This Is Why Koreans Eat Boiling Soup On The Hottest Days Of The Year
"Fight fire with fire!"
Instead of flocking to an ice cream shop or Popsicle stand on a hot, summer day, many Koreans prefer to partake of a hot bowl of "samgyetang."
"[Samgyetang] has benefits [in the summer] because when it’s too hot, we eat cold things," explained Choi Mi-hee, owner of Gangwon Toon Samgyetang in Ilsan, South Korea, as reported by Munchies. "Our stomach gets colder but the rest of us stays hot. So we have to make it the same temperature."
Samgyetang consists of a young chicken "small enough to fit into a bowl and still very tender." The poultry is filled with rice, and prepared with ginseng, chestnut, jujube, milk vetch root, garlic, and whatever other ingredients the chef chooses to add a special touch to the meal.
Similar to many traditional dishes in various cultures, the history of samgyetang stemmed from Korea’s period as an “agrarian backwater.” During that time, there was not a lot to eat, and the food that was available was of a lower quality.
Daniel Gray, restaurateur and blogger at Seoul Eats explains:
You didn’t usually have a lot of meat during that time. You couldn’t butcher a cow [in the summer], because everything would spoil. You couldn’t afford to have your cows be food instead of working your fields. A pig would be the same thing, so you had to have smaller kinds of animals: duck, dog, chicken, eel, those sorts of things. And by eating that and having protein in your body, you’d be able to work a little bit more.
On the three hottest days of the summer, otherwise known as the chobok, jungbok, and malbok, according to the lunar calendar, Korean residents head to samgyetang restaurants to enjoy this dish, along with either bottles of soju or ginseng liquor.
"Korea has a lot of foods that are traditionally eaten on certain days," said restaurateur and Korean food expert, Joe McPherson. "It’s believed that eating a medicinal soup will replenish the nutrients lost from sweating during the hottest days of summer."
"It may be psychosomatic, but for me, the ginseng in the soup and the ginseng liquor—usually sold in a shot glass with the soup—have cooling effects on my body," McPherson said. "It’s surprising that a boiling-hot soup can make one feel refreshed in the hottest of summer days."