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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

Up your cool factor with Korean eats

By Ali Resich Photos By Tony Grillo
July 20, 2014

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This past week has been quite a scorcher, hasn’t it? When the sun is blazing and mugginess prevails, I know it’s ever so tempting to use any morsel of energy you have left to practically lunge toward the closest shave ice shop. But would you be willing to take my advice, albeit a tad unconventional, if I told you there might be a better, more satisfying way to beat the heat?

Though it seems counterintuitive, consuming a hot, comforting bowl of soup can actually cool you down from head to toe. By drinking the sweltering broth, it’s as if you’re singing Nelly’s refrain to your brain: “It’s getting hot in herre!” As a result, your body is signaled to produce sweat, its own innate cooling mechanism.

Now, I know a little perspiration during lunch or dinner might sound questionable, but when you consider the cleansing benefits of this naturally detoxifying process, it’s really just an extra dose of healthiness to accompany your meal. And by the time your tummy’s nice and full, you’ll be as cool as a cucumber.

I learned this trick at Million Restaurant on Sheridan Street, the family run Korean yakiniku spot, that has shared authentic recipes with local diners since 1990. As longtime cook Kyong Park informed AliCarte, Koreans have been using this technique to chill out for years. “They eat more hot soup in the summer because it makes you more sweaty, and then your body becomes cooler,” explains Park.

There’s no better dish to put this theory to the test than Baby Chicken Soup ($9.95 lunch, $11.95 dinner). The chicken and beef broth contains a white hue, which is only attainable after hours of flavor-enhancing simmering. A mix of chicken, garlic, daikon and green onion enrich each clean, satiating sip.

If you prefer heartier, stew-like soups instead, you can’t go wrong with Million Kimchee Chi Ke ($9.95 lunch, $12.95 dinner). This meaty mix of sausage and Spam fires up a savory broth that gets its red-hot color from a kick of kimchee. Each spoonful overflows with tofu, green onion and rice mochi, giving rise to a dish that brings enough heat to cool you right down.

If you’re a little reluctant to try this method of chillaxation, don’t sweat it. You can literally eat your cool cucumber instead in the form of revitalizing OOE Mool Naeng Myun ($7.95 a la carte lunch, $8.95 a la carte dinner; $21 combo with kalbi). The chilled soup bursts with the quintessential summer veggie, as well as buckwheat noodles and an egg to top it all off. Park recommends making it a satisfying combo with the addition of kalbi on the side.

“The cold soup is very, very popular with the kalbi,” she says. “With the meat and the noodles together, it’s healthy too, and it gives you energy.”

So the next time you’re feeling hot, hot, hot, head to Million Restaurant, where wondrous Korean eats are sure to get you through the most sizzling of summer days.

Million Restaurant

626 Sheridan St., Honolulu
596-0799
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight