In South Korea, yesterday was chobok, the first day of Sambok, marking the dog days of summer. Although various dishes featuring dog are popular, chicken ginseng stew (two recipes provided here and here) is the traditional dish for the festival lasting three non-consecutive days. The three (‘sam’) days are named literally, beginning, middle (jungbok, about 10 days from now), and end (malbok).
And, as luck had it, in Busan it was clear and sunny most of the day yesterday, but hardly hot. Because of the rainy season and the after-effects of Typhoon Man-yi, I doubt jungbok will be that dangerous, either. Nonetheless, people did line up for stew. In the past, I’ve joined the crowds, but yesterday I had garam masala curry stew with minced lamb.
I have many fond memories of samgyetang. My wife prepares it very well, for one, as does my mother-in-law. It was one of the first meals I had with my new family, too. The first meal I had in Seoul, as a soldier on his first tour of the capital in summer of 1997, was samgyetang. I didn’t know what it was at the time (I like to order blindly!), and the kitchen staff was beside themselves with joy and pride watching me tear that chicken apart. In 1998, I ate samgyetang on Kanghwa Island when I was working for a week at a listening station. I walked down the mountain to a small, local eatery, and entertained a small town. Every guest wanted to give me soju, and, feigning clumsiness, every woman helped me eat. It was hard eating with all that toasting going on anyway. And, one of my first meals with my girlfriend and future wife was samgyetang.
So, eat some chicken stew with ginseng and chili pepper paste, and feel the energy return to your body!