Quoted the most controversial bagels in Brooklyn by the Washington Post, rainbow bagel has gone viral. Scott Rossilo, who has been making bagels in different colors for over two decades, grew up behind a bagel store, smelling fresh bagels every day. As a self-claimed bagel artist, he seeks to apply creativity and express himself in small batch bagels, and contribute to the revival of bagel industry.
Bagel is now a wide spread food item in the United States, but there was a time when it was only known in the Jewish community from Eastern Europe. The first time I tried bagel was in Ohio when I was in a boarding school as a super FOB (fresh-off-the boat), and now that I live in New York City, the bagel mecca, where the water and air makes the bagels stand out, and live with a Jewish fiance who is pickier about his bagels than his caviar, I guess maybe I should correct myself and say, the first time I tried a “real” bagel was in New York City.
Bagel is widely believed to have originated from Poland, and the Jews that moved over to the United States brought it over with them. A story popular in the United States is that the bagel was first produced as a tribute to John III Sobieski, king of Poland in the late 17th century, when he saved Austria from Turkish invaders. However, many studies have shown that this story is fictitious. According to Maria Balinska, the author of “The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread,” bagel was like a cousin of pretzel in Poland. King Jan Sobieski was the first king not to confirm the decree of 1496 limiting the production of white bread to the Krakow bakers guild, and this meant that Jews could finally bake bread within the confines of the city walls.
New York bagels are typically made by boiling a dough made with flour and salt, then baking in the oven. Montreal bagels generally smaller and thinner, and are made by boiling a dough without salt but with egg in honey-sweetened water, then baking in a wood-fired oven. The rainbow bagels are also boiled and baked, just with some food colorings!
Though a little different in hues, the talk of these rainbow bagels immediately reminded me of rainbow dduk in Korean food world. Dduk generally refer to rice cakes, and is equivalent to the “bread” category in the Western sense. There are many different kinds of dduk, and many different ways of making them, in both sweet and savory categories. Dduk has always been considered as specialty food, and not a staple, and therefore is made for special occasions or as snacks.
While dduk has been around since before the inception of Three Kingdoms (57 BC), Rainbow dduk is known to originate from Joseon Dynasty (14th-19th century). Traditionally, Rainbow dduk is made with rice flour and natural food colorings. The yellow comes from yellow squash powder, the green from wormwood powder, the red is from Gardenia. Folks use cocoa powder for brown these days, and other natural food colorings like beet powder is used for red, and purple sweet potato powder for purple.
I remember eating them on birthdays and holidays as a child in Korea. Or else, whenever a neighbor brought them over. According to what-must-be an adapted version of old customs, a household that moves into an apartment would share rainbow dduk or dduk made with red beans with the entire building. It would usually be the mother in the household going to every door with a batch of rainbow dduk to introduce themselves and say hello.
Rainbow bagels vs. Rainbow dduk- they are both just as friendly!