As the temperature rises gradually, families often put on table such foods as kimchi made of cucumbers and spring bok choy, mung-bean sprout salad, lettuces, garlic pickling in vinegar and new potato dishes.
Housewives also prepare rice-and-mugwort cake, steamed rice yeast cake, mung-bean pancake, steamed rice-and-green pea cake and the like as part of their staple diet, believing that national dishes are best in stimulating appetite.
Especially, rice-and-mugwort cake is regarded as a must-have.
The family of old woman Kim Song Ok in neighbourhood unit No. 58 of Jonjin-dong in Rangnang District, Pyongyang, enjoyed the cake last Sunday.
“For the unique fragrance and flavour of mugwort, the cake has been one of special dishes the Koreans have made since olden times. We also make and have it every year. Though my granddaughter objected to the bitter taste of the plant originally, she came to like the cake and now coaxes me into making it,” said Kim.
Mugworts grow in groups in mountains, fields and sunny places and contain protein, fat, sugar, minerals and various kinds of vitamins.
According to Pae Son Yong, lecturer at Pyongyang Jang Chol Gu University of Commerce, foods made of mugworts at the turn of the season help digestion and promote health.
The slightly bitter taste of mugworts stimulates appetite and the deep green colour of parboiled mugworts decorates the table conspicuously.
Kim Song Ok who learned the recipe for the cake from her mother picks fresh mugworts every early spring and prepares the cake to serve the food to her family members every year.
Last Sunday even her nephew’s wife came to her to learn how to make it.
“Pluck soft fresh mugworts and wash them well. Do not boil them too long lest they should discolour or get too pulpy,” Kim Song Ok taught her in detail.
The parboiled mugworts are soaked for a night, squeezed dry and pounded in a mortar. And then they are evenly mixed with rice flour and kneaded with hot water to make a flat round piece of dough before steaming. Steaming also requires a skill, Kim added.
According to her, whenever she kneads the steaming dough giving off fragrance into fancy, half-moon-shaped and tail-shaped rice cakes, her grandchildren rush into the kitchen to join her and their happy laughter fills the whole house.
“There are innumerable national dishes for each season. I usually try to prepare a diverse range of foods, national dishes in particular, in order to enrich our meal. In my experience, our national dishes are best,” said the elderly woman.