I was introduced to this beauty at school. In the “Other Subject” teacher’s office, basically home to the non-homeroom teachers, we have a nice little resting/kitchen area that boasts the Basket of Happiness. In this Basket of Happiness, there are snacks of every kind. One day, I found a rice-based snack in a plastic bag and I tried it. I immediately took a liking to it and so I asked around. Interestingly enough, the coteacher I questioned didn’t know – or forgot – the name, but she told me I could find it at Nong Hyup Hanaro Mart, which is a market boasting produce and merchandise from local farmers and/or Korean companies. When you shop there, you’re basically supporting the local economy.
And so I went and I found it. 🙂
Turns out it’s called 통산자, or tong san ja. I tried looking up more information on it, but nothing came up, though I did find some sites that sold this product. So, I’m only left with what my coteacher told me, which was how these little rice cake squares are usually offered on the memorial days and trips to the grave to honor their
dead deceased loved ones. Well, I’m sure people eat them on other occasions, but she says that they’re often offered up for that purpose, because after she found out I liked them, she bought an entire box, rather like the one I purchased above, and all the other teachers ate it so there’s no taboo or anything surrounding it. I also tried looking up what the name meant, but what I got made little sense. According to what I found, 통산 meant to sum up or calculate and 자 meant.. I’m not quite sure. Something about everything. Basically, I gave up trying to find logical meaning to the name of this snack.
It doesn’t matter anyway, because I like it… whatever it is.
It sort of reminds me of a rice krispie – but not. Perhaps more akin to the Chinese sachima… or sha qi ma or 沙琪瑪, what have you. The former is because it’s a rice-based snack/pastry and the latter is because it’s soft and even the slightest bit chewy. However, it isn’t sticky to the touch, since it’s covered in the snow-white rice puffs, which tends to fall. Some bits may get stuck in between your teeth as your saliva begins to break down the molecules and it begins to become more malleable.
So, what you need to know: it’s basically a rice-based square with roughly 5 to 6-inch long sides and they usually come packaged in fives; since I brought it home, I already ate one… and a half. >.> The square itself is lightly sweet and the texture, as you break it to get a bite-sized piece, is a bit like foam as it gives in relatively straight lines, though softer and it doesn’t make as much noise as the pieces separate. The outside ‘puffs’ are light and relatively tasteless – think of the soft puffs of a popcorn, but broken into bits. I love chewing into it and feeling it give in between my teeth. I love the texture and the soft and chewy aspects of it at the same time. I love how it’s made from rice and I love how I can probably eat the entire box without noticing. On second thought, that’s probably a bad thing. >.> Anyway, I don’t know why I like this so much, but I do know it can get expensive, though I have no clue why. The one I got cost 2,100 won, so around $2, though the box next to it in the traditional snacks area was around 5,000 won. I can tell you that this one tastes perfectly fine, so perhaps it’s just a difference of brand.
Anyway, if you think about it, if it’s good enough for my deceased loved ones, then it’s definitely good enough for a living me. :]