There are some experiences throughout Korean childhood which can be so common, you nearly take them as a right. The bowl-shaped haircut between the ages of three and 7. Style testing all through your mother’s all-day kimchi-making periods. And, in fact, going out to eat with your loved ones at a Korean restaurant that serves boiling scorching soups in sturdy stone dolsot-ttukbaegi bowls.
As a child, you sit there, consuming the scalding soup and plates of banchan portioned out for you, listening to the conversations taking place on the desk. In some unspecified time in the future within the dinner, inevitably, one of many adults will utter this expression: “Ahh, shiwonhada!” (“아, 시원하다!”)
Not less than, that’s what occurred to me many instances, having dinners with my mother and pa at soup homes like Busan Gukbap in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The phrase, as my mother and father defined it to me, means, roughly, “That’s refreshing.”
Herein lies the puzzle: How might one thing so scorching be thought of refreshing? In my childhood, this query persevered as an unsolved thriller.
The Korean Meals Analysis Institute, the one government-funded meals science analysis group in South Korea, describes the sensation of shiwonhada as a “bodily sense of openness skilled as a sensation of aid within the chest, abdomen, and digestive system.” And it’s true. The time period captures the sensation of a warm-to-boiling meals gently coming into the tender tissues of the mouth, gliding down the throat, and making a chic, nonabrasive touchdown within the abdomen.
Herein lies the puzzle: How might one thing so scorching be thought of refreshing?
“Ahh, shiwonhada!” additionally tends to behave as an expression of final pleasure upon consuming one thing that simply actually hits the spot. It may be directed towards any kind of meals that gives these serendipitous moments of elevated satisfaction, however it’s most frequently related to scorching meals.
Irene Yoo, of the Yoo Eating artistic meals platform and YouTube channel, derives the feeling from jogaetang (clam soup in clear broth), however it’s not restricted to soup (or to Korean meals) for her. “Generally it’s a very good egg sandwich or pizza,” she tells me. “Simply one thing that, once you lastly take the primary chew, you chill out whereas happiness washes over you.”
Chef and writer of Everyday Korean Seung Hee Lee tells me that Mexican dishes like caldo de pollo or caldo de camarón generally do the trick. “Their spice ranges and acid ranges actually give me that satisfaction. I really feel entire once I eat it, and like I’m heading towards the trajectory of feeling renewed once more.”
This want for recuperation is a common feeling. Haven’t all of us had nights once we’ve gotten just a little too drunk, then suffered painful mornings? Waking up, you're feeling groggy, dehydrated, and overburdened—notably within the abdomen. Akin to Pedialyte and Gatorade, Koreans flip to scorching, brothy soups as a lifeline. Haejangguk is a class of guk that’s tailored for chasing away a hangover.
They're lighter-bodied, broth-based (sometimes beef or vegetable) soups (tangs) with a excessive liquid-to-solid ingredient ratio. Although not a direct equal, the Vietnamese noodle dish Bún bò Huế has the same freshness and, furthermore, is suspended in a fragile inventory product of beef and pork bone. Comparatively, jjigae, like kimchi or budae jjigae, are thicker, saltier stews, which fulfill in a extra full-bodied, stick-to-your-ribs sort of method that lingers as an alternative of treading calmly.
So, with a number of slurps and moans of ahh, detoxing with a steamy, brothy meal supplies a sense of blockage or suffocated vitality getting cleared away. “Possibly that’s why, when Koreans eat scorching soups, we are saying ‘shiwonhada,’ despite the fact that the precise soup could also be boiling and spicy. It’s nourishing, filling, and satisfying.” says illustrator Eunsan Huh of the My Korean Childhood Instagram. “And I assume, after you sweat from consuming the recent soup, you’ll even be cooler.”
There’s actual science to again this up. Once you eat one thing scorching, your physique temperature adjustments in accordance with the ambient temperature and unleashes cooling mechanisms. Fluid replenishment aids in the breakdown of toxic acetaldehyde compounds garnered from alcohol consumption. Kongnamul-guk, bean sprout soup, is a go-to kind of haejangguk. Its preparation entails gently cooking bean sprouts with anchovy inventory and salt, whereas retaining their freshness and fibrous crispness intact. To successfully cleanse the morning after an evening of consuming, one would possibly flip to this vegetal elixir. Bean sprouts contain high levels of aspartic acid, which promotes the creation of dehydrogenase, a vital enzyme wanted in acetaldehyde breakdown.
If a meals imparts a sure soul-revitalizing high quality, actually anybody can say the magic phrase.
Identical to I did, Korean children in all places ask adults why they are saying “shiwonhada” when consuming scorching dishes. The adults are inclined to reply with one thing alongside the strains of, “You’ll know when you grow old and expertise actual life.” It has been demonstrated that Koreans, particularly middle-aged males (known as ahjussi) of their forties and fifties, are extra aware of the phrase and sensation in comparison with these of their twenties and thirties. However the food-inclined on this youthful era are inclined to protest this generalization. “I believe that picture could also be resulting from media portrayals,” argues Lee. “However I’ve positively heard different individuals say it. They might not make the identical exaggerated noises [that older Korean men do], however it’s one thing that's understood and felt past that group.”
The media interpretations Lee is referring to are these of South Korean movie and tv. Okay-dramas, variety shows, and commercials congregate hunky males and hyperbolize photos of them slurping away at their effervescent guks. A big a part of gauging that shiwonhan-mat (or refreshing style) is the bodily act of holding the complete bowl to your face as an alternative of spooning from it; gravity catalyzes the sleek sliding of meals by means of your system. You gulp it down, and you may’t assist however say, “Ahh, shiwonnnn-hada!” “You gotta draw out the ‘gained’ for emphasis,” says Huh. Popular culture has upheld the stereotype that it’s an ahjussi-specific sensation. However on this case, age (and gender) is somewhat arbitrary; and in addition to, in accordance with Yoo, “You know half the time these ahjussis say that, it’s as a result of they’re hungover, proper?” If a meals imparts a sure soul-revitalizing high quality, actually anybody can say the magic phrase.
Whereas it may be tempting to pin that quintessential shiwonhan-mat to a very spicy, umami, or acidic taste notice, it goes past the tip of the tongue or the again of the throat. It's a bodily, emotional sensation of catharsis. It relaxes psychological and bodily rigidity and is akin to taking a deep, cleaning breath right into a state of grace. Meals author and recipe developer Hana Asbrink places it finest when she tells me, “I simply know the ‘shiwonhan’ high quality when it helps launch some in any other case unknown interior turmoil.”
Possibly it’s as a result of I’m not a soju-loving ahjussi, however I don’t assume I’ve ever reached the purpose of proclaiming out loud, “Ahh, shiwonhada!” after consuming any meals. But it surely may be time for me to enterprise to Koreatown and check out once more. I gained’t push it; as I’ve realized, the response comes naturally. When the time comes, I hope it’s loud sufficient to confuse a younger child a number of tables away from me.