Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) (Korean Bapsang)
Samgyetang 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, Koreans eat this boiling-hot soup to beat the heat and stay energized during the summer. In my house, it’s a nourishing comfort food that we enjoy all year around.
Typically, samgyetang is made with a young chicken, which is known as a Cornish hen in the U.S., 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 (a.k.a. glutinous rice). Garlic, ginger and jujubes (dried red dates) are other common ingredients. 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.
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.
1 to 2 servings
● 1 small, young chicken (about 700 grams)
● 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 2.5 centimeters)
● 2 to 3 jujubes (dried red dates)
● 1 scallion (white part)
● 5-6 cups of water
● 2 scallions, finely chopped, to garnish
● Salt and pepper to serve on the side
Clean the chicken. Do not cut off the neck 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.
Stuff 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.
Tightly 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.
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 to the pot. If the chicken came with the neck 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.
By Ro Hyo-sun
For more recipes, visit www.koreanbapsang.com.