Yakshik – 약식 is a popular Korean dessert that’s made with sweet glutinous rice), dried fruits, and nuts. It’s typically prepared and enjoyed during the Lunar New Year, Chuseok festivals, and special occasions. It’s easy to make with your Instant Pot or electric rice cooker. Just make sure you don’t overeat because it is pretty tasty and addicting!
What is Yakshik – 약식?
Yaksik – 약식 is a type of rice cake that’s made with sweet rice (aka glutinous rice) as well as nuts and dried fruit such as chestnuts, jujubes (daechu, 대추), and pine nuts (jat, 잣). It’s a delicious dessert or snack that’s healthy and filling! I love it as a breakfast with a cup of coffee.
This brown color rice cake is also served on traditional holidays and special occasions, especially on Jeongwol Daeboreum (the first full moon of the Lunar New Year).
According to a legend, the origin of this dish traces back 1500 years to King Soji of the Silla Kingdom, who was led by a crow, while on an outing, to a place where he met an old man. The king was saved from an assassination plot thanks to the crow and the letter he obtained from the man through the crow’s help. The king set the Jeongwol Daeboreum each year as a day to pay thanks to the crow with a ritual offering of chalbap (찰밥), cooked sweet rice.
The literal translation of yaksik means “medicinal food” due to the traditional addition of honey. In traditional Korean cuisine, honey was commonly referred to as medicine or “yak”(약) for its health benefits. This rice cake is also called yakbap (약밥), which literally means “medicinal rice.”
Yaksik is sweet and nutty with a hint of a caramel-like taste. It has a sticky, chewy texture with a few textural contrasts from the nuts and jujubes. When properly made, each grain of rice should be intact and not mushy.
What is sweet rice (or glutinous rice)?
Called chapssal (찹쌀) in Korean, sweet rice (aka glutinous rice) is a type of rice that’s especially sticky and chewy when cooked. Korean sweet rice is short-grain sweet rice used for various savory and sweet dishes. It’s gluten-free! The name “glutinous rice” actually comes from its gluey texture, not from gluten.
And don’t forget, #LifesDelicious, so enjoy it!
For more Healthy, Delicious & Easy Recipes
- 2 cups sweet rice (aka glutinous rice), chapssal (찹쌀) Standard measuring cup before soaking
- 4 ounces peeled fresh, frozen, or canned chestnuts - about 12 to 15 whole chestnuts depending on the size ½ to ¾ cup cut pieces (See note 1)
- 2.5 ounces jujubes (daechu, 대추) - about 10 to 15 depending on sizes ½ cup, packed, cut pieces
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts - optional
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds - optional
- Ingredients for Seasonings:
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar use ⅓ cup for less sweet yaksik
- 2 tablespoons honey or use about 2 to 2.5 tablespoons more brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder-optional
- Rinse the sweet rice 3 or 4 times until the water is fairly clear. Soak the rice for an hour or up to 2 hours. Drain well while preparing the other ingredients. Tap the strainer to shake off any excess water.
- Meanwhile, rinse the jujubes. Cut around the seed of each jujube to separate the flesh, and then cut the flesh into small pieces. Reserve the seeds to make jujube water.
- To make jujube flower decorations, roll the flesh tightly, and cut it into thin slices.
- In a small saucepan, boil 3 cups of water and the jujube seeds over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to 1.5 cups (15 to 20 minutes). Measure this for the accurate ratio of rice and water.
- To 1.5 cups of jujube flavored water, add the soy sauce, sugar, and honey. Bring it to a boil and continue to boil for a minute, which will yield about 1 and 3/4 cups of seasoned water. Add the sesame oil.
- Place the rice in the Instant Pot, pour the seasoned water over the rice, and gently shake the pot to evenly spread the rice.
- Add the chestnuts and jujubes on top. Do not stir. The optional pine nuts and pumpkin seeds should be added after cooking the rice to keep the texture and color better. Click the “Rice” mode. It should be 12 minutes and low pressure. Allow natural pressure release for 10 minutes.
Electric rice cooker
- Place the rice in the rice cooker, pour the seasoned water over the rice, and gently shake the pot to evenly spread the rice. Add the chestnuts and jujubes on top. Do not stir. Select the white rice cooking mode.
- Open the lid, add the optional pine nuts and pumpkin seeds and gently fluff up the rice with a rice paddle, evenly distributing the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds.
- Transfer the rice into a shallow container and gently press down with a plastic wrap to shape. When it’s cooled, cut into desired serving sizes. You can also shape it into serving size rice balls with your hands or using an ice cream scoop.
If using sweetened canned chestnuts, drain the syrup well. You can also reduce the sugar a little bit as canned chestnuts are very sweet. I use Korean soy sauce, Jin Ganjang. See my Ingredients tab at the top of the blog. The color of the final dish can vary depending on your soy sauce. If your soy sauce is light, you can use a half to one tablespoon more. Take the time to drain the rice well for the accurate ratio of rice to water. After 10 minutes of NPR, there's not much pressure left, but the moisture inside the pressure cooker may make the rice a bit wet. Freeze any leftovers as soon as you can. This will stop the rice from turning stale at room temperature or in the fridge.