Fluffy steamed buns have long been a staple of fast, taste snacks across Asia. Sweet or savoury, their simplicity is in the few ingredients, and that is where their goodness is found too. Jjinppang is the most traditional form of sweet steamed buns found in Korea. Made from sourdough that has been fermented with the yeast that comes from makgeoll, it’s soft, fluffy texture when warm is a perfect winter warmer. As the bread cools, it becomes harder, meaning the perfect time to eat is when it’s freshly made. The centre is filled with sweet red beans, usually left slightly chunky to contrast the softness of the bread.
In Korea, jjinppang is a popular street food. In many places, you’ll spot stalls billowing with steam as the buns are cooked. At these places, many varieties of steamed buns are usually sold alongside jjinppang such as hoppang. The difference between the two is small and simple. A smoother, often sieved version of the red bean paste is placed inside, giving it a different texture combination. You can also find jjinppang-mandu, a savoury version that combines the ideas for steamed buns and dumplings together to make soft, meat-filled snacks.
One particular area of Korea is famously known for its jjinppang. Anheung, a town in Hoengseong County in Gangwon Province, makes a very traditional style of the steamed bun. There are 17 steameries in one area alone, making Anheung Jjinppang Village! They use makgeolli that is a speciality in the province to ferment it, which gives it a signature taste. The jjinppang made here are so well known that each year in October, a festival is held in honour of the famed buns. It’s been going for 20 years.
Another variety can be found in Jeju, the island off the south coast of the Korean peninsula. One of the most famous ingredients grown on Jeju Island? Mandarins! Thus, gamgyul-jjinppang is made by adding mandarin flavour to the dough, giving it a slight orange colour.
Recipes for jjinppang are relatively simple, consisting of just two parts to make; the dough and the filling. The filling can even be purchased rather than made, as Asian supermarkets readily sell red bean paste. The dough can be made from flour, water, sugar, a little milk and butter, and dry yeast – that is if you don’t have any makgeolli to hand.
Check out the Korean cooking queen of YouTube Maangchi for an easy to follow video recipe. Or if you’d like to take a peek into a Jjinppang Village in Pyeongchang, take a tour with SweetandTastyTV below!