A Restorative Food Harmonizing Chicken with Ginseng: Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)
Samgyetang is made by simmering a whole young chicken stuffed with ginseng, hedysarum root, jujubes and sweet rice. Considered an energy-boosting dish best eaten during sambok (Chobok, Jungbok, and Malbok), the hottest days of the lunar year, it is a classic Korean dish that has become popular among international diners as well.
A Must-eat Dish in the Summer
Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) is made by stuffing the cavity of a young chicken with sweet rice, ginseng, hedysarum root, and jujubes, trussing it and then simmering it in a stone pot or earthen bowl for about an hour. It become a popular dish once ginseng was made more widely available. The hot summer is the season for chicken. It is common in Korea for many restaurants which do not have Samgyetang on their menu to offer it in the hot summer season, which demonstrates the tremendous popularity of this soup. Samgyetang is well known to foreigners as well. Murakami Ryu, a renowned Japanese author, praised Samgyetang as the best Korean dish in his novel, while Zhang Yimou, a famous Chinese film director, said he enjoys it every time he visits Korea.
The Mother-in-law's Samgyetang
Riding on the popularity of Samgyetang, 'fusion' Samgyetang using unorthodox ingredients has become a growing trend. The new ingredients start with deer antler chips, chestnuts, and pine nuts and even include whole abalones (with shell) or whole red ginseng roots. There is the 'Medicinal Samgyetang' seasoned with oriental medicinal herbs, the 'Seafood samgyetang' with baby octopus and blue crab, and the 'Bamboo samgyetang' that is served inside a hollow bamboo stalk. Regardless, nothing can beat the classic mother-in-law's homemade samgyetan. In the old days, it was customary for a mother to kill one for her back-yard hens and prepare Samgyetang to welcome the son-in-law into her house. The mother-in-law's Samgyetang will always be special, because it was made with love and affection. Samgyetang contains many healthy ingredients. Garlic and ginseng are the two main side ingredients, and jujubes and pine nuts are frequently added as well. Sometimes, ground peanuts or perilla sees are added for flavor and body.
: Attempts to trace the English word "ginseng" to its origin have been divided between two arguments. One is that it was derived from the Japanese pronunciation for the name of the plant, the other claims from the Chinese. However, it is today widely accepted that the word originated from the scientific name of the plant, "Panax Ginseng," registered with the World Botanical Associates (WBA) by the Russian botanist Carl Anton von Meyer in 1843.
Ingredients & Quantity
4 heads (2.2kg) young chicken, 180g (1 cup) glutinous rice, 40g (4 roots) fresh wet ginseng, 20g (4 heads) garlic, 16g (4 ea) jujube , 2.6kg (13cups)water, 20g green onion, 12g (1tbsp) salt, 0.3g (1/8 tsp) ground black pepper
milk vetch water: 20g (4 roots) milk vetch roots, 3kg (15 cups) water
1. Remove internal organs and excess fat from the chicken through under the stomach, and wash it cleanly (500g).
2. Wash the glutinous rice and soak in water for 2 hours, drain water on a strainer for 10min. (220g).
3. Wash the ilk vetch roots and soak in water for 2hours.
4. Wash and clean the fresh wet ginseng and cut the head part (35g). Wash and clean garlic and jujube.
5. Wash green onion and chop them finely (16g).
1. Put the milk vetch roots and water in the pot, heat it up for 20min. on high heat. When it boils, lower the heat to medium, simmer it for 40min, filter it through a strainer to make milk vetch water (2.6kg).
2. Stuff each chicken cavity with rice, ginseng, garlic and jujube. Criss-cross the legs of each chicken to keep the stuffs insides.
3. Put the chicken and milk vetch water in the pot, boil it for 20min. on high heat. Reduce the heat down to medium and simmer it for 50min. until the soup tums milky white.
4. Serve it with green onion, salt and ground black pepper.
A version of this article by 'Korean Food Foundation' Great Food, Great Stories from Korea, and 'Hollym' The Beauty of Korean Food: With 100 Best-Loved Recipes.
- The Beauty of Korean Food: With 100 Best-Loved Recipes/ Hollym & Great Food, Great Stories from Korea/ Korean Food Foundation
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