Summer in Korea is in full force by mid-June, bringing with it muggy weather and bouts of heavy rain. As temperatures rise, people try to escape the heat by heading to the beach, the swimming pool, or air-conditioned cafes and malls. In Korea, however, staying healthy and cool during the summer is all about what you eat. Many Koreans try to beat the heat and counteract summer fatigue by eating cool dishes as well as warm, healthy foods that are known for their restorative powers. Keep reading to find out exactly which foods to eat to restore your strength and refresh your spirit Korean style!
The hottest days in Korea are from early July to mid-August. This period is called ‘sambok deowi,’ or ‘the heat of sambok.’ ‘Sambok’ refers to the hottest days in Korea according to the lunar calendar and is further broken down into: chobok, the beginning period; jungbok, the middle; and malbok, the tail end of the summertime heat. Many Koreans eat hot foods full of nutrients during this period based on the idea of “yi yeol chi yeol” (fighting fire with fire).
The dish is prepared by taking a young chicken and stuffing it with rice, jujube, garlic, ginger, ginseng, and other herbs. The ingredients are then boiled together and served up in a delicious broth.
Not to be forgotten is the other favorite summertime chicken dish – jjimdak. Jjimdak is a mixture of chicken, hot peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and other vegetables along with glass noodles served in a savory, sweet-and-spicy soy sauce-based broth. Jjimdak is characterized by its spiciness, so it is often paired with a side of dongchimi (radish water kimchi), which helps neutralize some of the spice. If you’re in a restaurant that also sells scorched rice, order a side and enjoy the crunchy texture with the remaining jjimdak sauce.
Cool noodle dishes
Naengmyeon, a buckwheat noodle dish, is perhaps one of the most beloved summer foods in Korea. Surprisingly, naengmyeon first appeared as a seasonal dish that was eaten only during the winter months in North Korea. The North Korean style noodles, Pyeongyang naengmyeon and Hamheung naengmyeon, are now famous throughout the entire country and can be found in almost any neighborhood. The biggest difference between Pyeongyang naengmyeon (mul naengmyeon) and Hamheung naengmyeon (bibim naengmyeon) is the way in which they are served; Pyeongyang naengmyeon is served in a chilled broth, while Hamheung naengmyeon comes topped with spicy red chili sauce. Naengmyeon dishes are usually garnished with sliced beef, a boiled egg, cucumbers, and pears. Due to the recent popularity of Pyeongyang naengmyeon, the number of people who prefer the mild yet savory flavors of the broth is increasing.
2. Naeng kongguksu
Another recommendable dish for those who may have lost their appetite due to the heat is naeng kongguksu, noodles in cold soybean soup. The soup is made by soaking cooked soybeans in cold water and then grinding them up with a millstone. Noodles are added and often topped with slices of cucumber, boiled egg, and tomato. For taste, you can add some sugar or salt.
3. Chogye guksu
Chogye guksu is a chilled noodle dish made from cooled chicken broth mixed with vinegar and mustard before adding noodles and thinly shredded chicken topping. The name comes from the Korean words for vinegar and chicken (“cho” and “gye” respectively). This dish was once a special winter treat enjoyed in the Hamgyeong-do and Pyeongan-do of North Korea. Nowadays, the dish is a popular summertime treat enjoyed by people all across the nation.