10 Ways to Survive a Korean Summer
I think the ice has melted now. Pretty safe to say that. But who knows with that hellish winter that stuck around too long like me at a wine party. Hopefully the list we did on winter survival foods helped a bit. Now it’s time to cope with the heat and the rain.
Eun Jeong and I pow-wowed on this list. As with the winter list, she had reservations on a few items that Koreans don’t consider traditional foods for this time of year. But for a lot of us, these are the foods we cling to that makes the blistering Korean summer bearable. Let’s pop open the ice chest and share the goodies.
10. MulHui 물회
This chilled sashimi soup and its squiddy cousin Makhui 막회 come all slushed out in crushed ice in a refreshing just-spicy-enough broth. Put the frosty stainless steel bowl to your mouth, and it’s like drinking from Arctic waters–if they were filled with gochujang and thinly sliced fish.
9. Patbingsu 팥빙수
I think of Patbingsu as a frozen dessert bibimbap. Shaved ice gets loaded with sweetened red beans, various fruits, candies, pillowy marshmallow-like ddeok plus whatever other additions can be fit in there, like sweetened condensed milk and ice cream. I like mine with a lot of fruit. Just stir it like bibimbap and devour. Watch for patbingsu headaches!
8. Bindaeddeok and Dong Dong Ju 빈대떡과 동동주
These are for a lazy afternoon when the sun is baking or when the rain is beating down on the steamy ground. A crispy, toasty, almost corn scented, Bindaeddeok (mung bean pancake) with the house made rice brew Dong Dong Ju satisfies the inner ajosshi. Enjoy this in the open air or under a shelter isolated by the sea of rain.
7. Samgyetang 삼계탕
This is the obligatory Samgyetang ranking, considering it’s the top traditional cure for summer’s electrolyte depletion. Assuming it was bland compared to other Korean foods, I stayed away from it for years. But one hot day, Eun Jeong was greatly craving it. For me, the chicken isn’t the star. It’s the ginseng and the goodies inside the chicken. That combined with the Insam-ju–soju inflused with ginseng–and the tastes bring me to a cool moss-blanketed forest floor. If you can handle picking through the bones of an entire chicken, this isn’t a bad dish for late summer.
6. Hui DeopBap 회덮밥
I understand the old guideline that raw fish is meant for the winter. That was good advice before the days of reliable refrigeration. Even though Hui DeopBap has the name “DeopBap,” it’s treated more like a Bibimbap than just raw fish on rice. It’s rice, lettuce, veggies and some type of raw fish that you mix with vinegared gochujang (Chojang 초장). It’s cooling and would make a great lunch during a day at the beach–or a great lunch that would make you think you’re having a day at the beach. I particularly like mine with some crunchy fish roe sprinkled in there.
5. Strange Korean Ice Creams
Summer brings on new waves of discounted Korean ice creams. We’ve seen the tomato popsicle, the controversial corn ice cream (love it), sweet potato ice cream and the suggestively titled “Big Screw.” There’s that clever watermelon ice cream popsicle with chocolate-covered sesame seeds. The milkshake in a pouch. The popsicle with gum inside the popsicle stick. Sports ice. Pistachio ice cream cones. Fish-shaped BungeoBbang ice cream. Pineapple bars. Melon bars. Red bean popsicles. The Dwaeji Bar.
Summer makes me fat.
4. Oi NaengGuk 오이냉국/Oi Muchim 오이무침
These are almost in the same category. I love the tiny bowl of tangy chilled cucumber soup that comes as banchan with many summer meals. I also look forward to Eun Jeong’s Oi Muchim, which is by far the most popular recipe on ZenKimchi. Thinly sliced cucumbers dressed with onions in a sweet and spicy vinegar dressing. The taste of summer!
Also, Maangchi shows how to make Oi Naengguk.
3. Korean BBQ
Those cucumber dishes are best accompanied by a charcoal barbecue. Not traditionally considered a summer food in Korea, I’m pretty sure the rest of the world considers grilling meat a summer treat. I can’t wait for those steamy heavy nights sitting outside, watching the people go by, grilling galbi and samgyeopsal with some icy draft beers.
2. Fried Chicken and Beer
Speaking of beer, summer is the ideal time for the Korean chicken hof–bars that specialize in Korean fried chicken and beer. It’s a classic combo, right Ludacris?
I keep going back to my first year in Korea and hanging out at Two-Two Chicken with the Ansan gang. Something about the summer heat even makes the mayo and ketchup drizzled cabbage taste good.
1. Naengmyeon 냉면
This is the reason to look forward to summer. I’ve already had my first Naengmyeon fit, and the quenching bowl of noodles doused the heat-induced cravings. This restaurant we went to last weekend also served simple buckwheat jeon that were pleasantly smooth and mild with a touch of the earthiness that makes Naengmyeon noodles so great. *
There are many more summer foods that didn’t make the list but should get an honorable mention, like Mul Kimchi, Makguksu, fresh blended fruit juice and barley tea. What are some others?
* I should note that even though buckwheat is not a grain that comes from grass (like wheat) and doesn’t itself have gliadin proteins that aggravate the gluten-sensitive, most Korean Naengmyeon, Makguksu and Japanese Soba are mixed with some wheat flour so that the noodles can form a strong enough dough, like around 10 percent. So if you’re highly gluten-sensitive, it’s best to avoid them.