Samgyetang. It’s regarded in Korea as a soup with medicinal properties. That’s because we its made with wild roots/plants that are used in traditional herbal medicine. The most common herbal is ginseng. Ironically, I didn’t use it in this recipe. I mistakingly thought the Samgyetang herbal kits included it. But the soup came out incredibly delicious without it. Let me show you the basics of samgyetang.
The key taste variable are those medicinal herbs. If you have access to a Korean mart, ask the staff for Samgyetang jeh-ryo (삼계탕 재료). This translates to ingredients for Samgyetang. They will point you to these packets with wild medicinal herbs. Here’s a few more details about these herbs:
- Ginseng: It’s the most common ingredient in Samgyetang. It’s rich in both taste and nutritional value. Many people love to eat this root – they save it for the end. (So don’t toss it out after using it for the broth)
- Milk vetch root: It’s the dried root of Milk Vetch Tree (scientific name is Astragalus propinquus). It has been used for many centuries in traditional Korean medicine to correct ‘spleen deficiency’.
- Acanthopanax: It’s the outer covering, or peel, of Siberian ginseng. It’s used in Korean herbal medicine to treat conditions such as rheumatic pain and arthritis in the limbs, and weakness or pain in the knees and lower back.
- Oriental raisin tree: It’s used to treat fever, parasitic infection, as a laxative, and a treatment of liver diseases, as well as hangover treatment. (That’s right – there’s a whole hangover industry made from raisin tree!)
- Korean angelica: We use the roots of this plant. It’s used in herbal medicine for its anti-androgenic properties.
After reading through those descriptions, you may feel like Samgyetang is a panacea (😅). But don’t expect to cure yourself with one bowl of Samgyetang. (Or else it wouldn’t sell for $9.99). Besides the purported “health benefits”, these medicinal herbs also infuse a unique taste to the chicken broth. At the very least, you will get a burst of endorphins!
Samgyetang - Korean Ginseng Soup
Yield 1-2 people
Korea's traditional herbal chicken soup.
- Young whole chicken - 500-600 grams
- Samgyetang herbal kit - 1 package (80 grams)
- Spring onion - 1 stalk (forearm sized)
- Ginseng - 1 stalk (optional)
- Water - 4 cups
- Glutinous rice - 1/3 cup
- Jujubes - 3
- Korean chestnuts - 3-5
- Garlic - 3-5 cloves
- Salt - few shakes
- Black pepper - few shakes
- Sesame seeds - few shakes
Spicy Chicken Dip (Optional)
- Gochugaru - 1/4 cup
- Minced garlic - 1 Tablespoon
- Vinegar - 1 Tablespoon
- Soy Sauce - 2 Tablespoons
- Sugar - 1 teaspoon
- Wasabi - small dab (1/2 teaspoon)
- Samgyetang broth - 1/4 cup
- Take out a mixing bowl. Wash the glutinous rice and drain the water. Do this 3x. Then fill with cold water and set it aside for 1 hour.
- Prep chicken: (1) Snip-off wing-tips. (2) Snip-off the tail (3) Snip-off any visible fat near the cavity of the bird (4) Use a spoon and scrap out any excess debris/blood/etc left in the inside of the bird (5) Thoroughly wash the chicken under running water - including the inside of the bird. (6) Use soap and hot water and wipe down kitchen sink.
- Open Samgyetang Herbal kit. Place all of the herbs into the broth pouch.
- After 1 hour, drain the rice. Set aside to drip off excess water.
- Stuff the chicken: Place 2 garlic cloves, 2 chestnuts, 1 jujube & all of the rice into the chicken. Then cut a hole into the side of the chicken skin (reference video). Cross the chicken legs and fit the upper leg through the hole.
- Take out a large pot. Place stuffed chicken into the pot. Then place-in the broth bag and spring onion stalk. You can also throw-in extra cloves of garlic (2-3 max), chestnut and jujube (1-2 max) into the water. As well as a ginseng stalk if you have it.
- Bring the pot up to boil without a lid. Once it's boiling, let it hard boil (without the lid) for 10 minutes. Then place the lid on. Reduce heat to a medium-low or low - we're looking for a gentle boil. Then let it boil for 50 minutes with the lid on.
- After 1 hour, turn off the heat. (Note: If the broth has reduced too much, simply add more water and let it reduce for another 10 minutes. No problem!)
- Then plate the chicken. Now, the soup will taste bland. Before eating, place a small dab of the 'broth seasoning' onto your spoon and mix into the broth. Don't add too much, but season to taste!
- Optional: Make the spicy seasoning and use it as an extra dipping sauce for the chicken.
- If the broth reduces too quickly, add more water. Then, let it reduce for 10 more minutes.
- See video below for more details.