Wednesday, April 27, 2011
This new addition to the category of sweets I've dubbed "performance confectionery" comes courtesy of my former colleague Candace, now a teacher (and Sweet Travel corespondent) in South Korea.
Inside a primly-wrapped package from Paris Baguette (a popular chain of bakeries found throughout Korea) were 16 nuggets of yeot, a quintessentially Korean sweet. This stiff grain-based taffy can be made from rice, wheat, sorghum, or corn, to which may be added various nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and spices. My best guess as to the flavors pictured above (top to bottom): molasses with pine nuts and sesame seeds, toasted soybean flour, peanuts, and ginger.
Yeot is such a complex tradition that specific words differentiate different consistencies and ingredients, including the famed regional variations of various provinces (eg maize or radish). The harder versions are eaten as candy, while softer yeot mixed with therapeutic herbs offers relief from colds and sore throats.
While Paris Baguette is a high-end treat boutique, yeot is more commonly sold by street vendors working from small stalls or carts. In order to attract attention and customers, these vendors take advantage of yeot's Silly Putty-esque properties; although chewy, yeot will shatter like safety glass if hit correctly. Many YouTube videos show vendors cutting a slab of fresh yeot into bite-size pieces by striking a chisel with a huge pair of rattling metal scissors, keeping up a syncopated racket as cut candy shoots into a growing pile. It's a mesmerizing performance, but leaves me wondering if yeot is also a cure for headaches.
Hankering for more? Check out other travel-related food posts at Wanderfood Wednesday.