Dwaeji-chalbyeo rice is found throughout South Korea. Its name means “glutinous pork rice” because the grain, when ripe, looks like a pig’s back. The grain is small and round, and becomes very sticky once cooked. The plant stalks are tall and thin, and the seed heads are abundant and reddish-brown when ripe. In the past, the stalks were collected after harvesting and used as thatch, to make carpets, or as fodder for cattle. The fine, fragile stalks make this variety prone to lodging, especially if heavy rains occur, and, as a result, few farmers choose to grow it.
This flavorful rice used to be popular for making sweets and rice cakes, but it almost completely disappeared during the Japanese colonial period, when the state authorities advised consumption of other varieties. Starting in 2009, it was reintroduced and today only a few farmers grow it for family consumption.
There are references to this rice variety in several popular ballads, such as “Rice Paddy Weeding” by Buknae-myon, originally from Yeoju-si; and “Bird Chasing” by Daehwa-ri, from Goyang-si in the northern province of Gyeonggi.
The stickiness and superior flavor of dwaeji-chalbyeo rice make it an excellent ingredient for yumilgwa, a popular traditional sweet. To make yumilgwa, rice flour dough is mixed with oil and flavorings, kneaded, and shaped into small balls that are cultured with food coloring and then carefully dried. Once dry, the balls are fried in oil and then drained. While still hot, they are topped with honey or syrup, and sprinkled with sesame seeds or puffed rice.