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What's the idea behind boiling hot Korean soups?

Saw the Kimchi Chronicles, which showed some soups served at the table boiling hot, and have also seen it served that way at Korean restaurants. Why so hot? Why not serve it at a normal hot soup temperature? Seems so impractical if you have to wait 10 minutes to even take your first taste of it.

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  1. Through practice you can drink 100oC hot soup.....

    I don't know. I think there is this idea that the soup is freshly made, so you see if boiling at your table. In addition, the idea of cool soup is much frown upon in Eastern-Asian culture.

    1. Isn't that so that they can put raw ingredients into the soup and the boiling hot broth will lightly cook them?

      4 Replies
        1. re: Kajikit

          That's what I thought, since when I get soon dubu jigae, there's always an egg in it that needs to cook at the table. Also, it's pretty exciting to have something that looks like molten lava set in front of you.

            1. re: mattstolz

              I thought of this as well. But for hot-pot, it usually comes with a heater of some sort under it, and you wait for your food to cook at the table.

          1. houses without central heating in the winter? The fact that the bowls (stone or earthenware) keep the soup hot is probably more important the initial temperature.

            There's a summer 'soup' - served in a double walled stainless steel bowl with ice cubes.

            1. If you are referring to Jjigae, then it's to keep warm.

              Ever spend a winter in Seoul? It's usually below freezing for the most part. http://user.chollian.net/~jis0523/kor...

              As I understand it, traditionally many Korean homes did not have central heat, and many parts of Korea are rather cold in the autumn and winter months (understatement on my part), and thus the boiling pots of stew was both practical, if not outrageously delicious.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Was just going to say it's flippin' cold there! One of my son's friends served a tour of duty in Korea and he really despised the cold weather. (^_^)

              2. I can eat those boiling hot soups moments after being served. I love really hot foods. WIth the soon du bu (tofu stew), they serve it with a raw egg, not that it's crucial to cook the egg - as I also am served rice in Persian restaurants with a raw egg.

                1. In the case of sundubu jjigae (tofu stew), so it will cook the protein and you can crack an egg into it to enrich the soup.

                  In any case, they're normally served with rice which may be any temperature. Put 'em together and have you got? Per-fect-ly-ed-i-ble-stew! ;-)

                  1. My theory is that Koreans like to inflict pain on themselves -- or at least like extreme things. I love boiling hot Korean soups and I despise cooled soups unless it's supposed to be cold like mul naeng myun. And when it's cold, it's ice cold as they usually stick ice cubes in that dish. Koreans generally like to eat hot foods hot -- which is one of the reasons why I think they eat really quickly so they eat it before it's cooled.

                    DH (who is not Korean) needs to wait a bit for stuff to cool down before eating. But I'll start digging in right away. Waiting 10 minutes before eating is torturous in my eyes!

                    1. It's tradition that when you eat at restaurants, the food cooks in front of you. This is not seen only with the hot pots but with the tables with built-in stoves for do-it-yourself grilling or do-it-yourself stews. Koreans just like that stuff, and as to why, I can't really give you a reason. My Korean family has always emphasized eating things when they are freshly made and embraced the concept that food tastes better if you eat it as soon as it's prepared. And I have never witnessed anyone burning themselves or consume the food with the notion that they are inflicting pain on themselves. I guess we're all trained to eat food while it's super hot, so we all able to eat the food at high temperatures.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: looosia

                        >And I have never witnessed anyone burning themselves

                        You've obviously never swallowed a piece of tofu straight out of a burning hot Korean soup...it's a hilariously painful experience. Something about tofu makes it cool down slower than all the other ingredients - when you realize how hot it is in your mouth your first instinct is to swallow - and then you literally feel it burning as it goes down your esophagus. Try it some time. ;)

                        1. re: joonjoon

                          I am a champion at eating soon tofu jigae piping hot from the stone bowl. When it comes to Korean food, my insides are made of steel. This is what I mean: Koreans are just trained to eat stuff like this. I really do know what I am talking about!

                          1. re: looosia

                            I think joonjoon is Korean. See also his post below. :-)

                            1. re: huiray

                              Yes it was assumed. My response was nothing but positive. I'm Korean too, so this just may be competitive eating remarks from one Korean to another. :)

                              1. re: looosia

                                Haha I'm actually a very wimpy Korean when it comes to hot soups...I can't handle them! They always seem to burn the crap out of my mouth. I'm a disgrace to our people..lol

                          2. re: joonjoon

                            I have experienced the burning tofu pain, and it is excruciating. My esophagus was sore for a few days.

                        2. Koreans can't seem to enjoy food unless it literally kicks their ass and burns their mouth.

                          Seriously, Koreans seem to have a palate for the extreme. They seem to enjoy foods that are molten lava hot (or ice cold), jacked up with salt and hot pepper, and CHEWY!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: joonjoon

                            heee heee! Emily Kim (www.maangchi.com) says her sundubu jigae is "like volcano"...she's right...it's a great soup/stew even here in sweltering SWFL!

                          2. Korea is cold in the winter, but no worse than a lot of other places, similar temperatures to the north-east in the US, certainly not as cold as Chicago. In the three years I lived in Seoul the temperature almost never got more than a few degrees below zero, and that only happened on a few days each winter.

                            Also traditional Korean houses were very well heated. A traditional Korean house is elevated about 2 feet above the ground. At one end is the kitchen, which is at ground level. the cooking is done on a low 'shelf' against the wall that separates the kitchen from the rest of the house (usually 2 or 3 other rooms.) The heat (and smoke) from the kitchen fire travels under the floor of the rest of the house and exits at the far end. Traditionally it was mom and grandma's job to get up a few times in the night to stoke the fire in the kitchen to keep the house warm.

                            But just like coffee drinkers in the US and other places, most Koreans swear that soup is much better when near boiling, even in the summer (hot food for hot weather.)

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              Is the design of that traditional stove well suited to warming stone and clay pots, or even cooking in them?

                              1. re: paulj

                                i wish i had taken pictures of my friend's family's farm. The "stove" was a concrete shelf with a 'niche' or 'firebox' under it. The shelf was about foot and a half wide and maybe 15 - 18 inches above the floor with a couple of circular holes in. The one to the side was reserved for the rice pot, the one more toward the center was for the wok, sometimes they would put a round metal plate over it and it became a "burner" on which other pots and pans were used. There might be other pots on the shelf itself in sort of a keep warm mode. There wasn't really an oven, but stoneware bowls could be heated in front of the coals.

                              2. re: KaimukiMan

                                I remembered hearing once that radiant floor heating was basically invented in Korea and that radiant floor heating is widely used today there over radiators/forced air/steam, etc. A quick search pulled up a time line in wikipedia that show korean homes were being heated by warmed floors while europe was shivering through the dark ages. My experience is that Koreans like hot soups hot and cold soups cold regardless of the weather or season.