It’s already that time of year again! The days are getting longer (and hotter!) as the weeks go by, which means you have more time to stay awake and take advantage of the extra sunlight during the evening. My personal recommendation is to use the extra time to chow down on some delicious Korean summertime cuisine, because there will be no shortage of it in the months to come.
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Seasonal food is a mainstay of Korean culture. Whether you’re in the mood for a chilled, savory entrée or a refreshing frozen dessert, there’s something for everybody this summer in Korea. Read on for some of our favorite summer Korean food and enjoy snacking the season away!
We include the Korean names of these foods in Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. If you can’t read Hangeul it is possible to learn Hangeul in just ninety minutes, so what are you waiting for?
Summer Korean Food #1: Samgyetang
Samgyetang is a dish that features a whole chicken (yes, you read that correctly) marinated in hot broth and stuffed with various nuts, vegetables, and herbs depending on the chef’s preference. Although it seems counterintuitive to start a list of summer Korean dishes with a hot and heavy meal like samgyetang, Korean diners enjoy this savory dish to offset the effects that heavy sweating have on the body during the summer.
It’s no secret that hot summers mean a ton of sweat, and the process of sweating depletes the body of electrolytes that keep us feeling alert and ready to tackle the day. That’s where samgyetang comes in! The next time you’ve had a long, hot day, treat yourself to a bowl of samgyetang to reset your internal thermostat and start feeling like yourself again.
Summer Korean Food #2: Mulhui (물회)
What’s better than sashimi, you ask? A chilled soup full of spicy sashimi on a hot summer day! The recipe will vary from restaurant to restaurant because all different types of seafood can be used to give this dish flavor, but it’ll always be cold, a delight for your tastebuds, and perfect for the scorching Korean summer months.
Between the protein in the seafood the kick of the spice in the sauce, mulhui is a great dish to have in the middle of a long day of fun and exploration in Korea this summer. If you’re out and about checking out Seoul or the Korean countryside, eating a chilled dish like mulhui will cool you down and keep you from overheating, and the protein and vitamins in the dish will make sure you have the fuel that you need to keep going and crossing things off of your to-do list.
If you’re a fan of spice and seafood, order a bowl of mulhui and get some relief from the summer heat!
Summer Korean Food #3: Patbingsu (팥빙수)
Looking for something on the sweeter side? Try a bowl of patbingsu! Patbingsu, a dish consisting of shaved ice topped with berries, sweet red beans, and ice cream, is one of the most popular ways to cool down during the hot Korean summer (and, arguably, one of the most delicious).
Patbingsu is on most Korean menus, and you’ll see a bunch of interesting variations featuring different flavors like mango and coffee depending on where you go. Give patbingsu a try the next time your sweet tooth is acting up, and be sure to let us know what your favorite variation is in the comments below!
Summer Korean Food #4: Naengmyeon (냉면)
Naengmyeon literally translates to “cold noodles,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like! This popular summer Korean food is made of thin, long noodles made from buckwheat and vegetables like potato and sweet potato. Naengmyeon is served with a zesty stock, and sliced cucumber, pear, and radish are often added for additional flavor and crunch.
Don’t let the chilled part fool you — the broth is made from chilled beef or chicken stock, so it’s a hearty dish that will fill you up. This is definitely one of the more nutritious summertime meals you’ll find in Korea due to the added vegetables and the protein in the broth.
The next time you’re out for a fun summertime lunch with friends, give naengmyeon and see why it’s such a classic! You’ll be instantly refreshed, and it will give you energy for the rest of the day.
Summer Korean Food #5: Jjolmyeon (쫄면)
If you’re a fan of spice, look no further! Jjolmyeon is light, spicy dish that consists of chilled noodles, an optional hardboiled egg, and julienned vegetables like carrot and cucumber. The sauce that the noodles are marinated in is super spicy, but the carrot and the cucumber that the dish is usually served with balance out the spice and bring the dish together.
