Hangul: 삼계탕; Sam-gye-tang
English Name: Ginseng Chicken Soup
Literal translation: Ginseng Chicken Soup
This dish is pretty amazing. It’s actually a small chicken stuffed with ginseng root, dates, and sweet rice, and garlic and dropped into a soup. You’ll also see some out of the ordinary ingredients as well. I specifically recall coming across wooden sticks. I’ll elaborate on this shortly.
The chicken and broth are not seasoned during preparation so the soup will need a little salt and pepper when it is initially served. There are a number of side dishes available that people either add to their pots or to each spoonful.
The chicken comes out to be nice and tender so it’s really easy to use your chopsticks to separate the meat from the bone. The chicken, garlic and ginseng combine to create intense flavors that will make you want to sue Campbell’s for false advertisement.
There’s quite a bit of tradition around samgyetang. Historically, it was common to eat this dish on the hottest days of the year in the interest of maintaining stamina and good health through the summer months.
The dish has also been a traditional vehicle by which to deliver natural or herbal medicines. The wood sticks mentioned earlier are an example of ingredients added for health benefits. There are a multitude of specialty restaurants that serve samgyetan with these types of ingredients.
During my first encounter with samgyetang I remember being especially hungry and a little reluctant when my friend recommended chicken soup as an option. For some reason I was thinking canned soup. The likelihood of chicken soup filling me up didn’t seem very realistic. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when the bowl was brought to our table.