Many Koreans will speak proudly of that fact that the country has four distinct seasons. While I’m a huge fan of spring and autumn, these are seasons that seem to disappear all to quickly and give way to the extreme temperatures of the winter and summer.
While Seoul is usually full of great festivals in the summer, it’s also home to some scorching heat, intense humidity, and spontaneous rain storms during the monsoon season. July and August are the hottest (and rainiest) months of the year.
If you’re visiting Seoul for the first time, you’ll need to take this heat into account as it can be draining on your body, and you’ll find yourself seeking out the nearest air conditioned store or mall!
Hot food on a hot day?!
Koreans have many traditions of eating certain foods on certain days. One belief they have is the concept of eating hot foods on a hot day! While many Westerners might find this concept odd, it actually makes a bit of sense!
Similar to the concept of ‘fight fire with fire’, Koreans believe eating boiling hot soups and other items on the hottest days of summer will help cool the body.
Whether eating boiling soup on a scorching hot day actually has an effect or not, it definitely does taste delicious!
Let’s look at five foods that I love to enjoy on a hot summer’s day in South Korea!
Samgyetang is a food that I just absolutely adore. It’s so popular that people line up for it on certain days of summer to get it.
Samgyetang is a whole chicken, stuffed with rice, ginseng and a jujube. It is served in an earthenware pot and is rapidly boiling as it is presented. Different restaurants do the dish a bit differently, but the basic concepts are the same.
Diners can enjoy the small chicken that is juicy and tender. Then I like to enjoy the rice and finally the soup. Salt and various condiments are found on the table and can be added to your liking.
One of my favorite places to get samgyetang is at a popular place named Tosokchon Samgyetang near Gyeonbukgung Palace. This place is also popular for serving up a black chicken samgyetang that is said to have great medicinal purposes and help keep your blood healthy.
Address: Tosokchon Samgyetang
5 Jahamun-ro 5-gil, ChebuDong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Shaved ice is a component in many parts of the world. In the USA we enjoy snow cones. In the Philippines, halo halo is a popular treat. However, in South Korea, bingsu (빙수) is loved by those hoping for a cooling and refreshing treat.
The most traditional bingsu is called ‘pat bingsu’. The base consists of shaved ice, and is topped with various items including condensed milk and sweetened red beans.
There are countless variations of the dish, and you can certainly find something that suits your taste. I am a fan of Tokyo Bingsu (located in various parts of the city).
While their bingsus might look too pretty to eat, you’ll want to snap those Instagram photos quick, and then stir everything up. Think of this as ice cream’s slightly more healthy cousing!
Naengmyeon (냉면) is a unique dish that really grew on me over the years. It literally translates to ‘cold noodles’, and is a must-try during any season in South Korea!
The dish consists of chewy buckwheat noodles, pickled radish, cucumbers (eww), spicy pepper paste called gochujang, a bit of sugar, a boiled egg, and a beef bone broth.
What makes the dish so unique is that it is served ice cold! If you’ve never tried a cold noodle soup – you don’t know what you’re missing out on! This dish can be found in many places, but I like to go to certain restaurants that specialize in it.
You can also choose between 물 (mool) nangmyeon, which has a plenty of yummy broth, or 비빔 (bibim) nangmyeon, which is a bit drier, but usually more spicy (personally, I’m a 물 guy myself!)
On a hot day (or a cold day, for that matter) I love a nice bowl of kimchi stew! Similar to samgyetang, kimchi jjiggae comes boiling hot. This spicy, tangy stew is simple yet comforting.
This is also a dish you can easily make at home! Even if you’re like me and you’re not the world’s greatest cook, you’ll find it hard to mess this recipe up!
While kimchi is the star of the show here, the dish also features tofu, pork, and various vegetables. You can also request for a vegetarian version (minus the pork) or get it with canned tuna (chamchi).
Ok, so this isn’t really a food, but it’s still a great way to beat the heat, nonetheless!
Makgeolli is a traditional Korean rice wine that is milky white in color and has a distinctive taste. It goes well with a variety of dishes, and has a refreshing flavor you’ll crave!
Makgeolli can be found in different parts of Korea, and each one has a special and unique flavor. In Seoul, you can find it in any convenience store, or head to a local restaurant that makes it themselves! You won’t regret it!
There you have it! My five foods to beat the summer heat when in Seoul, South Korea! How many of these have you tried? What will you try to help cool down?
While you might not be able to travel to Seoul very easily in the summer of 2020, Seoul will be waiting for you the next time you visit! Best of all, these foods are all fantastic any day of the year! There’s no need to wait for the hottest season of the year!
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