Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)

Samgyetang recipe

Where did the summer go? I can’t believe it’s nearing the end. While it’s still here, here’s a recipe I’ve been wanting to share with you all summer long but just got around to complete. Samgyetang (삼계탕) is a chicken soup made with a small, whole chicken and ginseng. It’s an iconic summer dish in Korea. As strange as it sounds, we Koreans eat this boiling hot soup to beat the heat and stay energized during the summer. It’s especially popular on sambok days which are 3 distinct days based on the lunar calendar — chobok (beginning), jungbok (middle) and malbok (end) — that mark the hottest summer period. As the Korean saying goes, eating the hot soup is “fighting the heat with heat.” In my house, it’s a nourishing, comfort food which we enjoy all year around.

Sam refers to ginseng (insam, 인삼), gye is chicken, and tang is soup. Ginseng is highly prized for its medicinal benefits, including boosting energy and the immune system. I know some of you are wondering if you can make samgyetang without ginseng. You can omit the ginseng from this recipe and still make a tasty chicken soup, but, sorry – without ginseng, it can’t be called ginseng soup. When I don’t have ginseng, I make another type of chicken soup called dak gomtang. You can find fresh ginseng in Korean markets. I usually buy a package and freeze the leftovers. You can also use dried ginseng roots after soaking in the water for several hours to soften.

Samgyetang recipe 1

Traditionally, samgyetang is made with a young chicken, which is known as a Cornish hen in America, for its tender and tasty meat. If you need to feed more people, cook two small chickens in a larger pot rather than a large chicken.

The chicken is stuffed with soaked sweet rice (aka glutinous rice). Garlic, ginger, and jujubes (dried red dates) are other common ingredients. Jujubes are quite sweet, so do not use too many of them. Sometimes, other traditional herbs such as milk vetch roots (hwanggi, 황기) are added as well as chestnuts and ginkgo nuts. Some people stuff the chicken with ginseng, jujubes, etc., along with the rice, but I like to boil them in the broth to draw out the maximum flavors. Whatever you do, leave enough room in the cavity for the rice to expand in volume as it cooks, or the rice will be undercooked.

At restaurants, the whole chicken is served uncut as one serving, but it can easily be two servings. The soup is usually not seasoned while being cooked. It’s served with salt and pepper on the side, so each person can season the broth to taste and  use the remainder to dip the meat in. The ginseng flavored meat is tasty and tender, and the broth is rich and delicious. Also, the sticky rice stuffing that’s infused with the chicken and ginseng flavors is to die for. If you’re trying it for the first time, samgyetang will be nothing like any other chicken soup you’ve had before.

Samgyetang recipe 2

1 to 2 servings
Ingredients:
1 cornish hen (about 1.5 pounds)Samgyetang recipe 3
1 fresh ginseng root
3 tablespoons sweet rice, soaked for 1 hour (yields about 4 tablespoons soaked)
5 – 6 plump garlic cloves
1 thin ginger slice (about 1 inch)
2 to 3 jujubes (dried red dates)
1 scallion white part
5 to 6 cups of water

2 scallions, finely chopped, to garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Samgyetang recipe 4Clean the chicken. Do not cut off the neck and/or tail, if they are still attached. They help keep the rice inside the cavity. Place the cleaned chicken on a cutting board or a large plate. Clean the inside of the cavity with a paper towel to remove the blood.

 

Samgyetang recipe 5Stuff the cavity with the sweet rice and a couple of garlic cloves, leaving room (about 1/4 of the cavity) for the rice to expand as it cooks.

 

 

 
Samgyetang recipe 6Tightly close the cavity with a toothpick or a small skewer. This will keep the rice inside the cavity while being cooked. Then, cross the legs and tie together with kitchen twine. Or, you can make a cut on the bottom part of one thigh and insert the other thigh through to keep the legs crossed together.

 
Samgyetang recipe 7 (1)In a medium size pot, place the chicken and add 5 to 6 cups of water (or enough to cover the chicken). Add the garlic, ginger, jujubes, and ginseng. If the chicken came with the neck that’s been cut off, add to the pot. Bring it to a boil over medium heat. Skim off the foam on top. Cover, and boil for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and boil, covered, for about 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust boiling time depending on the size of the chicken.

