Octopus and Bingsu (shaved ice), Indispensable Summer Favorites!
When temperatures peak in summer and the humidity becomes unbearable, Koreans like to eat certain foods – known as Boyangsik – to ‘invigorate’ themselves. There are many dishes which Koreans believe to be healthy, but today I will introduce octopus, a highly nutritious low-calorie seafood.
Octopus is rich in taurine and low in calories. Taurine is known to fight cancer, alleviate fatigue, and stimulate the liver. It is also rich in DHA which is known to assist the development of the brain, improve the memory, and prevent Alzheimer’s. Octopus also contains high levels of potassium, which helps the body pass sodium and thus contributes to keeping cholesterol levels under control, and iron, which prevents anemia. All these health benefits make it easy to understand why octopus tops the list of summer boyangsik.
Octopus can be prepared in many different ways: it can be enjoyed raw; cooked in a casserole, clear soup or spicy stir-fry; or marinated and grilled on a skewer. I visited Seorin Nakji, an octopus restaurant located in Suwon that is famous for its octopus soup (Yeonpotang) and stir-fried octopus (Nakji-bokkeum). Why not beat the heat this summer with some exotic octopus dishes?
All the dishes served at Seorin Nakji are accompanied by numerous side dishes designed to complement octopus perfectly, such as white kimchi, warm crunchy fritters, stir-fried glass noodles and vegetables, and chilled radish water kimchi prepared by an experienced chef. Yeonpotang or octopus soup is made with fresh vegetables and octopus. The vegetables are boiled together to make a clear broth, while octopus is added later to maintain its texture and flavor. You can taste the side dishes while you wait for the soup to come to the boil, whereupon you will be presented with a live octopus which is then cut into bite-size pieces and thrown into the soup. A short simmer later the octopus is ready to be enjoyed! Scoop up some vegetables and octopus in a spoon to get the best of the spicy soup. The hot spicy soup and the natural flavor of par-boiled octopus will have you hooked all summer long!
Another great dish from Seorin Nakji is stir-fried octopus or Nakji-bokkeum. Unlike other restaurants, Seorin Nakji stir-fries octopus in spicy seasoning without mixing in any vegetables. The best way to enjoy this dish is to mix the cooked octopus with the vegetables and rice that are served together in order to make your own bibimbap. The spices in the stir-fry and the hot yeonpotang soup will make you sweat and cool your body down.
Address: 101-2, Maetan 1-dong, Yeongtong-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do
Main menu: Spicy Stir-fried Octopus with Rice KRW 8,000 / Stir-fried Octopus KRW 16,000 / Octopus Soup KRW 18,000 (Octopus: Imported) / KRW 23,000 (Octopus: Korean) / Braised Octopus KRW 55,000 / Green Onion Pancake with Octopus and Seafood KRW 8,000
How to get to Seorin Nakji: Take bus Nos. 99-2, 80, 37, 10, or 83-1 from Suwon Station (Subway Line no. 1, Bundang Line) and get off at Beobwon Sageori (4-Way Intersection at Court)
I have covered the restaurant’s main summertime dishes and it’s time to move on to summer desserts. Shaved ice or Bingsu is an immensely popular summer dessert among Koreans. Topped with sweet red beans, fruits, rice cakes, and other assorted ingredients, it is widely available at cafés throughout Korea. Bingsu originates from the Joseon Period when ice from stone ice storage facilities was shaved so that it could be distributed more easily by officials. The shaved ice was often made into an icy fruit salad. Now available in a wide variety of flavors and toppings, this cold dessert is enjoyed by everyone.
Danpatso, one of the many cafés in Jeongja-dong, Seongnam-si, is famous for its unique bingsu, and makes its own sweet red bean topping cooked in a giant kiln.
This cozy café has a low-key interior that is down-to-earth yet comfortable. The menu keeps it simple and offers two shaved ice varieties; one with milk, the other with black sesame. Both bingsu dishes can be ordered with pastry stuffed with sweet red beans on the side.
The café is decorated with familiar vintage advertisement posters that keep you distracted while you wait for your dessert. Customers cannot fail to notice the giant kiln in the kitchen which is used to cook red beans. Nothing is served out of a can in this café. Simple as it may be, it Danpatso has an inviting air with an interesting antique aura.
Danpatso’s shaved ice with black sesame is served topped with sweet red beans that give the dessert a rich nutty flavor. Its shaved ice with milk is topped with sweet and sour raspberries that complement the creamy soft milk. Its bingsu has a sweetness that does not overpower the natural flavor of the red beans. What’s more, the sweet red bean-filled pastry is made of natural enzymes and whole wheat that set it apart from similar red bean desserts.
Red beans, the main topping of shaved ice, are rich in nutrients that will help you to overcome the summer heat. Rich in protein, vitamins B1, B2, and E, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber, red beans help the body flush out heavy metals and other bodily waste. Red beans also have a diuretic effect as they boost the kidney and bladder function, while their saponin content gives the metabolism a boost and assists recovery from fatigue.
When the summer heat peaks and the sun starts to melt the asphalt, why not try some octopus with shaved ice as a dessert.
Address: 230, Jeongjail-ro, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do
Main menu: Large Bingsu (Milk or Black Sesame topping) KRW 8,000 / Small Bingsu (Milk or Black Sesame topping) KRW 5,800 / Sweet Red Bean-filled Pastry KRW 1,800
How to get to Danpatso: Walk for 10 minutes towards Café Street from Exit no. 5 of Jeongja Station (Bundang Line or Sinbundang Line).0