Take a sip of samgyetang, and you’ll understand why Koreans consider this dish the ultimate restorative potion: the taste of potent herbs—invigorating and earthy—and flavorful chicken together send a warm current through your body.
In Korea, samgyetang, or ginseng chicken soup, is popular during the summer months, when, according to traditional Korean medicine, the body is most depleted of nutrients and energy.
But Sophia Lee, owner of the restaurant miss KOREA in Manhattan’s Koreatown, thought it’d be more appropriate to serve samgyetang as a fall dish, to provide comfort and warmth during the cooler weather ($15.95 for lunch, $19.95 for dinner). She adds seasonal ingredients to the soup: chestnuts, dates, gingko nuts, and a variety of plant roots that possess medicinal qualities. “Right now is the season of roots, so we should eat them too,” Lee said.
Astralagus root, for example, is good for the immune system, while the herb angelica sinensis is good for blood circulation. After 48 hours of simmering the herbs—along with a whole young hen stuffed with glutinous rice—all the nutrients seep into the broth, becoming a powerful, wholesome concoction. The flavors of chicken, ginseng, and energy-boosting herbs hit your palate with surprising intensity. Each spoonful is accompanied with bits of rice, rendered soft and fluffy after cooking for so long. The dish is a hearty antidote against the elements.
And the star of the show, Korean ginseng, is said to help clear out toxins and enhance strength. Lee explained that Korea’s climate, with its cold winters and favorable soil conditions, are ideal for growing ginseng. That’s why Korean ginseng has been a valuable export since ancient times.
Lee is offering the soup for a limited time, as a way of saying thank you to her patrons this Thanksgiving season. She hopes the medicinal herbs—more expensive ingredients that are not typically included in common renditions of the dish—will add an extra dose of vigor for them.
Miss KOREA’s health-focused philosophy deliberately strays from the MSG-laden and sugar-heavy dishes and seasonings that many Koreatown restaurants use. Its menu is crafted with the belief that food doesn’t just fill the stomach, it nourishes the body.
In Korean tradition, dishes are served family-style. Samgyetang—a rare treat—especially gets everyone at the dinner table excited and eagerly partaking of the lean, tender pieces of meat and savory soup.
This family-style format naturally lends itself to a Thanksgiving meal. If you’re craving the pungent flavors of Korean cuisine over the typical turkey, you can share with friends and family miss KOREA’s signature barbecued meat dish, Clay Pot Galbi: beef short ribs marinated in a clay pot for 48 hours with soy sauce, fruit, and garlic ($35.95). The ribs are pleasantly sweet, with a buttery texture.
Or if you’re in the mood for seafood, the Haemul Pajeon, or seafood pancakes, will satisfy with their hefty bits of squid, shrimp, and scallions ($13.95 for small, $17.95 for regular). The chewiness of both the dough and the seafood fillings make for fun noshing.
Miss KOREA has three floors of seating, each with a different aesthetic. The first floor is casual and lively, with patrons chatting over smoky barbecue grilling tables amid nature-inspired decor. The second floor offers a quiet and peaceful setting with traditional Korean artwork and private rooms separated by wooden sliding doors. Finally, the third floor has a chic, trendy atmosphere, in a palette of black and white, accentuated with red.
miss KOREA BBQ
10 W. 32nd St.
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
miss KOREA SUN
11 a.m.–11 p.m.
miss KOREA MEE
11 a.m.–11 p.m.