Dasik (다식, 茶食)

By Ásfríðr Ulfvíðardóttir/ Rebecca Lucas.

The hanja (Chinese characters) of Dasik means, quite literally,'something eaten with tea'. Naturally, they are closely associated with modern-day tea ceremonies, as something sweet to eat in contrast to the bitter tea. But what is dasik, and what is its history?

Dasik is a traditional honeycake, mixed with different flavours and then usually pressed into a mould. Unsurprisingly, its history is closely intertwined with that of tea drinking in general, beginning in the Koryo dynasty with the Buddhist tea ceremonies, and Joseon dynasty tea drinking. (Lee and Chung, 1999; 395) By the mid-Joseon Dynasty (ca. 15-17th c.) these sweets were considered a regional food of the Kyongsan-do area. (Cha, 2003; 379)

The two main ingredients of Dasik is a powdered plant base and honey. The base could be rice flour, especially in the Koryo dynasty (이 and 정, 1999; 395), while pine pollen (song-wha, 송화), mungbean starch (녹두녹말가루), powdered shelled chestnuts (hwang-yul, 황율) or Schisandra chinensis berries (omija, 오미자) are other additives with a long history. S. chinensis also gives the sweets a pink colour, while yellow can be imparted by pine pollen or chestnuts. Black sesame seeds (heukimja 흑임자) makes for sweets with the appearance of liquorice, and green cakes are made with Korean Angelica (Latin: Angelica gigas) (Koo, 2002).

The Jeungbo-Sanlim-Kyungje (증보산림경제, 增補山林經濟) published in 1766 (Lee,1993; 36) is the first recorded mention of using small ceramic or wooden moulds for pressing the sweets into shape. (Lee and Chung, 1999; 39) I have assumed that prior to the 18th century, these cakes were rolled or shaped with the hands, into small balls.

Left: Modern, mould-pressed dasik honey-cakes.
Right: Traditional wooden moulds from the Joseon dynasty.

Images from Wikimedia and 차문화전시실.  

A recipe, from Koo Chun-Sur's article, mentions numerous ways of preparing Dasik, and has the ratio of 1/3 of a cup of honey for every 2 cups of powdered base. Keeping that 1:6 ratio, two cups of rice should be pounded and ground into a fine powder, then the honey and rice should be mixed together, pressed into small balls, and placed on a serving tray for eating.

An alternate recipe from Suragan (The Restored Traditional Recipe Archives), says to boil the powdered base until it is reduced by half, then let cool and shape. Black sesame should be steamed lightly before mixing with honey so that it sticks together.

Bibliography

  • Amore Museum 차문화전시실 [Tea Culture Exhibition] Website last accessed: 10th February, 2009
  • "『屠門大嚼』을 통해 본 조선중기 지역별 산출 식품과 향토음식" 한국식생활문화학회지 18(4) 2003; 379-395
    Cha, Gyung-Hee "A study on Regional foods in the middle of Chosun Dynasty through Domundaejac" Journal of the Korean Society of Food Culture 18(4) 2003;379-395
    Available online via Korea Science.
  • Daum Korean-English Dictionary.
  • Koo Chun-sur "Dasik : Unique Delicacy to Accompany Tea" Koreana 16(3) 2002; 68-71
    Available Online.
  • Lee, Sung Woo "Cultural Aspects of Korean Fermented Marine Products in East Asia" in Chʻŏr-ho Yi et al. [Eds.] Fish Fermentation Technology (United Nations University Press, 1993) pp.33-44
  • 이귀주 and 정현미 "다식의 유래와 조리과학적 특성에 대한 문헌적 고찰" 한국식생활문화학회지 14(4) 1999; 395-403
    Lee Gui-Ju and Chung Hyoun-Mi "A Literature Review on the Origin and the Culinary Characteristics of Dasik" Journal of the Korean Society of Food Culture 14(4) 1999; 395-403
    Available online via Korea Science.
  • Suragan (The Restored Traditional Recipe Archives) 궁중수라간 - 복원자료실
    Last Accessed 24th May, 2010
  • Wikipedia 증보산림경제(增補山林經濟)
    Last modified 15th January, 2009