Nakwon Tteok House, a rice cake store in Nakwon-dong in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, traces its roots back to the waning years of the Joseon era (1392-1910). The story of Nakwon Tteok House begins with Go I-ppo, who sold rice cakes as a street vendor after learning to make tteok from the court ladies of nearby palace Changdeokgung.
Go's rice cake business continued with her daughter Kim In-dong, who was born in 1919. After the 1950-1953 Korean War, Kim moved the business to its current location in 1956 and handed down the family business to her daughter Lee Gwang-sun. Today, Lee and her husband Kim Jeong-gui run the Nakwon Tteok House with their son, Kim Seung-mo.
The Nakwon Tteok House's place in history has been recognized by the city government. In 2014, the Seoul Metropolitan Government listed the rice cake store as among the "Seoul Future Heritage."
“Nakwon Tteok House has served as an observer, witnessing the past, present and future of Seoul. It has contributed to transforming tteok from a royal treat to everyday people’s favorite,” the Seoul Museum of History says on its website.
The rice cake store has served the rich and famous, from Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung to former presidents.
“Officials from Cheong Wa Dae often made calls to order rice cake. We served more than eight presidential offices but we never heard a single complaint," Kim, 81, said. "We're proud, of course, that our rice cakes are loved by higher-ups, but our biggest happiness comes from serving everyday people."
Although Nakwon Tteok House has been approached by a number of department stores with business proposals, Kim and his wife decided not to expand their business.
"We make tteok by hand rather than using machines," Kim said. "But they were interested in mass production, which would compromise quality."
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