Korean Foods That Help Beat the Summer Heat

by Marie Lee, 11/07/2008


Those of us spending the summer in Korea will soon be entering the period known as Sambok, which extends over a month and includes the three hottest days of summer, Chobok (beginning), Jungbok (middle) and Malbok (last). The interval between Chobok and Jungbok is ten days and this year they fall on 19 and 29 July respectively. Malbok is 20 days later on 8 August. (The dates are based on the lunar calendar and change every year – this year’s lunar dates are 17/27 June and 8 July). Following Malbok, the scorching summer heat should be over.

replica watches Traditional hot summer day dishes include samgyetang (ginger chicken soup), jangeogui (grilled eel), and patjuk (red bean porridge). Most of us Westerners tend to associate chicken soup with winter, not summer. So why have Koreans traditionally eaten hot foods in summer? Based on Oriental medicine teachings, Koreans believed in beating the heat with foods that were even hotter than the weather. Perspiration caused by eating hot foods helped cool the outside of the body while the hot food itself warmed the inside and helped combat the fatigue caused by the hot muggy weather. A spicy hot dish that has the same effect is chueotang made with mudfish and a lot of red pepper paste. Dog meat was also popular because it was believed that eating it would keep one cool during the summer heat waves.

Even today, with customs changing, it is very common to see people queuing at samgyetang restaurants during the Sambok period. Although previously a mainly summer dish, samgyetang (soup consisting of one small baby chicken stuffed with glutinous rice, ginseng, jujube, garlic and ginger per individual serving) is now available year-round.

Popular modern dishes for summer include one that was apparently mainly served in winter in the past – naengmyeon, a buckwheat noodle dish served in an icy beef broth with slices of thinly slice beef, julienne vegetables and a hard boiled egg, to which one can add vinegar and/or mustard. There are a number of variations of this (originally) North Korean dish, but the two main ones are a bland(ish) variety known as mul naengmyeon and a spicier one called bibim naegmyeon.

You’ll also notice a great many people eating a kind of ice, fruit and red bean concoction. Made of shaved iced, sweetened read beans, milk and topped with fresh fruits and sometimes rice cakes, patbingsu is the Korean alternative to ice cream on a hot, steamy July or August day.

Photo of samgyetang.

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