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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Chicken Soup for the…

Heat.

Although numerous western beliefs surround chicken soup’s usefulness for fighting colds, flu or psychological pain of the soul, the Koreans believe its good for combating the summer heat.

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Samgyetang, (삼계탕) is a popular summer dish in Korea, particularly on the three “hottest” days of the year. Although generally available year-round, It is most popular in the summer for its nutrients, which replaces those lost through sweating during the hot summers in Korea.

Samgyetang is a small chicken (we called them Cornish game hens) stuffed with rice, ginseng, jujube, garlic, dates and other spices and boiled in a ginseng broth. If spicy food is what you’re after, this is definitely not it. There is not a speck of red-pepper that typically permeates most other Korean dishes. It is likely the most western-tasting of all Korean dishes, In fact, it’s as much like my own mother’s chicken and rice soup as any I’ve ever had, whether it’s here in Korea or at home in the US. If you have to have spicy, though, there’s always the ubiquitous kimchee and other sidedishes that will accompany your chicken soup.

There are several specialty restaurants in Ulsan that serve 삼계탕. I found several in Samsandong just two streets north of the NewCore outlet. Although their recipes are “secret” one pretty much tastes like another to me. Hot summer days will find these restaurants bustling with customers. But the busiest are the three hottest, which are Chobok, Jungbok and Malbok which fall on July 14th, July 24th and August 13th, respectively. How do Koreans know those days are the hottest when they haven’t occurred yet? Simple – they follow the Lunar calendar, which is laid out far in advance and has nothing to do with temperature. In fact, this year’s Chobok on July 14th’s was rainy and fairly cool as summers go.

For a taste of Mom’s home cooking, there’s nothing else in Korea that even comes close to it like 삼계탕. Get some.

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