May 8 is Parents’ Day in Korea. No separate Mother’s and Father’s Day. The tradition is to buy red carnations for your parents, and the streets get flooded with street vendors selling carnation corsages and baskets. It’s almost Koreans’ second nature to do so…this is what kids make in school every single year for the occasion. Repeat this for ten years; you feel extremely guilty if you don’t get carnations for your parents:
Anyway, that time of the year came around again, and instead of making felt flowers or buying one of the baskets, I wanted do something a little bit more special for them. Something food related, of course. They have been incredibly supportive of me making a huge mess in their kitchen every weekend with the excuse of cooking for them. So I was delighted when I stumbled upon some edible carnations at a gourmet grocery store.
Flower cakes, called Hwajeon (화전), are little round pieces of chewy, sticky mochi dough pan fried, which are then covered with thin syrup. It’s a very popular dish in the spring, usually topped with pink azaleas that are around only for a couple of weeks. Wikipedia page here. Try them out if you get your hands on a box of sweet rice flour, especially if you like chewy mochis. These are quite a treat.
Hwajeon, “Flower Cakes”
Makes a dozen 2″ cakes
1 1/2 cups of Sweet rice flour, such as Mochiko flour
3-4 tablespoons of hot water
A pinch of salt
A dozen leaves of flat-leave parsley
A few dozen petals of edible flowers
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of water
- Sift the rice flour and salt, then mix in the hot water a tablespoon at a time. When you have a slightly sticky dough, put it in a plastic bag and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, start making the syrup with the sugar and water. Do not stir. Put it on high heat until it starts boiling, then turn the heat down to low. Simmer until they appear just a tiny bit thicker. Turn off the heat immediately and let it cool.
- Divide the dough into a dozen (or more if you want them smaller) and roll them into little balls.
- Grease a flat surface with a little oil, then press them into flat discs, about 1/4″ thick. They will get slightly thicker once cooked. If there’s not enough oil, they will get stuck to the surface. Don’t stack them either.
- Put the pan on very low heat. Coat with a little oil. Cook the discs for a few minutes on each side, until they become a little translucent. They will dry out if you overcook them.
- Decorate the cakes with the leaves and petals while the cakes are still hot.
- Place them on a plate and pour over the cooled syrup.