Padma Lakshmi Loves This Store-Bought Shortcut for a Korean Lunar New Year Treat
Across the world, people are coming together with friends, family and food to celebrate Lunar New Year. The new year began Tuesday, on the first day of February, but celebrations will continue through February 15. Chinese New Year may be the celebration you're most familiar with, but plenty more cultures have their own way of ringing in the year—including Korea, where they celebrate Seollal, a three day festival beginning on Lunar New Year's eve.
To share a little taste of Seollal, Padma Lakshmi took to Instagram yesterday with a recipe she picked up while filming a special holiday season of her Hulu show Taste the Nation. During her trip to Koreatown in Los Angeles, Lakshmi met up with Eric Nam, an Atlanta-born K-pop singer-songwriter, to learn more about dishes Korean American folks make to celebrate the new year.
Nam shared a simple recipe for hotteok, a kind of sweet donut or pancake that Nam said was one of the first desserts he could remember his mother making for him. "She did what I think a lot of immigrants do," Nam explains on the fourth holiday episode of Taste the Nation. "They kind of improvise with what they have and what's available to them."
Instead of making a dough from scratch, Nam and Lakshmi use pre-made biscuit dough as the base for these little treats. Just pop open a can and use your fingers to flatten the dough, as if you were going to make a dumpling with it. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon with 1 tablespoon raw sugar. In the center of the flattened biscuit dough, place a little of the cinnamon sugar, plus a sprinkle of brown sugar and some crushed cashew pieces. (Lakshmi says you can use walnuts or pistachios, if that's what you have on hand.) On Taste the Nation, Nam also adds pumpkin seeds.
Draw up the edges of the biscuit dough to seal the sweet filling inside, then use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough into a pancake. Fry the hotteok on both sides in a little canola oil or ghee until golden brown. If you prefer a fruity filling, trade the cinnamon-sugar filling for a nontraditional spoonful of jam. Lakshmi tries this version with a little pineapple-jalapeño jam from Kelly's Jelly—you can pick up a jar online for $10.
Like Lakshmi says on Taste the Nation, Nam's easy family recipe combines tradition "with North American convenience" for a recipe even rookie cooks can enjoy making. Plus, with this dessert, kids can pitch in. In Lakshmi's video, her daughter helps flatten and stuff the biscuit dough while Padma fires up the frying pan.
With a recipe this simple, we'll be tempted to keep these ingredients on hand for whenever the mood strikes.