Chicken is one of the most popular foods throughout the world, but few countries must feel a greater sense of guilt towards the fowl than Korea. In June and July, when the 2018 FIFA World Cup was underway, countless hens and roosters were fried up and consumed by Korean football fans while they watched the games on television. Fans were left disappointed when the Korean squad fell out of the tournament early on, but people wryly noted that the nation’s chickens were sure to have welcomed the result. Of course in truth, a huge number of chickens were sacrificed in Korea even before the current fad of fried chicken and beer began.
Since many moons ago, chicken has been loved as stamina-boosting food. During the Joseon period, Koreans beat the summer heat by eating baeksuk, whole chicken soup, and with the onset of the 20th century, samgyetang, chicken soup with ginseng, helped them to stomach the sultry weather. Even those who do not particularly care for samgyetang eat it at least once or twice a year with the belief that it is good for their health. Some view samgyetang as a favorite of the middle-aged or elderly, but it remains a dish for everyone, regardless of age and passing trends. Samgyetang is a full chicken boiled in soup that contains ginseng, jujube, garlic, and other vegetables, herbs, and glutinous rice and is known to be effective at dissipating fatigue, enhancing stamina, and preventing aging.
Of course Koreans aren’t alone in eating chicken to promote health. In France, the gourmand’s paradise, foie gras, made of the liver of goose, and escargot, the land snail, are the luxury stamina foods, but the French people also like to eat coq au vin. “Coq au vin” literally means “chicken with wine.” It is a dish of chicken and vegetables braised with wine. While Samgyetang is favored in the summer, coq au vin is eaten more in the cold season.
Egypt has a dish that can be compared to the chicken dishes of Korea and France. Hamam mahshi uses squab, the young pigeon, rather than chicken. The whole pigeon is stuffed with rice, like the chicken in samgyetang, and barbecued. Egyptians eat hamam mahshi not only for health but to honor guests on special occasions. As the bird is so small, hungry diners may eat a couple of them for a single meal.
Peruvians beat the hot weather by eating a famous traditional health food called cuy. It is made by roasting guinea pig, the plump rodent, seasoned with garlic and salt, and served with potato or corn, though it cannot be eaten frequently as it is quite expensive. As we talk about these beneficial, heat-beating dishes, we can’t help but feel sorry for our animal friends who lose their lives for our dining pleasure. This summer, why don’t we limit our stamina food to just a single serving?
Written by Kim Daniel
Illustrated by Jeong Hyoju