2cupsfrozen rice powderlabeled 쌀가루 or 쌀떡가루, thawed to room temperature - see note
about 2 ounces pine needlesrinsed 2 - 3 times (optional)
⅓cuproasted sesame seeds
1tablespoonsugaradjust to your taste
In a small sauce pan, boil 2 to 3 slices (about 1/4-inch thick) in 1 cup of water until the water is reduced to about a half.
Sift the rice powder into a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of hot beet water, quickly stirring it in with a spoon. Add more beet water if the dough is too dry, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Knead, pressing and stretching with the heel of the hand. Fold and rotate the dough. Repeat the kneading process for 2 to 3 minutes. (If the dough sticks to your hands or the bowl after some kneading, it's too wet. Add a little more rice powder. If the dough breaks easily or is too stiff, it's too dry. Add more beet water, 1 teaspoon at a time.)
Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Roughly grind the sesame seeds in a grinder or blender. Add the sugar, honey, and pinch of salt. Mix well until the honey is evenly distributed.
To assemble, tear off a small piece of the dough enough to make a roughly 1-inch ball. Roll tightly between your palms to shape a ball.
Make a well in the ball by pressing into it with your thumb, and press outwards, with both of your thumbs, on the inside walls of the well to slightly expand the opening. Place 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the well and press it down. Seal tightly by squeezing the edges together.
Squeeze the whole rice cake lightly in your palm to firm it up and roll gently between your palms to smooth it out.
Shape it to resemble a half moon. Repeat until all the dough/filling is used.
Boil water in a steamer. Place a thin layer of pine needles or a damp kitchen cloth on the steamer insert. Boil the water over high heat. When it starts to steam, place the rice cakes on the steamer insert without the pieces touching one another. Cover with a thin layer of pine needles, if available. Cover and steam for 20 minutes.
Prepare a big bowl of cold water. Remove the rice cakes from the steamer, and drop them in the cold water for a quick rinse. Transfer the rice cakes to a colander to drain. Lightly coat your hands with the sesame oil and rub the oil on the rice cakes in batches.
A 2-pound bag yields a little more than 6 cups, which is sufficient for 3 batches. The frozen rice powder for rice cakes is usually pre-salted. Be aware that the moisture content of the powder varies depending on the brand.For more vibrant red color, you can roast a small beet in the oven (about 45 minutes at 400 °F), and purée in a blender as fine as possible. You'll need about ⅓ cup. Heat the beet purée until hot in the microwave and add to the rice powder, quickly stirring it in with a spoon. Add a little hot water as necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time.