The Dog Days of Summer in Korea
Who’s ready to put away the ice-cream, patbingsu (shaved rice with sweetened red beans), and other chilly treats for some good ‘ole piping hot soup this summer?
That’s what traditional Korean belief promotes through iyeol chiyeol, or control heat with heat. As this summer has already started out hotter than many past, sambok, the time period encompassing the hottest three days of the summer between the 6th and 7th months on the lunar calendar, is sure to be scorching.
Sambok (삼복), also known as boknal (복날), or the dog days of summer, covers a month of time at the peak of the growing season and traditionally the three hottest days were a holiday for farmers. People would get away to a mountain valley or the coast to cool off and visit family before the rice harvest. These days, this particular tradition isn’t as prevalent, however the custom of eating rejuvenating and stamina restorative food still continues. According to Eastern medicine, blood concentrates near the skin in hot weather to cool the body which can lead to bad circulation in the stomach and muscles which is why it is common to lose one’s appetite or feel tired. To offset this Koreans believe we need to warm the body and there are a couple dishes that come up most often in discussions with Koreans on what to eat on these days: jangeo and samgyetang top the list.
Jangeo, or eel, is rich in vitamin A and E and stimulates blood circulation and prevents aging and wrinkles. It’s most popular with men in Korea as it is believed to be an aphrodisiac and good for stamina. Most popular these days and suitable for everyone at the table though is samgyetang, or ginseng chicken soup which is served in a hot stone bowl with one small chicken boiled to tender perfection with ginseng, garlic, jujube dates and stuffed with rice.