August 6, 2008
The mercury is hovering above the 90 degree mark and the humidity is palpable. Ahhh, time for … a steaming bowl of chicken soup? Yes, Koreans eat a special chicken ginseng soup on the hottest days of the summer, which counterintuitively is believed to cool and rejuvenate the body. According to tradition, sam gae tang replenishes the body of essential nutrients while sweating out the toxins. So in sweltering weather, the hotter the soup, the better. (We’re an ornery people).
I like to eat sam gae tang both in the winter and the summer, especially if I feel a cold coming on. And when they’re sick, both my husband and children can only palate a bowl of chicken soup to nurse them through a cold – it’s Korean penicillin and cold-eeze, all rolled into one.
To be honest, I never cook sam gae tang with the ginseng root since it is commonly believed that ginseng is potentially harmful to young children or to people with hypertension. While neither I nor my husband have high blood pressure, my mother does and never uses it in any of her cooking, and consequently, neither do I. I did include some in this batch since I thought it was only proper as the name of the soup is “chicken ginseng soup.”
Precooked whole chestnuts may be hard to come by in some areas, but try your local Asian market. I get a vacuum sealed packet (back of above photo) for $.99.
Korean Chicken Ginseng Soup (Sam Gae Tang)
3 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 C. glutinous sweet rice, rinsed and soaked in water for an hour (chap ssal)
8 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
8 dried jujube red dates
8 precooked or dried chestnuts
2 fresh or dried ginseng root
salt and pepper
6 round coffee filters
2 scallions, sliced
Place about 1/4 C. of pre-soaked glutinous sweet rice in a coffee filter, being careful to leave room as it will expand during cooking.
Place one garlic clove, jujube date, and chestnut inside the Cornish game hen’s cavity.
Follow with a bag of glutinous sweet rice.
Close the cavity up with a toothpick.
Place stuffed hens, ginseng, remaining garlic, jujube dates, chestnuts, 3 remaining packets of sweet rice and enough water to cover the hens in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and skim off fat and foam. Lower to low heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.
Season the broth lightly with salt and discard the ginseng. Ladle the soup into large bowls, including a whole chicken, jujube, garlic, chestnuts and an extra packet of the cooked sweet rice per bowl. Garnish with sliced scallions. Serve with salt and pepper mixed in a small bowl on the side so you can dip the chicken directly into the seasonings. Kim chi is also a must. (An empty bowl for the skin, bones, date pits and coffee filters is helpful).
I hope you give this soup a try and if you’re not up for chicken soup in the summer, give it a whirl this winter. I know you’ll love it.