Guest Post: Kiejo Sarsfield on Seollal

Kiejo mid cooking session

Kiejo Sarsfield is a Korean food writer based in the UK who holds regular Korean cooking classes which you can find on her blog. In the past, she treated us to a special cooking class where she taught us about the art of bibimbap and how to make her husband’s favourite, pajeon. Kiejo is very skilled and knowledgeable, as well as a very warm and friendly food writer. She’s constantly giving helpful tips on cooking and how to find the best ingredients. She makes the best pajeon in the world, fact!


Here, she’s taken the time to tell us a bit about Seollal, the up coming Lunar New Year, which begins this Sunday 10th February. She shares her memories and experiences of how to celebrate Seollal Korean style! And if you feel inspired, she’s also given us a very easy to follow recipe for galbitang if you feel like trying some Korean cooking this Seollal.

Seollal (Lunar new Year)

10th of February is Lunar New Year Day (the Year of the Snake) in Korean Seollal (설날). All families will be gathered in the head of  the family’s house and celebrate the Year of the Snake.

It is like Christmas day, children will get new clothes as a presents. Usually, in the early morning, wearing brand new clothes, they will pay respect to the grandparents and parents by performing a big kneeling down bow (saebae/세배). Children get lucky money (saebaetdon/세뱃돈) from them. Receiving saebaetdon is a big bonus for the children, not only from family and relatives, but also friend’s parents even. We used to visit neighbour’s to pay respect and get this new year lucky money. But modern society would be different in Korea, I think.

Member of female family starts to cook for the memorial service for ancestors. This is special food and not allowed to be spicy food  because ghosts of our ancestors could not visit us when red spicy food is on the ceremonial table. This story was told by my mum and dad when I was little. These ceremonial foods are for our ancestors yearly feast and they will look after us beyond their grave, of course we pray for their spirits.

All kind of seasonal fruits as whole, sweets, tteok (rice cakes), meat and spring onion pancakes, salted big yellow fish, usually slow cooked short rib of beef. Namul (vegetable dish), rice and special soup called tangsuyuk. Pine tree flavoured incense burning on the table. In olden days only male members of the family could take this grand ceremony, serving Korean wine and big bow to each ancestor (normally 4 generations ahead, now days 2 generations) depend on how big family you have. After this ceremony, we all family sit down and have a feast. Usually about 11am to 12:00pm.

I love this feast, this meal is very special, make huge Bibimbab in a big bowl from the table, but this bibimbab does not come with gochujang sauce, but strangely delicious with salted steamed yellow fish (specially steamed on the hay) is the perfect accompaniment.

Tangsuyuk is kind of surf and turf soup, but most ingredients are double cooked, chicken bone stock, add shallow fried tofu, dried octopus, dried cod or pollack. This Tangduyuk is eaten only on Seollal, Chuseok or any memorial day of ancestors.

I have tried many times to recreate whole thing but never the same as Seollal or Chuseok Meal. Well, according my family you cannot recreate same taste because our dead ancestors have not visited or blessed the food, what a lovely story!

After a big brunch, we usually talk or prepare for the visitors. This time we serve tteokguk to the visitors. But personally I am not a fan of tteokguk because it is too filling for me.

Games are played in the afternoon. I love Yutnoli, it is throwing a wooden stick with holes on them and finding way to reach to the end of spot. Grown ups like to have card game, called hwatu.

Kiejo’s shared memories show us what an important festival Seollal is. It brings families together, and helps them to remember members of the family who have passed away. Learning about Kiejo’s fond memories of Seollal during her childhood and now really helps us to understand this festival. It also gave us a chance to learn all the little tales and meanings behind certain traditions!

Kiejo was also kind enough to give us a great Seollal recipe for galbitang /갈비탕 (short rib beef soup)! She also included a great tip of how to turn this dish into tteogguk for Seollal!


This soup is most popular beef soup at any season. The slowly cooked beef is melt in your mouth, and often used as a main dish with rice and kimchi. You can make it into tteokguk (Lunar New Year dish)

Short Rib of Beef (cut 5 cm long) 600g
White Radish (Mooli) 1 (M)
Crushed Garlic 1tbsp

Seasoning :
Chopped spring onion, sea salt, ground black pepper

1. Ask butcher to cut short ribs about 5cm long. Put them in the cold water and rinse and soak in the cold water for 2 hours and rinse again.
2. In a big pan, put the ribs with cold water (1lt) and boil for 2-3 minutes and get rid of the water, put cold water (20-25cups) and boil on high heat for 20 min. Lower the heat to and simmer for 2 hours, cut radish in half and garlic add to the soup, simmer another 1 hour, keep skim the fat time to time.
3. When radish is cooked, take out and cut very thin to bite size and put back to the soup. Season with light soy sauce.
4. Meat should be very tender this point, serve in a big bowl with chopped spring onion and sea salt and pepper.

Tip: If you have thinly sliced rice cake you add (2tbsp) and quick boil until rice cake is cooked (soft) and serve, this is called tteokguk. On Lunar New Year day you can eat this tteokguk. You can garnish it with roasted sea weed cut very thinly, like size of match and put top of the tteokguk.

So why not join in with the Seollal celebrations and attempt some galbitang or tteokguk this Sunday! We’re sure many of you will want to try out this delicious recipe, go buy the ingredients asap!

As mentioned before Kiejo, has her own blog where she writes about food and give recipes, as well as information about her upcoming classes. Kiejo is very passionate about all kinds of food, not just Korean, so make sure you head on over to see what she’s been writing about lately.

Her upcoming cooking classes this month are on the 16th and 28th. If you’re interested in attending or want to find out more information, email her at

Once again, many thanks to Kiejo for the recipe and sharing her very special memories with us! Wishing Kiejo, all her family and all our readers a very happy Seollal weekend :)

Kiejo Sarsfield


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