The district of Uiryeong(의령) in South Gyeongsang province sounded unfamiliar at first. Must be just one of those small towns without much worth seeing, I thought. I quickly realized how wrong I was when I stepped into the marketplace of Uiryeong-gun.
Where are all these people come from and what are they so anxiously waiting for?
Thanks to my above-average height I was able to peek above the heads that are all facing the same direction. We are all looking towards the inside of a small room of a building at a corner of the market. Inside, it’s a group of women in work cloth and aprons sitting around a large table. They are busy working with a big mound of white batter. This is where they make the mangae-dduk(망개떡), or rice cake wrapped in mangae leaves.
The leaves are taken from smilax china, a climbing plant native to Korea and other parts of Asia. According to oriental medicine, the leaves are made into tea that is effective detoxicant. As you take the leaf off and bite into the rice cake, a delicate scent of mangae is present in your mouth. The rice cake made with non-glutinous rice powder is very soft and not sticky. The red bean filling inside is just the right amount of sweetness. Perfect combination of three different flavours.
The rice cakes are shipped to all over Korea but it is best to purchase at the spot. Because there is no preservative inside, the rice cakes may go bad after one day. They advise that you should freeze the leftovers as refrigerating will harden the rice cake. Freezing and thawing may retain the texture but still the best flavour can only be experienced through freshly boxed goodies.