“fight fire with fire”

Koreans recharge with boyangsik

Koreans have a saying, iyeolchiyeol, which translates to “fight fire with fire.” This expression is true in Korean boyangsik cuisine. Boyangsik refers to rejuvenating summertime foods that are rich in protein, vitamins, and heat. Though nutritious dishes can be consumed at any time of the year — such as when recovering from a surgery or after giving birth — they are often sought after in summer.

In Korea, there is “sambok,” meaning three hot days: “chobok” (beginning), “jungbok” (middle) and “malbok” (last). The three days, based on the lunar calendar, extend over the course of a month, signaling the start and end of the sweltering summer heat.
On “boknal” — which is often translated into English as “dog days” but just means one of the three hot days — Koreans dig into healthy dishes at home or flock to famous boyangsik-specialty restaurants. They willingly wait in long lines in hopes of regaining their strength by eating healthy food.

Though samgyetang is not the only dish of boyangsik, it is one of the most popular dishes because of its taste, price and accessibility. Dishes with boiling hot broth are often considered boyangsik — a classic way of beating the heat with even more heat.
The ingredients for boyangsik are not strictly defined, but what is usually preferred are protein-filled meat and seafood, such as chicken, duck, octopus, abalone and croaker. Exotic ingredients including loach, snake and eel may be suitable only for strong-hearted gourmets.

Doctors say that boyangsik is not necessary these days, as people often consume too many calories. They say that boyangsik, if consumed too frequently, might lead to obesity. For Koreans, however, the act of having boyangsik in summer is a cultural and emotional one, rather than the result of science and logic.
This year’s chobok and jungbok fell on July 11 and 21. Malbok is to fall on August 10.