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.

Korean Cooking: Chicken Ginseng Soup, FoodSambok (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, Eel Jangeo, Eel

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.

If you want to go truly Korean style, then here are the dates to look out for this summer, the first is chobok (초복), or the beginning, on July 13th. Ten days later on July 23rd is joongbok (중복), or the middle, and the final day, malbok (말복), or the last, is twenty days after that on August 12th. Find a restaurant near you and be sure to get there early as the good places will have lines out the door on these three hot hot days.

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3 Responses

  1. Great post – I was just wondering about the specifics of sambok last week. Thanks for the great info! We’re contemplating trying the dog stew, but the hottest day of the year would be the absolute last time I’d want to go on that little culinary adventure. 🙂

  1. September 20, 2013

    […] Koreans, like many east asians, believe in battling heat with heat and eating hot foods during the three hottest days of the year (like one of my favorite dish of all time: […]

  2. July 22, 2017

    […] These videos are all hilarious and entertaining, but you shouldn’t skip Josh’s Collaboration with Two Young, where the two friends find themselves in a park in London, or “Englishman Healed by Korean Chicken-Ginseng Soup.” The latter alternates between Korean and English subtitles while the host introduces a friend to 삼계탕, a highly nutritious, nourishing soup that is traditionally consumed on the hottest day of the year. […]

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