This dish is perfect as a light summertime snack, as it’s much lighter than naengmyeon due to the absence of a thick meat broth. The noodles in this dish are notorious for being chewy and a bit tricky to eat, so be sure to cut them before enjoying this spicy snack or you’ll be in for a surprise! Order jjolmyeon the next time you’re craving intense flavor but aren’t hungry enough to eat a huge meal and it’ll definitely do the trick.
Summer Korean Food #6: DalkKalguksu (닭칼국수)
DalkKalguksu is a classic Korean take on chicken noodle soup. Similar to samgyetang, dalkkalguksu features chicken that has been seasoned to perfection in a hot, savory broth, served with hearty noodles. Most variations of dalkkalguksu feature zucchini and green onions tossed with vinegar, brightening up the dish and making it a summertime favorite.
Although dalkkalguksu isn’t a chilled dish, it’s popular for the same reason that samgyetang is popular: dalkkalguksu is meant to help relieve the negative effects of sweating and summer fatigue by nourishing you and getting you back in tip top shape. Order this crowd pleaser after your next day in the sun and you’ll see why Korean diners say this dish helps them survive the summer!
Summer Korean Food #7: Jangeo Gui (장어구이)
If you’re an adventurous eater, jangeo gui is the dish for you this summer!
Jangeo gui, or grilled eel, is a popular summertime snack rich in vitamins and minerals that will keep your body ready for anything this summer. Although the idea of eating eel is a little intimidating if you haven’t done it before, the flavor is intensely delicious and can’t be found in other dishes!
The texture is also great — it’s a little bit tougher than fish, but when grilled it becomes tender on the inside and develops a nice sear on the outside. Put your fears aside and try some jangeo gui the next time your friends are grilling it up for dinner this summer. You won’t regret it!
Summer Korean Food #8: Korean Ice Cream (아이스크림)
We’ve been saving the best for last! Korean ice cream is both similar and different from the ice cream in Western countries. It’s found in convenience stores and grocery stores alike, so you should have no problem locating some frozen tasty treats this summer when you need to cool down. However, some types of Korean ice cream are like nothing you’ve ever seen before!
Take Samanco, for example – Samanco is a fish-shaped waffle treat with vanilla ice cream and red bean paste sandwiched in the middle (yes, you read that right). Step outside of your comfort zone and give some of the more unique Korean ice cream desserts a try! They’re super inexpensive at most shops, so your ice cream adventure won’t break the bank. Some of these snacks are very difficult to find outside of Korea, so if you have the opportunity to try them you absolutely should!
Korean Summer Food #9: Naeng-kong-guksu
Calling all vegetarians — please make it a point to try this delicious Korean dish this summer! Naeng-kong-guksu is a dish featuring cold noodles marinating in a creamy and thick broth made of soy beans. You absolutely do not have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this dish, but it’s a super popular summer option for vegetarians because unlike many dishes on this list, it’s refreshing and meat free!
Don’t be fooled — just because this dish doesn’t feature meat doesn’t mean it’s not super satisfying. Between the starchy noodles and the creamy broth, this dish will fill you up and make sure you have enough energy to make it through your day.
Popular variations of this dish include cucumber and peanuts mixed in, and if you’re enjoying it on a scorching Korean summer day, throw some ice cubes in there, too. (Really, it’s a thing — we swear.)
Korean Summer Food #10: Dotorimuk
If you need to cool down quickly this summer and you’re not afraid to try interesting dishes, make sure you check out dotorimuk! Dotorimuk is a flavorful chilled salad made from acorn jelly, a popular menu item in Korea. Acorn jelly is served cold and is densely packed with a mild nutty flavor and its consistency is similar to tofu. It’s also similar to tofu in the way that it doesn’t have a whole lot of distinct flavor on its own, and it will take on the flavor of whatever you prepare it in.
Dotorimuk combines acorn jelly and intense flavors like soy sauce, chili, and garlic in the sauce most commonly used when making the dish. The result is a refreshing meal that is brought together by the spice of the sauce and the unique texture of the acorn jelly, and it’s absolutely delightful.
Order dotorimuk the next time you see it on a menu this summer and you’ll be cooled down in no time!
