Sambok (삼복), the Dog Days of Summer

One reason I love doing this blog is because I’m constantly learning new things. The subject of this post is a prime example. I had no idea there was a summer “holiday,” for lack of a better term. Sambok refers to the time period encompassing the hottest three days of the year and honoring this time of year shows how Koreans traditionally beat the heat. (This time period is also sometimes referred to as 복날, bok nal, which is loosely translated “dog days of summer.”)

Sambok occurs over the course of a month and the dates are set using the lunar calendar. Three important dates make up sambok; they occur between the beginning of the sixth and seventh months on the lunar calendar. One site lists the dates as June 10 and 20 and July 10 on the lunar calendar. So that means this year sambok started on July 19 (on the Gregorian calendar) with chobok (초복), the first important date of sambok.

Ten days after chobok the second date occurs; it’s jungbok (July 29 this year on our calendar). Then 20 days after jungbok, the third (and last) date occurs. This one is called malbok (Aug. 8 this year on the western calendar).

Traditionally this was a time for farmers to relax some before the harvest, and they might use this time to take a short vacation. But today, there really aren’t special traditions for sambok except for food. Koreans believe that when it’s hot outside you need nutritious foods that rejuvenate you. And that usually means soup following another Korean belief: “iyeol chiyeol,” which translates “control heat with heat.”

Today the most popular soup to control the heat is samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup). But in the past boshintang (dog meat soup) was a favorite during sambok. More on both of these dishes coming up.

The Korea Tourism site has a great page on sambok, including some restaurants where you can find the best dishes to beat the heat.

And the Korea Times had an article on eating soups to fight the heat.

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