Spoon off any visible fat. Serve piping hot with the chopped scallions and salt and pepper on the side so each person can season to taste.

 

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Comments

  1. Kindly share also korean beef stew. Thank you and God bless!

    • Are you talking about galbijjim? If yes, I have two recipes on the blog. Your can go to the Recipe index tab, Main dish, and click on the meat. If not, Can you describe it a little so I know which dish you are talking about. Thanks!

  2. Thank for your recipes, this soup look good

  3. Myung Moon says:

    My kids love the sweet glutinous rice so I usually stuff extra rice in a large Japanese tea bag and cook them together. Just rip the bag open and enjoy!

  4. Grace Lew says:

    oh thank goodness I found your blog! I’m stuck all the way out in the Czech Republic and getting desperate for recipes. I’m excited to try this recipe. Any suggestions on how to make this work in a slow cooker? Thank you Ms. Ro!

    • This doesn’t take that long to cook, so it will be best to be done over the stove top. I haven’t cooked this soup in a slow cooker, so not sure how long it will take this small chicken with stuffing inside to cook. Thanks for finding my blog! I hope you find many recipes to try.

  5. Love this! I’m so happy for these recipes…now I can have all my favorite Korean dishes when I leave Korea. So sad to be leaving..

    • That must be tough! Hopefully you can go back there soon. In the mean time, I’m glad you can cook some of your favorites using my recipes. Safe travels!

  6. Tried your recipe, came out fabulous! I couldn’t find fresh Ginseng in the Korean markets in Chicago, so I used dry and soaked per your recommendation.

    Also, next time, I would definitely not over-fill the chicken with the sweet rice. With the cooking times from the recipe, the rice wasn’t as cooked as I would have wanted it to be.

    The cornish hens had a plastic bag filled with the chicken innards. Make sure to check yours for that before boiling!

    • Glad to here it came out well for you! You’re right. Over-stuffing will take longer to cook the rice inside, which may overcook the chicken. Thanks!

  7. Thanks for the recipe! I used it and made my first sam gye tang today. SOO good! 🙂

  8. Hello, I love all your recipes, especially because they’re written in English for this Korean-American mom who has a hard time understanding written Korean. 🙂 My question for you is: is sweet rice the regular Korean rice we get in the Korean markets? Is it something different? If so, what’s it called in Korean (so I can ask the Korean ladies at the Korean grocery store). Thank you!

  9. Hi. I’m wondering if I can I use normal rice instead the sweet rice to put inside the chicken?

    • You can, but the sweet rice is traditionally used because they stick together. Normal rice will mostly separate in the soup. It will be a little different but I am sure you can still enjoy it. Happy cooking!

  10. Hello dear, thank you very much for sharing your Samgyetang recipe, but I wonder do you know any Korean restaurant in bay area, north ofCalifornia, cook this kind of dish? thanks again.

    • I am not familiar with northern California, but typed “samgyetang” on Yelp San Francisco and saw a few restaurants serving the dish. See if any is closed to where you live. Hope you find one.

  11. Hi, thanks for your recipe.
    I am just back from Korea and really enjoyed Ginseng chicken soup there (Tosokchon).
    I also brought some fresh ginseng home and would like to try with your recipe.
    But, is it safe for children under 10 to eat this chicken soup?

  12. I guess I would like this dish. Once in a while the Chinese merchant I use to buy at has fresh ginseng. I’m going to buy some next time and try this recipe. How exactly is it served? In a bowl from where everybody ladles broth into a personal soup bowl and some of the meat, rice and vegetables? Is there served additional rice?

  13. can I check with you, can I cook this without the rice? will it taste different?

  14. Hi, just wondering what is sweet rice? Korean rice?

    • Hi Su – Sweet rice is glutinous rice, called chapssal in Korean. It’s much stickier than regular short grain rice. Hope this helps.

  15. Hello dear,
    Thank you so much for your recipe.
    I really want to try this recipe ‘couz it looks really delicious.

  16. Hi! I’m really interested in trying this! How can I make the broth super milky white like the one I had in Korea? This looks sooo delish <3

  17. do you think it can be made in a croc pot?