Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup / SamGyeTang (韩国人参鸡汤)

It seems like ages ever since I last updated my blog. I was bedridden for the past 2 weeks due to a terrible backache, I have never felt so miserable before in my life, never ever! Every single movement which I made would immediately trigger a string of excruciating pain in my lower back. It happened in the middle of our 1-week vacation in Switzerland during the CNY period. It was really unfortunate timing as I missed the whole fun of riding on the snow-sledge, making snowman and throwing snowballs with my 2 kiddies, what with the thick snow we had in beautiful Switzerland. Hubby had to entertain the kiddies most of the time since I could hardly stand or walk. I stayed indoors mostly, lying in bed watching the falling snow from the window. Such beautiful weather but such lousy luck. Notwithstanding the terrible ordeal I was going through, I only took one single dosage of painkiller. In fact I gobbled up 6 times the dosage of the children's painkiller which happened to the only painkiller I brought for the trip. It was an orangey yucky taste and not much of a relief for me! Poor me had to endure all the way till the end of our vacation, including the 9-hours long drive back home before I could see my house doctor the day after. 

The doctor's diagnosis proved my hubby right. He was shocked that I managed to sit through the 9-hours drive back home. It was indeed what we called "Hernia" in Dutch or "slipped disc" in English, basically a nerve has been pressed somewhere along the spine in my lower back, and I think this was even more painful than my recovery after childbirth. It was definitely not a good way of starting the Chinese New Year for me. :S

Anyway, enough of complaining. I finally made some progress after I started on the medication prescribed by my doctor. Today, I even mustered enough strength to cook some Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup for myself. I happened to see a packet of Chinese Chang Bai Shan ginseng (长白山人参) during my post-CNY trip to the chinese groceries store yesterday, and this Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup recipe immediately came to mind.  A nourishing soup which I really deserve after 2 long weeks of physical, mental and emotional torment. 

My ginseng cost only 2,50 euro, what a steal! 

This chicken soup is called SamGyeTang or 삼계탕 in Korean. I know nuts about the Korean language, so I can't advise you how to read or write Korean. All I know is, this is a very famous dish in Korea, I had personally tasted it once in a restaurant that was well-known for ginseng chicken soup when I was in Seoul 10 years ago. Contrary to what you may think, it is not that difficult to make this soup, you just need to get hold of some ginseng, and chicken of course, and not to forget, red dates and garlic. :)

Instead of using 1 cornish hen, I used 3 fat chicken drumsticks with skin, which were about 750g in total. With that, I skipped the part on stuffing the chicken stomach cavity with garlic, dates and glutinous rice since there was no chicken to stuff. Besides, I reduced the salt from 1.25 tsp to 1 tsp. Even with 1 tsp I find it a little too salty for me, could have reduced further to 3/4 tsp. And I also added 2 pieces of dried scallops to give the soup a sweeter flavour. Other than that, I followed the rest of the recipe quite religiously. One thing though, I wish I had added a little more water or reduced the simmering time as my chicken soup was a little too thick for my liking. Maybe my drumsticks were too huge or the cup size was too small? And one word of warning, don't ever use a stainless steel pot to simmer a soup like this or you will end up having a hard time scraping the burnt bottom when it's time to wash up. How I wish I have a crockpot or a claypot for this purpose!  

Recipe adapted from Aeri's Kitchen, for 1 serving.

3 chicken drumsticks with skin intact
1/3 cup of glutinous rice (also called sweet rice)
5 cups water
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 chinese red dates 
1 piece of korean or chinese ginseng (need to soak overnight if it is dried ginseng)
2 dried scallops
3/4 to 1 tsp fine sea salt
a handful of chopped spring onions (also called scallions or green onions)

1. Soak the glutinous rice for 2 hours in advance. After 2 hours, rinse the glutinous rice twice, drain and set aside.

2. Add 5 cups of water into a big pot with non-stick bottom, then add 2 or 3 chicken drumsticks, 1/3 cup glutinous rice, 6 cloves garlic, 6 dates, and 1 piece of ginseng. Cook for 30 minutes on HIGH heat.

3. During the 30 min, Turn the chicken drumsticks occasionally so that they get cooked evenly. 

4. After 30 min, add salt to flavour. I suggest first adding 1/2 tsp, taste if it is salty enough, then slowly increase to 3/4 to 1 tsp. 

5. Then reduce heat to MEDIUM, and continue to simmer for 1 hour. The soup is ready when the chicken meat falls off readily from the bones.

6. Sprinkle some chopped spring onions on top before serving.

I am submitting my post to Aspiring Bakers #28: Chicken Feast hosted by SSB of Small Small Baker.


  1. Hi Ma B,
    Glad to know that you are recovering and back to blogging.
    This is a very nutritious and delicious soup.
    Must go hunt for Korean ginseng to cook this.
    Take care dear.

    1. Hi mui mui,
      Thank you for your concern, I am feeling much better now.
      Yes, do try this korean ginseng soup, it's very easy to make!

  2. Hi, I've recently tried this dish in Korea and I AM IN LOVE! Although the one I tried had a very milky whte colour for the broth and it tasted deeply satisfying/hearty. How do I make the broth become so milky white?

    1. Hi Ranindira,
      I think the broth will turn milky if you cook the glutinous rice for a long time.


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