Yakgwa are cookies that can also be medicine, and the snack has one of the longest histories in Korean cuisine.

The snack originated during the era of Korea’s three kingdoms, roughly 57 B.C. to A.D. 668. According to “The Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms” (Samguk Yusa, 삼국유사, 三國遺事), a collection of unofficial histories published by the monk Iryeon (1206-1289) (일연, 一然), the word gwa (과, 菓) actually means “cookie” or “fruit.” People used powdered grain to make a mixture in the shape of a fruit and they put small tree branches on the snacks in order to use them in ancestral rites when they couldn’t find any actual fruit for the rituals.

Yakgwa became particularly popular in Goryeo (918 – 1392). During Goryeo times, Buddhism was the national religion and people were not allowed to put meat on the ritual table. Instead, they used yakgwa for the rituals, which made yakgwa a must-have food for holidays, feasts and ancestral rites. It was so popular that there were shortages in its main ingredients, such as flour, honey and oil. Goryeo kings — King Myeongjong (1131-1202) and King Gongminwang (1330-1374) in particular – even banned people from making yakgwa. However, that couldn’t stop its popularity. Yakgwa was a one of the essential menu items for court banquets and ancestral rites.

<i>Yakgwa</i> is prepared for feasts, holidays and ancestral rituals. It's a cookie made from a deep-fried flour mixture and honey.

Yakgwa is prepared for feasts, holidays and ancestral rituals. It’s a cookie made from a deep-fried flour mixture and honey.

** Ingredients
151 grams (1 cup, 8 tablespoons) medium wheat flour
26 grams (2 tablespoons) sesame oil

Honey cookie seasoning:
38 grams (2 tablespoons) honey
30 grams (2 tablespoons) refined rice wine
1 gram (0.25 teaspoons) salt
8 grams (0.5 tablespoons) ginger juice
0.1 grams ground white pepper
0.5 grams (0.25 teaspoons) cinnamon powder

Honey syrup:
300 grams (1 cup) honey
0.5 grams (0.25 teaspoons) cinnamon powder
10 grams (1 tablespoon) pine nuts
8 grams (approx. 2) jujubes
2 grams pumpkin seeds
680 grams (4 cups) oil

The main ingredients for <i>yakgwa</i> are wheat flour, honey, sesame oil, cinnamon powder, white pepper, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and ginger juice.

The main ingredients for yakgwa are wheat flour, honey, sesame oil, cinnamon powder, white pepper, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and ginger juice.

** Preparation
1. Pour the wheat flour through a sieve. Thoroughly mix in the sesame oil and pour it through a sieve again.
2. Add the seasoning to the flour. Mix it thoroughly and knead it softly, as if you’re making a snowball.
3. Roll the dough flat with a rolling pin. Fold it over three times. Roll it and fold it again. Finally, roll it down to 0.5 centimeters thick. Cut it into 3.5 centimeter squares and poke in 5 or 6 holes with a thin chopstick.
4. Blend the honey syrup.
5. Remove the tops of the pine nuts. Wipe the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds with a dry cotton cloth. Wipe the jujubes with a damp cloth. Cut out the edges and make it into a flower shape.

** Recipe
1. Pour the oil into a pan and heat it for 5 minutes over a medium heat. When the oil hits about 85 or 90 degrees Celsius, put in the cookie dough and deep fry it for 15 minutes. When the dough floats to the surface, raise the heat to high. When the oil temperature rises to around 140 or 145 degrees Celsius, fry the dough for another 10 minutes until both sides are slightly brown.
2. Drain the oil through a strainer for 5 to 10 minutes. Place the dough pieces in the honey syrup for 5 to 6 hours. Place them in a strainer for 2 hours.
3. Garnish them with pine nuts, jujubes and pumpkin seeds.

Managed by Yoon Sojung
Korea.net Staff Writer
In cooperation with the Institute of Traditional Korean Food (ITKF)
Recipe from “The Beauty of Korean Food: 100 Best-Loved Recipes”
[email protected]

Roll the dough flat and use a cookie cutter to make <i>yakgwa</i>-shaped cookies. Poke 5 or 6 holes in them with a chopstick.

Roll the dough flat and use a cookie cutter to make yakgwa-shaped cookies. Poke 5 or 6 holes in them with a chopstick.

 

Drain the oil from the fried dough and soak them in honey syrup for a few hours. Place them in a strainer to dry. Garnish them with pine nuts, jujubes and pumpkin seeds.

Drain the oil from the fried dough and soak them in honey syrup for a few hours. Place them in a strainer to dry. Garnish them with pine nuts, jujubes and pumpkin seeds.