This popular, delicious porridge (juk: 죽 in Korean) is made from dried azuki beans (pat: 팥 in Korean) with added chewy rice cake balls made from glutinous rice flour. The porridge is creamy, nutty, and a little sweet.
The texture of the mashed beans is similar to Mexican refried beans, but thinner. I was surprised when I went to Mexico and tasted their frijole porridge, it was very similar to Korean patjuk!
This recipe is actually pretty simple. It’s just a few ingredients, but every household makes it differently. Traditionally Koreans eat it on winter solstice (dongjitnal: 동짓날 in Korean), which marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. After the solstice, the days get longer and the nights shorter, so Koreans see it as a “little new year’s day” and something to celebrate. We wish our families and neighbors a happy, successful, and safe year to come by making this special red bean porridge for them.
In Korea, red bean porridge is served year-round as a popular snack or one-bowl meal, but the rice cake balls make this special for dongjitnal. It’s delicious, but also has a lot of symbolism.
The white rice cake balls look like small birds’ eggs and symbolize new life, freshness, and prosperity. They are a little smaller than quail eggs and celebrate the longer days to come.
Koreans believe that the color red wards off evil spirits, so this red porridge wishes good luck for the new year. My grandmother used to smear some porridge on her front door for good measure, and many people would leave a little bowl of it in front of their houses. Go away, evil spirits!
This special porridge is meant to be shared with friends, family, and neighbors. When I was a kid, my mom used to send me out to deliver some of her dongji-patjuk to the neighbors, bowl by bowl, on winter solstice. And the neighbors’ kids brought dongji-patjuk to our house, too. Everyone’s house in the neighborhood would be full of porridge and well-wishes for the upcoming year.
I continued the tradition after I grew up and got married, sending my kids out with porridge on winter solstice.I think it’s a wonderful, warm tradition to be shared with my family and the community.
The video was shot a few weeks ago, and while editing it, my mouth was watering! Tomorrow is winter solstice day, so I’m making a huge pot of dongji-patjuk tonight. I’m not sure my neighbors in New York City will like this traditional Korean porridge, but if I tell them it will give them good luck in the upcoming year in a very delicious way, I’m sure they’ll be happy to try it out! : )
Ingredients (4 servings)
- 1 cup dried azuki beans
- 2½ cups plus 1 tablespoon glutinous rice flour
- 1 cup boiling water
- kosher salt
You can use a pressure cooker or just a regular pot to prepare the beans for the porridge. The goal is the same: make the beans soft enough to mash. Once the beans are prepared, make your rice cake balls and then put it all together!
Soften the red beans in a pressure cooker
- Add the beans and 8 cups of water to the cooker. Set your pressure cooker to the porridge making function. It should take about 1½ hours to cook.
Soften the red beans in a pot
- Wash the red beans and strain. Put them in a large pot with 10 cups of water.
- Boil over medium high heat for 30 minutes. Turn down the heat to low and cook for another 1½ hours until the beans are very tender and mashable. If the beans are still hard, add more water and cook longer.
- Let cool for 20-30 minutes
Mash the red beans
- Set a coarse strainer over a large bowl. Pour the cooked beans and the water into the strainer. Mash the beans with a wooden spoon so that the beans go through the strainer and the skins stay in the strainer.
- Squeeze the bean skins with your hands and discard.
- Put the bean mixture into the pot. If there are less than 8 cups’ worth, add water to make it up to 8 cups.
Make rice cake balls
- Put 2 cups of glutinous rice flour, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the boiling water and mix it well with a wooden spoon. When it cools enough to touch, knead the dough with your hand for 1 minute and put it in a plastic bag. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
- Knead the dough again for a couple of minutes until smooth. If it’s too sticky, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of glutinous rice flour.
- Take some of the dough in your palms and roll it into a ½ inch ball. Repeat to make rice cake balls out of all the dough, about 55-60 balls. Sprinkle some glutinous rice flour over them as you go so they don’t stick to each other.
Put it all together
- Stir the bean mixture and bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Add the rice cake balls and stir them in well. Cover and let it cook for 8 to 10 minutes until all the rice cake balls float to the surface.
- Mix ½ cup glutinous rice flour and 1 cup of water in a mixing bowl and pour it into the boiling porridge, stirring with a wooden spoon. The porridge will thicken a bit.
- Add 2 teaspoons salt and stir well.
- Serve hot right away.
- Prepare some sugar in a small bowl so your guests can add a bit of sugar to taste as they like. Kimchi also makes an excellent side dish.
- Keep the leftovers in the fridge up to 3 days.