#Shiwonhada: Intensely Refreshing Korean Foods
In summer, the word that you need to know in Korea is Shiwonhada. But, you can’t just say the word, you have to precede it by saying, “Ahhhhh…” Say it with me, “Ahhhh…Shiwonhada.” Shiwonhada in Korea means cool and it is often said after experiencing a great shift in temperature such as experiencing a cool breeze after a run or after working hard all day and for dinner you have an ice-cold soup. Shiwonhada can also be said after having a shot of soju after a stressful day or the first sip of a bubbling hot soup that awakens your senses. Its a word that expresses an emotional sense of refreshment. Korea has many dishes that convey this idea of intense refreshment. Here is a list of 7 of my favorite chilled dishes. Note: I am leaving naengmyeon off this list since I and others have written about it so often. This is a list of more unique and unusual cold Korean dishes.
7. Cucumber Chilled Soup (Oi Naengchae 오이냉채)
This chilled cucumber and seaweed soup is a soup that I dream of when it gets hot. It is a perfect balance of land and the sea. The vinegar adds the right amount of brightness to balance the spiciness of the chili, and the seaweed and cucumbers add freshness. As a child, this is a dish that my mother would often make for me. She still makes when I go visit her at her home. It’s simply made by soaking seaweed and slicing the cucumbers but when you add the seasoning, it truly takes a mother’s touch. If you go too heavy on the soy sauce, vinegar, soy sauce or chili; it will taste off. This chilled soup goes perfectly with a bowl of rice or as a side for spicy chicken (dakgalbi).
6. Raw Fish in Chili Soup (Mul-hwae 물회)
The first time I had Mul-hwae was when I was at the seafood town of Yeongdeok on the east coast. It was a hot day and I wanted a dish that had seafood since the city is famous for their seafood. Mul-hwae is similar to ceviche since the acid from the vinegar and chilies technically cook the raw fish. For the seafood element of this dish you can have raw flounder, oysters or abalone as the seafood along with sprouts, cucumber, seaweed, and shredded sesame leaves. The vinegared red chili paste, cho-gochujang, pairs well with the sesame leaf and the vegetables add a nice crunch to this chilled soup. This dish usually comes with a few side dishes and noodles or rice. Its best when the broth is icy cold.
5. Chilled Soybean Milk Noodles (Kongguksu 콩국수)
This dish is an anomaly and it is a dish that many of my foreign guests think is a fictional Korean dish designed for vegans. The secret of this dish is the broth which is made of very fresh ground soy beans that is then mixed with different nut and bean powders. When the broth is made correctly, it is thick like eggnog and tastes like cream with a hint of pecan. The noodles are just a carrier for the soybean milk. At a famous place for this dish around city hall, you’ll see lines around the block and almost every person that eats there will finish every drop of the soy milk. Some will even buy an extra bottle of the broth to drink later.
4. Spicy Seafood Mixed Noodles (Hamheung Bibim Hwae Naengmyeon 함흥 비빔회냉면)
Hamheung Buckwheat noodles have a chew and a elasticity that might be difficult for non-Koreans but that is what makes them a delicacy here. These noodles are mixed with potato starch to give them extra chew and to add smoothness. When these noodles are doused in a fiery sauce and topped with some fermented seafood such as skate, it becomes a delightful meal in summer. The famous area for this is in the Ojangdong area of Seoul but if you are looking for the original, then you should head over to Seokcho. For those that like noodles that are closer to soba, I would recommend makguksu from Chuncheon.
3. Spicy Sea Snail and Noodle Salad (Golbaengi-muchim 골뱅이무침)
I respect the restauranteur that came up with the concept of “Chicken Baengi,” a famous Korean fried chicken franchise because his out of the box thinking paired a classic seafood dish with fried chicken. Korean sea snails are quite large and are considered whelks. When they are steamed, sliced, mixed with cucumbers, onions and other vegetables, tossed with a chili sauce and served with light wheat noodles, the result is an chilled noodle/salad dish that pairs well with end with soju, beer and fried chicken. The crunchy vegetables in this dish makes it a light side menu to have while drinking on a summer night.
2. Chilled Grain Drink (Misugaru 미숫가루)
A drink my wife makes all the time is a mixed grain drink that has 10 different grains such as roasted barley, soybeans, peanuts, sesame, beans, corn and millet. She takes two scoops of the powder and puts it in a bowl and then adds water or milk. She then uses her spoon to mix it all up and later will add ice cubes to it. Its very refreshing and tastes like a peanut butter milkshake. This powder has also been a very popular topping on shaved ice.
1. Acorn Jelly Salad (Muk Muchim 묵무침)
The brown jiggly jelly is another surprising dish for my foreigner guests. Acorn jelly has a flavor that has a slight astringency but has the texture of jelly. I always say that it is like a chubby baby’s thigh to which they laugh. When the jelly is tossed with a chili cucumber salad, it is quite good. The only problem is that it is so difficult to pick up with chopsticks.