Monday, August 27, 2007

Samgaetang (Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup)


When I was training with the Korean Development Bank years ago, most of the invited delegates from the rest of South East Asia hated Korean food (but I loved it) served in the Bank's cafeteria because a typical lunch was mainly rice, plain soup and lots of Korean pickles. Most delegates ended up eating kalbi, bulgogi and samgaetang in restaurants. W and I particularly loved samgaetang, because it was so delicious and we get a whole chicken each for only about RM15 (US$4). I think we ate this soup, in the middle of summer, for 3 straight weeks. W immediately ran off to Canada to get married, so invigorated was she by all that ginseng and chicken. I had my third child. Now you know why this soup is served for all Korean newly-weds by their anxious mothers.

It's been raining recently so soup is a must at the dinner table. I was blessed with a big home-reared kampung chicken ("They fly, missus!") by Vero, my maid, so I decided to cook it whole and this recipe is best for that.

1 large (1.5 kg?) kampung chicken*
1 bulb garlic, unpeeled
3 small pieces dried** ginseng root, soaked
10 pieces red dates, soaked
2 thin slices fresh ginger
8 to 10 dried chestnuts, or 1 T pine nuts or both
1 cup uncooked glutinous rice, washed & soaked 1/2 hour
chopped spring onions for garnish (oops, forgot to add in my soup)

1. Do not trim too much skin off the chicken's neck and tail end because you want some covering for the stuffing. Put 1 ginseng root into the neck cavity of the bird to stop the rice from coming out, then some (drained) rice, 2 or 3 red dates, rice again till cavity is almost 3/4 full. Using a wooden skewer, sew up the cavity. If you find there's not enough skin to cover, use the liver or giblet as a stopper so the rice won't spew out (rice coming out means you didn't do a good job) .

2. Boil water in a table-presentable pot, such as Corningware or some cast iron pot. Put the chicken in, carefully, thigh -side up, and add enough water to just cover the chicken. Not too much water or too big a pot or the soup will be too diluted. Add everything else, cover and simmer at least 1 1/2 hours or till chicken is so soft the thighs come off easily, but not so soft the meat has come off. When you check on it once in a while, move the chicken so the bottom won't stick. Skim off the oil. Soup would be cloudy-white, not due to the rice but the other ingredients.


1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
sesame oil (optional)
In an oilless wok, add salt and pepper and fry over low heat till fragrant. Dish out into a small saucer, add the sesame oil if using. This is the dip for the chicken. Serve it in a tiny saucer for each person. However, you can just add it to the soup or even leave the soup unsalted like I do.

Put some chicken, some rice stuffing and soup in individual bowls and sprinkle spring onions on top. Yum.

* Using home-reared, mature (but not old) chicken is important for samgaetang, which is a health-strengthening soup. In Korea, small chickens are used so each person gets one whole bird.

**My Korean neighbor gave me fresh ginseng roots once, and they were very different, much better than the dried roots.


red | hongyi said...

I love it when I see Samgaetang on the dinner table. It's one of my fave Korean dishes

I miss u :~(

Ok, this is going to sound freakish but I sometimes feel like I'm talking to myself when I talk to you. I see myself when I look at ur pictures. FREAKY!

I wonder whether we'd be best friends if i werent ur daughter and if we were around the same age. HEHE

red | hongyi said...

...but that whole 'seeing myself when i see u' thought diffuses into thin air whenever u start to nag. muhahah

but even all that nagging wont change what i think of u: u're the greatest bestest mama in the world! :D

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

hey dont' get so emo in public.

red | hongyi said...

i so vulnerable n u say that! hmmf.

n u havent called me in the longest while liao!

Anonymous said...

I had this dish once, a friend of mine brought me there, said it was the best in Seoul, the shop was quite full of people, and everyone had the same.

You're right, it was a spring chicken for me, not an old bird.

In addition to that, the slices of the Korean garlic... they were the sharp crisp type...I can't find them in KL at all.

This is a dish I haven't seen in a rather long time.


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