Jaebissuktteok is a rice cake made from cottonweed or “tteokssuk.” Despite being a rice cake made by adding cottonweed, the reason it is called oriental wormwood rice cake (or “jaebissuktteok”) is because cottonweed is known as oriental wormwood in the city of Naju. The characteristic of this tteok is that it is made by first drying then boiling soft cottonweed sprouts. The plant is mixed with glutinous rice flour before being steamed in a steamer. Jaebissuktteok made from cottonweed is close to being odorless, and has a soft and chewy consistency. In Naju, jaebissuktteok was regarded as a luxurious form of rice cake.
Today, the shape of jaebissuktteok is usually rectangular. The reason it is shaped this way was because it was eaten much the same way as “injeolmi,” which is a form of rice cake coated with bean flour. It was also once made into flat and round shapes. This was because it was made from grain such as non-glutinous rice or millet. Typically, jaebissuktteok would be made and dried around Lunar New Year’s Day and eaten until the season when barley was threshed. Molds would often formed on the surface during springtime, and so the surface was made to be smooth in order to easily remove the molds.
The history of making and eating jaebissuktteok in the city of Naju dates back to at least a century. Despite this fact however, it is difficult to find records on jaebissuktteok or cottonweed. Cottonweed was also called frost mugwort or white mugwort in Naju because of its white color. On the other hand, it was commonly referred to as oriental wormwood or “jaebissuk.” It is assumed that this is related to “Samjinal” or the third day of the third lunar month. In other words, the dish may have gotten its name because it was eaten during Samjinal when the swallows (“jaebi”) returned from the south.
Until the 1950s cottonweed was used in making tteok ranging from the southwest region of the Jeonnam area to Gochang which is an area nearby Yeonggwang in Jeonnam Province. At the time, cottonweed was widely used in places such as Naju, Yeongam, Gangjin, and Haejam. Today, production and consumption of jaebissuktteok remains mostly in the city of Naju in Jeollanam-do Province. The biggest difficulty in making jaebissuktteok is collecting cottonweed, which is not easy to find. Furthermore, shops selling commercially made rice cakes began to substitute the tradition of making them in the home, especially among younger generations.