Better than a trip to the sauna: Korean chicken ginseng soup

August 6, 2008

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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.”

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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)
serves 3-4

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
kitchen twine
3 toothpicks
2 scallions, sliced

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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.

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Place one garlic clove, jujube date, and chestnut inside the Cornish game hen’s cavity. 

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 Follow with a bag of glutinous sweet rice.

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Close the cavity up with a toothpick.

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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.

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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.

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9 Responses to “Better than a trip to the sauna: Korean chicken ginseng soup”

  1. Anna Says:

    That’s an extraordinary soup! Whole cornish game hens. Wow.

    Thank you. I think I’ll use your recipe. I love soup.

  2. aoitenshi7769 Says:

    That looks really tasty! Do you leave the whole chicken in the serving bowl, or was that just for effect?

  3. onespicymama Says:

    aoitenshi7769 Says:
    August 7, 2008 at 8:29 am
    That looks really tasty! Do you leave the whole chicken in the serving bowl, or was that just for effect?

    Yes, you serve a whole cornish game hen in the bowl! Some do cut it up, but most leave it as is.

  4. Mrs Ergül Says:

    Ginseng! How healthy when taken in moderation! Nice nice!


  5. […] We know that homemade mayo is worth every second of the five minute it takes, but what about ricotta cheese? (If […]

  6. Jensen Says:

    Thnks for sharing such a delicious as well as nutritious food.


  7. That looks really tasty! It look like Chinese Food – chicken soup

  8. LINZIE Says:

    I LOVE THIS SOUP! We add some green raw papaya and bitter melon leaves to it for a kick.

  9. Pat Manley Says:

    Can you tell me if it is possible to cook samgyetang using a crock pot? thank you


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