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Healing Culture in Korea: Discover the healing powers of traditional Korean dishes!

One aspect of Korean culture that people may not know about or be familiar with is “healing” or as it’s known here “힐링“. As for the origin, many believe that it arose from the negative impacts people suffered as a result of socioeconomic and cultural pressures in Korea.

I first heard of “healing” when I came to Korea on holiday in 2019 (pre-covid). I noticed a lot of Airbnb listings with the term “healing” in their description and quickly realised it was a term to describe the calmness and serenity that is meant to come by staying at their house. In Korea another common place to hear of “healing” are healing cafes - these are cafes you can sit in a massage chair or have a foot soak. The basic concept is to heal yourself in someway, which I think is a worthwhile concept to try to live by.

Everyone has heard of popular Korean dishes such as Kimchi Jjiggae, tteokbokki and of course the very famous K-BBQ! In terms of the Korean concept of “healing” and as seasons change I’d like to bring you four Korean dishes you can eat to achieve “healing” for sickness. Whether that be a cold or anything else. These foods help lighten and lift the soul. Let’s begin.

You can click each dish picture for a link to the recipe!

Chicken Ginseng Soup “삼계탕”

As far as I am aware, in terms of being sick and recovery 삼계탕 (Samgyetang) is the mother of all soups to drink for a sure recovery. Samgyetang consists mainly of chicken, ginseng and rice and is commonly eaten in Korea in the summer. It is meant to warm up and heal the body so it’s known as a health food. Every culture has their twist on a chicken soup for when you’re feeling sick! This is Korea’s!

Juk “죽“

Another very common food Koreans eat while sick is Juk. Juk is known as a porridge rice type dish. Its ingredients vary (you can have chicken, tuna, beef etc). It is easy to digest and for this reason commonly eaten by hospital patients.

Seaweed Soup “미역국”

Miyeokguk, if you would have asked me about this a year ago I would have made an unpleasant face, but as I kept eating small amounts of miyeokguk, I felt the warmness that comes from it. This soup is originally (though there are variations to the origin) eaten on birthdays, it’s meant to be a symbol of good health and I believe mothers also eat this soup after giving birth as celebration for their hard work and the sacrifices they make through pregnancy.

Gabriella’s Choice: Seolleongtang “설렁탕”

This soup does not typically come up as a “healing” food but I believe it is nutritious! Let me tell you why. Not only is a warm, peppery soup with thinly sliced beef and noodles (I’ve become hungry typing this), it is a bone broth soup which is beneficial for bone health and general restoration. I drink 설렁탕when I want to increase energy. It’s rich in nutrients, protein, collagen and calcium, generally low in calories too.

As with all dishes in the world there are considerations that should be taken for example, the sodium content, calories and nutrient intake as this varies from person to person!

I’d like to add one more! Not a food but a beverage:

Honey and Citrus (usually Yuzu) Tea “유자차” /Honey and Ginger tea

유자차” Yuja Cha is prepared by mixing yuja marmalade with hot water and can be taken as a remedy for common colds. You can find these at most cafes here in Korea and coffee franchises. Citrus fruits and honey are excellent for colds and when you’re feeling sick. I usually have a hot yuzu or lemon tea to soothe a sore throat! So next time you’re not feeling too great swap out your coffee for one of these teas. It will soothe the soul.

My culture has so many foods that are eaten for wellness and recovery while being sick. I’m sure yours does too! Comment below what you think of the Korean foods for “healing” or what foods you have in your own culture that could represent “healing”!


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