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Posted by on Jul 25, 2009 in Korean Food | 0 comments

Chicken soup (Samgyetang) as summer food?

The July 18, 2009, edition of the JoongAng Ilbo wrote a feature article about the health benefits of eating chicken soup during the hottest summer months.

Chubok, as I mentioned in this post, is considered the hottest month of the year in Korea’s lunar calendar. In traditional Korean medicine, it is recommended that one eat very hot food during the summer and cold food during the winter. This is the opposite of how most Westerners relate to food. We prefer to reach for ice cream in the summer and chicken soup in the winter. The author of the JoongAng Ilbo article understands the confusion but points out,

Samgyetang (chicken soup) is said to give you the energy, strength and health you need to endure the heat, replacing the nutrients you sweat out under the blazing sun.

When I arrived in Korea in late August 1996, my first meal in Seoul was a blazing hot bowl of dolsot bibimbap (rice with mixed veggies and egg served in a 500 degree Fahrenheit lava rock bowl). The temperature was more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and the percentage of humidity was probably higher. Still suffering from jet lag, I wasn’t in the best of moods. A cold glass of lemon iced tea would have been preferred. Since I was with a large group of similarly jet-lagged people, I minded my manners (i.e., kept my snippy comments to myself).

My bowl from the blast furnace arrived first, so I started to stir the contents of my bowl, waiting for the others to be served. One of the ajumas (Korean for “aunt” but a generic term for older women who are in service roles) came over and squeezed out a big puddle of gochujang (Korean pepper paste) on top of my bowl of bibimbap. (I’m sure our American host asked her to give us such a “baptism by fire.”) Most of our group wasn’t prepared for that, but my time in Thailand several years prior prepared me for spicy-hot food. But the heat emanating from the glowing hot bowl was almost enough to make me faint.

Learn how to make your own version of Korea’s famous samgyetang from this YouTube video by Anna Kim of the Koreancuisine YouTube channel.

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