From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
One of Kelly Choi's cherished childhood memories? When her mother, Jini, would ask her to sample a spoonful of dduk guk—a Korean stew combining rice cakes with brisket in a beef broth topped off with egg slices, scallions and seaweed. "I would be at the kitchen table coloring, and she'd be in front of the burners and call me over to taste the broth," recalls Choi, 33. "In Korean cooking we never measure, so it was different every time, but I remember always loving it." Each year she relives those delicious moments when the stew is served at her family's New Year's celebration. (Traditionally, Korean New Year is an occasion based on the lunar calendar; it falls next on Feb. 14, 2010.) Choi joins about a dozen relatives at her uncle's New Jersey home on Jan. 1, where the day starts with a custom in which the adults give money to the kids in red envelopes to wish them prosperity. Everyone then helps themselves to rice cake stew along with Korean beef and noodle dishes and sweet red bean desserts. This year there's an added bonus to the bash: Her uncle bought a karaoke machine that Choi is eager to break in. "It's all Korean songs," she says. "Only my mom and I like to sing. Everyone else is too old-fogey!"