Samgyetang (Magical Chicken Ginseng Soup)
This medicinal soup can give you an energizing lift and immunity boost. Ginseng has numerous health benefits and this soup is known as the “Korean penicillin.” Whenever I’m feeling under the weather, I’ll make this and feel warm and cozy in no time.
If you use the dried ginseng root, there’s no need for the tea, and vice versa, but I have used both together and the result is truly lovely. Find the wishbones when eating this soup and make the dish extra magical by making a wish!
- 10 packets Korean red ginseng tea
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 3 jujube dates, or 15 goji berries
- 3 pieces dried Korean red ginseng (optional)
- 2 cooked chestnuts, peeled (optional)
- 1 cup uncooked sweet rice
- 2 (2-pound) baby chickens or Cornish hens
- Dried chili threads (silgochu)
- Handful of fresh pea shoots (optional)
- Black sesame seeds
- Toasted sesame oil
- Kosher salt or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the tea and stir until the powder has dissolved; set aside.
Put 2 cloves of garlic, l jujube date (or 10 goji berries), 1 piece ginseng (if using), l chestnut (if using), and 2 tablespoons of rice into the cavity of each bird. Skewer the cavities closed with a toothpick. Put the remaining 3/4 cup rice in a double layer of cheese-cloth with the remaining jujube date (or 5 goji berries) and l piece ginseng (if using). Tie the cloth closed, but leave space for the rice to expand.
Put the chickens and the rice bag into a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pot. Pour the tea over the chickens, top off with enough water to cover, if needed, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, occasionally skimming off any fat that comes to the surface, until the chickens are cooked through and the legs pull away from the body easily when tugged, about 2 hours.
Carefully transfer the chickens to two bowls and divide the broth between them. Top the chickens with chili threads and the pea shoots, some black sesame seeds, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Unwrap the rice and serve in a separate bowl, sprinkled with more black sesame seeds, if you like. Serve the soup with salt and pepper.
Korean ginseng, also known as Panax ginseng, is renowned for its high quality and for being the most nutritious. I like to use dried Korean red ginseng when possible. It undergoes a process of steaming and aging, which creates new nutrients that are believed to prevent cancer and obesity. That said, feel free to substitute any quality fresh ginseng in this soup—it’s much cheaper and easier to find. In place of the dried, use twice as many small fresh ginseng roots.
Cooked chestnuts are often sold in Asian markets in small vacuum-packed bags. Jarred cooked chestnuts are widely available and can be found online. For this recipe, you can also use raw chestnuts that you’ve roasted, boiled, or steamed yourself.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Korean Food Made Simple” by Judy Joo. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.