The hot and humid summer season in Seoul can really dampen your spirits and cause a loss in appetite. But here are some of the top dishes and drinks locals turn to for invigoration.
Probably the best known dish for stamina for non-Koreans is samgyetang. This soup dish has a whole chicken stuffed and cooked with sticky rice, ginseng, and other goods and boiled together. There are many famous restaurants specializing in this dish but one that’s conveniently found right in the popular neighborhood of Myeongdong is “Y”-yang Center which has dished out its samgyetang and roasted chicken to diners since 1960. If you want a different take on samgyetang, “H”-bang Tongdak in Hannamdong has a roasted version where similarly the chicken is stuffed with sticky rice, jujubes, and other herbs to create a roasted version of samgyetang.
A similar dish to samgyetang is baeksook in which chicken is steamed with ingredients to make a simple but nutritious dish. In northern Seoul, the “S”bukdong Nurungji Baeksook is a favorite for many. Similar to samgyetang, the whole stuffed chicken here is cooked but on the side they provide nurungji also known as scorched rice that has been cooked in the chicken broth for a delicious treat.
For seafood lovers, grilled eel, known as jangeo, is highly regarded by locals for being packed with protein, vitamin E and its immunity-boosting properties. Jongno and other older neighborhoods have many famous grilled eel restaurants but a famous one in Gangnam is “D”-uh Mari which offers fresh and energetic eels that are grilled quickly over charcoal and kissed with salt to give it a fresh and clean taste. If you prefer stronger flavors, eel restaurants like “N”Seoul Minmul Jangeo are known for their grilled eel brushed with soy sauce
For the more adventurous eaters, ground loach fish soup, called chueotang, is a viable option. One restaurant that specializes in this dish, “H”jae Chueotang, also happens to be one of Seoul’s oldest restaurants. Their chueotang has been a favorite for many generations since 1926 while you can get the unground version called chutang here as well. If chueotang is too adventurous for you, try ox bone soup, or seolleongtang from “I”mun Seolnongtang. Their milky white seollongtang is chock full of nutrition and is a perfect match for their crunchy kkakdugi as the many people who have dined at Seoul’s oldest restaurant can attest to.
While it’s easy to refresh yourself with an iced latte at the thousands of cafes in Seoul, why not enjoy a Korean tea that will quench your thirst and boost your spirits? Many traditional tea houses are found in areas like Seochon, Bukchon, and Insadong where you can pick up energizing drinks like sikhye or sujeonggwa. Sikhye is a sweet Korean rice beverage made with ingredients like cooked grain and pine nuts and is said to aid with digestion while sujeonggwa is a cold punch made with cinnamon, ginger, and other ingredients. Another favorite is cold omija tea made with omija berries which gives a variety of mouthwatering flavors.
Another option to boost your health and stamina is to visit the Seoul Yangnyeong Market in Jegidong. As one of Korea’s most famous oriental medicine market, it’s well known not only for the market’s sheer size and varied offerings but the cheaper costs. Korean medicinal herbs, roots, including favorites like ginseng roots can be picked up here. One particular drink commonly offered for those who need a pick-me-up is sangmaeksan made from ginseng, omjia, and other ingredients. You can also receive consultation from the many oriental medicine doctors on what hanyak, or oriental medicine, may be good for you at this market.