Next, we had a tour of the museum, which was very interesting, followed by the main event: making HanGwa.
The sweet is made from rice flour, which comes in hard, pressed little sticks, about the size of a piece of Trident gum (I think my audience will understand that ;-) First, the stick is dropped into oil at 100C and then is transferred directly to a vat of oil at 150C. The first bath softens up the HanGwa, and if puffs up a bit, but then in the second bath it blows up like a balloon. In turn, we were taken to look at a demonstration of cooking HanGwa. Indeed, the process must be correct: just 100C isn’t enough; just 150C even worse (like the lonely HanGwa stick in the middle photo below – it never had a chance). Letting the HanGwa cool is a bit better; but, as predicted, only a quick transfer from 100C to 150C will give the desired result (as in the 3rd picture). How, traditionally, did they know it was 100C & 150C?
After it’s cooled, the HanGwa is dipped in a sweet rice syrup, and then rolled grains of various kinds, for the outside coating. After the HanGwa is coated, you roll it gently between your fingers, to press the coating into the surface. That coating gives the HanGwa it’s texture, color and a bit of a different flavor. If you want, you can then add a dab of syrup to stick on some decoration.
Up in the workshop, we were divided into three tables, where we did the last step, dipping & rolling the HanGwa. We had white, green, yellow and pink coatings to work with. We all tried one- and two-coloured hangwa, but I also went for a three-color “Irish Flag” HanGwa (it came out, so I stopped while I was ahead). It was a lot of fun, and not too much fresh-made HanGwa was eaten in the process ;-).
A few awards were given out, and then we headed off to lunch. Lunch was very good — it was my favorite: a good selection of side dishes, with whatever the main course happens to be (a spicy fish stew, in this case).
After lunch, we went to the nearby Pyunggang Botanical Garden. It’s divided into a 12 pistes; we did a short circuit of just 3 or 4 of them: the Alpine garden, the