The THREE Hottest Days Of The Summer & What To Do
In Korea the three hottest days of summer are referred to as sambok (삼복) or boknal (복날). It can really heat up so it’s best to be prepared, know what to eat and when!
The temperatures will rise and the sweat will begin to pour.. well on some of us, somehow I sweat and my husband just… doesn’t…? Koreans know just how to hold off the heat. Covering the span of a month, the three hottest days of the summer were traditionally a holiday for the farmers. Getting away to a nearby mountain valley or the coast to cool off before the rice harvest was on the agenda. While these days, the hottest days of summer may not be celebrated exactly the same, you can bet that everyone is dreamily looking out of the windows at work wishing they were someplace cooler and they definitely know what to eat to cool them off even if they can’t get somewhere cooler right away. Though it seems hot now, the first HOT day of the summer will be on July 12th. So just you wait!
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This year, July 12th is considered the first hottest day of the summer or chobok (초복). Ten days later, on July 22nd will be joongbok (중복), or the middle hottest day and finally malbok (말복) or the final hottest day will be on August 11th.
While the three hottest days of summer aren’t holidays any more, you could plan a trip to the coast or up into the mountains around the dates to cool off. Places like the beaches of Gangneung area including the ultra popular Gyeongpo Beach, the famous Jeongdongjin Beach, Naksan Beach, and the smaller but lovely Sungeut Beach are just a few great choices.
Even if you can’t get out of the city, you should definitely find the restaurants that you’ll hit on these days if you want to go all out Korean style. People do still head to restaurants to partake in the custom of eating rejuvenating and stamina restorative dishes which means you’ll find that some restaurants have lines out the doors on these particular dates. According to Eastern medicine, blood concentrates near the skin in hot weather to cool the body down but this can lead to bad circulation in the stomach and muscles leading to the loss of appetite or lethargy common during the summer. To offset this, Koreans believe in iyeol chiyeol (이열치열) or the idea that we need to warm the body from the stomach on out.
What Do Koreans Eat?
Samgyetang (삼계탕), or ginseng chicken stew is probably the most popular dish on the hottest days of the summer. Served in a hot bowl about to boil over, one small tender chicken stuffed with rice sits in the broth with ginseng, garlic and jujube dates. Now you may think that eating something hot on the hottest of days just seems like an oxymoron, but I can tell you, there’s something to it. While there are days I just want something a bit cooler, I can attest to the cooling powers of the hottest of stews during the heat waves.
Jangeo (장어), or eel, is rich in vitamin A and E and said to stimulate blood circulation and prevent aging and wrinkles. This dish is really quite popular all year round. It’s also rather popular with men in Korea who believe it to be an aphrodisiac and good for their stamina. But eel is also popular with women because of its anti-aging uses. Grab some eel, put it in a leaf and top it with some soy sauce and ginger and you’ll eat the whole thing before you even realize it. It has seriously become one of my favorite meals since moving to Korea some 10 years ago.
While those hot options are delicious and I am known to sup on them quite often in the summer, I also enjoy a cold option as well and Korea has some great options for the cold soup connoisseur too! Some of my personal favorites include Cold Soy Milk Noodle Soup or Kongguksu (콩국수), Pyeongyang Naengmyeon (평양냉면), and Mul Naengmyeon (물 냉면). Click that link to learn more about them because you really won’t want to miss out on some of that cold broth action when the temperatures really start to boil. Yes, in Korea summer is met with a bowl of soup on many… maybe most… occasions. I was certainly not big into soups myself when I first got here and if I did enjoy them, it was usually in the winter. Now, however, I love good piping or ice filled bowl of broth in the middle of even the hottest of summers. It seems Korea has really rubbed off on me.
While there are, of course, other cooling food options from ice creams to pat-bingsus and more, those are just treats that won’t really fill you throughout the day. Summer may suppress that appetite just a bit, but if you are eating the right thing, you can’t go wrong to keep that energy up and maybe just feel cooler at the same time!
What will you be eating this summer in Korea?