Korean Summer Food #11: Kimchi-mari-guksu
As you’re most likely already aware, kimchi is wildly popular throughout Korea and around the world. It’s difficult to find a menu without a dish that features kimchi in Korea, due to its incredible versatility and its intense taste profile. It’ll come as no surprise, then, that one of the most popular Korean summertime dishes is a celebration of kimchi!
Kimchi-mari-guksu is a dish that incorporates cold noodles and an iced mixture of broths made from kimchi and meat. The result is a delicious flavor that marries the saltiness of the kimchi with the rich, savory notes of the meat, and the fact that its served cold makes the flavors that much more intense.
Kimchi-mari-guksu will keep you cool, but your mouth will be feeling the heat from the spiciness of the kimchi. This dish is a great way to get your spice fix in the summer, because the temperature of the broth will help you endure the spice without sweating up a storm.
Korean Summer Food #12: Subak Hwachae
If you’re in the mood for something sweet and refreshing this summer but want to go a non-ice cream route, you should seek out subak hwachae. The variations of subak hwachae are endless, but this fruit punch is almost always features watermelon along with other summertime fruit. The punch is also sweetened with honey to bring out the subtle sweetness of the fruit flavors (and make it all that more refreshing).
But wait, it gets better! Not only is this fruit punch made from watermelon, it’s usually served inside of a watermelon. When making subak hwachae, a melon baller is often used to scoop out the insides of a watermelon, incorporate them into the punch, and then the punch is served inside the hollow watermelon. It doesn’t get much more refreshing than that!
Subak hwachae can be a refreshing dessert or snack depending on how it’s made and what you’re in the mood for. If you are treating it as a dessert, it will often have edible flower petals or barley floating on the surface of the punch, which makes it pretty enough to snap a Facebook or Instagram picture before you enjoy.
Order subak hwachae after enjoying one of the savory dishes on this list for a well-rounded summertime Korean meal, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below!
Korean Summer Food #14: Chimaek
I know, you’re probably thinking “why would anyone eat fried chicken in the summertime?” But, when paired with a refreshing cold beer while hanging out on a restaurant’s patio in Seoul, it makes perfect sense! Chimaek literally translates to “chicken and beer” in English, which emphasizes how amazing this combination is in the warm summer months.
Nothing says summertime like hot weather, cold beer, and a spicy, savory snack to tie it all together. If you order chimaek at a restaurant this summer, it will more than likely be served with a side of radish cubes, which work to balance out the heat of the chicken and cool you down so you can fully enjoy your meal. Between the crisp, cool radishes and the ice cold beer, you’ll be good to go!
While this dish’s popularity originates from Korean food culture, it has gained popularity in China due to being featured as a favorite dish of a character on the Chinese drama “My Love From the Star.” If celebrities are enjoying it, you know it’s got to be good!
Make a point to indulge this summer and order chimaek the next time you’re relaxing at a restaurant with outdoor seating. You’ll be glad that you did!
Korean Summer Food #15: Oi-muchim
While most of the dishes on this list can be considered a full meal (or close to one), oi-muchim is the answer if you’re in search of a light summertime dish but can’t bring yourself to eat anything too heavy or filling. Most commonly eaten as a snack or a sidedish, oi-muchim is cut up cucumber marinated in vinegar and red chili flakes.
Cucumber is arguably one of the best summertime vegetables due to its high water content and crisp texture, and the vinegar and red chili flakes combine to bring out the subtle flavors of the cucumber. The chili flakes also add a spice that makes the dish interesting (because face it, although it’s great, cucumber isn’t super interesting on its own).
Order a side of oi-muchim as a standalone refresher or as a complementary side dish to one of the larger dishes on this list!
Hopefully, you feel more prepared for the scorching months ahead of us after reading this list! Be sure to try all of these delicious dishes before they become a bit harder to find as we get into the fall and winter months — they don’t disappear entirely, they’re just not featured as prominently as rich stews that warm you from the inside out take center stage. Did we forget your favorite summer Korean food? Be sure to let us know in the comments below so we can try it out!