Summers in Japan and Korea are hot. I grew up in the Seattle-area my whole life and summers here are usually warm, mild and not very humid.
My first time in Japan during summer was a shock. Other than my time studying abroad in Vietnam, I had never felt such heat and humidity. Even people who live there get pretty uncomfortable this time of year. The summers get particularly bad during late July-August because the rainy season is over but the humidity remains. This is known as zansho (残暑).
In the past, I wrote about the tradition of eating unagi eels in Japan around July 15th. This known as doō ushi no hi (土用丑の日), where “ushi” (丑) refers to the Chinese-zodiac sign of the Ox. Foods with also starting with “u” became popular foods particularly unagi eels.
Korea also has its own traditions and summer foods. The period between mid-July to mid-Auguest is called sanbok (삼복, 三伏) or the “three prostrations”. The name comes from the fact that there are three holidays during this period: chobok (初伏, 초복), chungbok (中伏, 중복) and malbok (末伏, 말복). These signal the beginning, middle and end of the dog-days of summer. The days will slightly vary each year depending on the Chinese-calendar, still in use in traditional Korean culture.
A popular dish during this time is samgyetang (삼계탕 蔘鷄湯):
Samgyetang is chicken soup cooked with ginseng, glutinous rice and often with other assorted herbs. At the H-Mart (Korean grocery store) near our home, we’ve purchased Samgyetang before and cooked it at home. It was pretty tasty. It’s a different flavor than any other chicken soup I’ve eaten before, but it was good. Also, the ginseng, popular in Korean culture, and other herbs are thought to help reinvigorate a person during the terrible heat.
However you deal with summer heat, make sure to get plenty of fluids and rest, though! Enjoy!