Dongji recipes are prepared to celebrate one of the most important Korean and Chinese festivals known as Dongji, also spelled as Dong-ji. Other names of the festival are the Dongzhi Festival and the Winter Solstice Festival. In Chinese, Dongzhi literally means 'the extreme of winter'. Generally observed on December 22, as that is almost always the day when the day is shortest and sunshine the weakest, the festival is traditionally known as 'the little new year'.
The festival is mainly celebrated in all its glory across Korea, China and Taiwan and the dishes are prepared to mark the beginning of a new year.
Traditional Dongji Food Menu and Recipes
As the Dongji festival is traditionally a time for family to get together, one of the most important occasion foods prepared is Tangyuan. Making and eating of Tangyuan, or balls of sticky rice is a strictly followed tradition and is a symbol of reunion. A sweet soup or a savory broth is general accompaniment to the sticky rice balls. Dumplings are another important food item and almost always a part of the food menu.
Other important traditional Dongji recipes are Red Bean Soup, Golmubyeong or rice cake, Juak, Jeonggwa, Goldongban or mixed rice with vegetables, Wanjatang or meatball soup, stews and Jang Kimchi.
Significance of Dongji Preparations and Dishes
Most of the food items prepared and ingredients used in recipes have been designed keeping in mind the fact that the festival occurs during the winter season. The foods are mostly fatty and meaty as it is believed that winter is a time when most physical activities should be limited and one should eat well to nourish the body.
Many Chinese and East Asians around the world believe that this is the best day to get together with friends and family and traditional foods are prepared to mark the festival. In Taiwan, nine-layer cakes are an important Dongji dessert and are prepared and offered as a ceremonial sacrifice to worship ancestors.
Modern Dongji Dishes and their Variations
Although little has changed over the years and the Dongji dishes prepared are more-or-less the same as the ones traditional served and eaten, there are modernized versions of the food and Dongji recipes have been simplified so that preparation is easy and convenient. Also, food is not as rich and fatty with more and more people choosing to consume healthy, low-calorie and low-fat food items.
Customary Ways to Serve and Eat Dongji Food
Dongji recipes are mostly prepared lovingly by the women folk of the house and the whole family eats the food together. Traditionally, the Koreans did Gosa (a shamanistic ritual in which food is offered to the spirits in order to avoid misfortune and bring good luck) before eating. While this practice is not followed everywhere nowadays, it is still around especially in homes where Dongji is celebrated in a strictly traditional way.