Monday, July 19, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Today begins 복날 bok nal, the dog days of summer, according to the lunar calendar. Traditionally, these are the hottest days of summer, beginnning with 초복 cho bok, today, though it is not terribly hot, at 86 F.

Coming up in about ten days is 중복 jung bok, followed 10 days later by the last of the dog days, 복말 bok mal. These were the three days for eating dog meat, especially in the form of 보신탕 boshintang, dog meat stew. Click here for some pictures of boshintang on Daum (popular Korean search engine). While there are still plenty of boshintang restaurants in Seoul, it is fair to say this dish has lost popularity in recent years.

Many Koreans eat 삼계탕 samgyetang, ginseng chicken stew, during this time. They have large supplies of heat-and-eat or boil-in-bag styles at my local E-Mart:

The key ingredients are:
  • chicken
  • cooked sweet rice
  • ginseng root
  • chestnut
  • Chinese date
  • garlic
  • ginger

So I made some from the more expensive pre-made packet. Frankly, it doesn't look like much, but it is quite tasty:

Koreans like to eat hot (temperature-wise) foods during this hottest part of the year. Why? Well, I found one explanation at Seoul City Blog:
Why do Koreans enjoy ‘Samgyetang,’ a warm dish, especially in the summertime? According to oriental medicine, the external (skin) temperature gets heated and sweats as the temperature goes up, however the internal (organ) gets cold on the contrary. So, if people have only cold food, it can cause an imbalance of the circulation of the body and negatively affect one’s health. Therefore, according to oriental medicine, it is important to make sure your body circulation is balanced and warm through having warm foods, when your external temperature is high. In that sense, chicken and Ginseng are granted to have warm feature and they are relatively cheap to buy and easy to cook, compared with other foods for health. That’s why ‘Samgyetang’ is the most desirable in summer.

You knew it had to be something like that.


Chris said...

So THAT'S why they were pushing sam-gye-tang at the E-Mart this weekend. Thanks for connecting the dots - you are the first to remind me that we are in the "dog days", although I can easily feel it.

today, though it is not terribly hot, at 86 F.

Well, walking to lunch in Anyang City today around noontime, it felt more like 106 deg F!!!

조안나 said...

Gosh darn it, you stole my idea for a post. Well, maybe I'll do it anyway... but I don't have pictures to accompany it like yours... booo. I'll probably even have to link to your blog so that people can get a better idea of what the hell I'm talking about. You've outsmarted me this time...