Summer Foods To Eat In Korea!
Summertime in Australia is always something to get excited about. The heat, the endless afternoons, holidays by the beach, reading a book in the shade. To a Korean, it is interesting how food culture in Australia also changes with the seasons as it does in Korea. If we go to the beach, we think of fish and chips and ice creams. All you will hear in the kitchen is the sound of a salad getting tossed, the smell of basil and homegrown tomatoes wafting through the air.
If you have ever visited Brisbane in the summertime, you have a fair idea of what it is like in Korea. Hot, still and humid during the day, with every chance of rain in the afternoons and evening. There are a lot of K-dramas out there set in the summer months, and one thing you might have noticed is the different foods eaten in the summer. Like the average Australian might crave fish and chips after a frolic in the ocean on a hot summer’s day, there is a lot of thought behind what to eat at different times during the monsoon season.
On the very hottest day of the year, it might surprise someone outside Korea to know that what is craved the most is chicken soup. Samgyetang is a simple dish to make, a chicken is boiled in water with a selection of aromatic herbs, including the most important ingredient; ginseng. Ginseng gives you power to get through the hot days. All can agree that if there is one side dish to accompany this delicious broth, it would have to be kkakdugi (a fermented white radish with chili powder). If you are at a loose end on one of those really hot days at the end of January here in Australia, you might want to appeal to the power of the ginseng root, and find a Samgyetang near you.
Just like in Australia, there are times when it is too hot to eat. But for the average Korean, this is not an option. Eating out, and thinking about eating out, takes up the majority of one’s time outside work.
When not feeling hungry because of the heat, the secret is to keep it light. And cold. You will always find room in your stomach for cold noodles. For those unused to eating something cold they usually eat hot, it can be challenging to get into. But when you do, you will find that when summer hits, this is the type of dish you constantly crave. And the good news is, the variations are immense. Naengmyeon is the all time favourite. Simple buckwheat noodles served in a vinegary soy broth with crushed ice, topped with a boiled egg cut in half and some slivers of cucumber. Both light in flavour and refreshing, it doesn’t weigh you down. One of the best parts is the ritual of grabbing the set of scissors and cutting the tangled up bulk of noodles, to set them free before slurping them down. Bibimguksu, Kimchi Bibimguksu, Dongchimiguksu, Kongguksu… the list is endless. Just remember. If you are not hungry because of the heat, find your nearest cold noodle soup.
And now onto dessert. Forget doek, those little chewy morsels of delight. Summer, being a time of frivolity and playfulness, requires a dessert to match the mood of the season. And what better way to celebrate summer fun than Patbingsu. Seemingly conjured up from the dreams of an over imaginative child, this dish doesn’t just taste amazing, it looks like a magical wonderland of flavours. Starting with a base of shaved ice, and commonly topped with red beans, it doesn’t end there. And it may possibly never end. Ever expanding like the universe itself, the evolution of Patbingsu is fascinating. These days, bingsu has been taken up by artisans, crafting them in specialist cafes across the nation. Experimentation is key. Using ingredients such as condensed milk, fruit, sugar syrups of various flavours and colours, even different breakfast cereal. Nowadays, the experimentation has included making a milk-ice noodle, eaten with a spoon and a fork, adding your favourite alcoholic beverages as a syrup, even serving it in an edible bowl, like a melon for example.
Just remember the old saying ‘you are what you eat’. Koreans take this expression very seriously. Especially in the summertime.
Written by Brett Allen.