As the hot and humid days of summer lie ahead for the next three months, finding ways to cool off has one yearning for more comfortable environs and seeking foods to comfort one’s stomach and weary soul. The Korean palate is often dictated by purpose and seasonality, so for that reason chicken, glutinous rice, cold noodle soups, and high protein ingredients such as sea abalone are highly coveted during the summer months.
Icy Pyongyang chogyetang (Christine Cho)
Chogyetang is a delectable chicken dish not so commonly found or known about, though it is best described as a hybrid of two very popular summer foods -- naengmyeon, the ubiquitous cold noodle soup, and samgyetang, a piping hot medicinal ginseng chicken soup known for its restorative properties. This peculiar dish originates from the northern regions of Korea and is sometimes referred to as Pyongyang or North Korean cuisine. Cold chicken soup may seem a bit esoteric, but when the ingredients are broken down, any food lover would understand why it is a truly distinctive dish with characteristics drawn from its many layers of flavor.
The name chogyetang literally translates into the Korean words for vinegar, chicken and soup. Once known as a classical dish made with over 20 herbs and vegetables for the royal court, chogyetang still possesses a delicate flavor unlike other meat-based soups. An ample amount of sourness is derived from the vinegar-based broth which is perfectly balanced with the fragrant chicken stock often made from white radish, ginseng, and a blend of medicinal herbs. Served ice-cold with the shredded meat from the bone, the final garnish is what pulls this dish together with crunchy pieces of Asian pear, cucumber, pickled radish and hot mustard to taste.
Pyongyang chogye makguksu, a northern Korean dish with chewy buckwheat noodles (Christine Cho)
At the thousands of Korean restaurants that usually make variations of the same dish, chogyetang is a delicious seasonal specialty that is a refreshing find, and highlights the regional flavors of northern Korea. Pyongyang cuisine, particularly its naengmyeon, has long been thought of as the purest of foods. It takes a number of tries before one can fully appreciate the clean and deep flavors of these dishes. But once you develop an understanding that “less is definitely more,” you can’t help but be entranced by the subtle simplicity. Chogyetang is a great example of the simple yet complex flavors of northern cuisine and the evolution of a dish, once known as a winter food now enjoyed in the summer throughout the country. Great places to enjoy chogyetang and Pyongyang cuisine:
Pyongyang Chogyetang Makguksu
Address: Ojeon-li 309-6, Jungbu-myeon
Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province
Telephone: (031) 746-2479Pyeongraeok
Address: 18-1, Jeo-dong 2-ga
Telephone: (02) 2267-5892Pildong Myeonok
Address: 1-5, Pildong 3-ga
By Christine Cho (email@example.com
Christine Cho, a Korean-American expat in Seoul, has been eating and cooking her way around the world for 16 years as a private chef. -- Ed.