Cycle 4 – Item 199
23 (Tue) July 2013
Baeksuk + Juk
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
As per traditional Korean belief, boknal (복날) are three pre-determined days that officially mark the beginning, middle, and end of the summer’s hottest and most humid period. The term means “surrender (bok) day (nal).” Reckoned by the lunar calendar, the corresponding dates differ every year on the solar calendar but typically span about 20 days around mid-July to mid-August. This year, the canicular period comprises chobok (초복) (“cho = beginning”) on July 13, jungbok (중복) (“jung = middle”) on July 23, and malbok (말복) (“mal = end”) on August 12. In addition to the obvious discomfort, the sweltering heat is believed to drain the body of vital energies.
To prevent such loss and/or to replenish those energies if lost, the solution is to eat something hot and steamy, specifically on each of the boknal. Fight fire with fire. One example from yore would be bosin tang (보신탕) (“protect (bo) + body (sin)”), a spicy stew made with dog meat, which seems to have largely fallen out of favor in modern times, hopefully gone altogether someday soon. More commonly these days, samgye tang is the thing. Regardless of whether they actually believe in the therapeutic effects, a lot of Koreans do eat such foods around the boknal, if only symbolically.
An acceptable substitute for samgye tang is baeksuk. Whereas one is always cooked and served whole, along with the rice and herbs stuffed within, including ginseng by definition, the other may be made and consumed according to personal preference, whole or in pieces or shredded, with or without rice, during or after, potatoes maybe, ginseng optional. Due to its more casual nature, baeksuk is quite often done at home, while samgye tang rarely is. Another point in baeksuk’s favor is that it can be shared with others, while samgye tang is an individual dish.
This recipe can be prepared in 2 parts: the chicken and potatoes for dinner followed by the porridge in the leftover broth for breakfast the next morning, but ideally they should go together.
- 12 cups water
- 1 large scallion, cut into large chunks
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 small knob ginger, peeled
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 bag baeksuk packet (see below)
- 2 1-kg chickens, quartered if necessary to fit into the pot
- 2 tsp salt
- 8-12 baby potatoes, peeled
- 1 cup glutinous rice, rinsed
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 dash ground white pepper
1. In a large pot, combine water + scallion + garlic + peppercorns + baeksuk packet, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30.
TIP: The herbs and wood chips provide a subtle fragrance to the stock, but not all that much. I used a packet here for illustrative purposes, but I usually don’t bother, unless a packet comes free with the chicken. Substituting bay leaves would work.
2. Remove the aromatics and wood chips from the stock.
3. Add the chicken + salt to the stock and bring back to the boil, skim impurities that rise to the surface, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.
4. Add the potatoes (+ jujubes), cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until both the chicken and the potatoes are fully cooked.
5. Reserving 3 cups of stock, transfer the remaining stock + chicken + potatoes (+ jujubes) into a large serving platter, and serve as a main course with dipping salt or seasoned soy sauce.
6. Add the rice + soy sauce to the stock and simmer on low heat, stirring constantly until the rice is thoroughly cooked (beyond al dente).
7. Season with white pepper and serve, usually with a side of kimchi, to finish the meal.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)