Chicken Soup For The Soul - Ginseng Chicken {Samgyetang}

Samgyetang Ginseng Chicken

Ginseng chicken or Samgyetang is a Korean dish that is great either in summer or winter depending on the ginseng that you use. It's one of those low effort high payoff dishes where the chicken is so tender thanks to the gentle, clever poaching method that produces the silkiest, most tender chicken imaginable!

Samgyetang is one of those medicinal dishes that is said to increase stamina and a little bonus is that it requires around 10 minutes active prep. The rest of the time the chicken gently poaches away on the stovetop so I call this the ultimate lazy weekend chicken for when you've got a great book or television series. It's also delicious enough to serve to guests and is perfect for winter. But the irony is that it is often used in the summer months to help increase stamina. That is because there are two main types of ginseng: Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolius).

Samgyetang Ginseng Chicken

Korean ginseng is more potent and has warming properties (Yang or hot) while American ginseng has cooling properties (Yin or cooling). So use this according to the weather around you and how you'd like to use it.

If you buy a Samgyetang kit from the Asian grocery store here in Australia then chances are it will be the Korean or Siberian ginseng. If you're in America, just check the labels as they will specify which type of ginseng.

A word of warning: ginseng is a medicinal ingredient that should not be used continuously for prolonged periods.

I love this dish because while it is mild, the beauty of this is in the chicken's texture. Usually with Samgyetang you just boil it for 45 minutes or so but I love chicken that is gently poached especially when it is served plain like this. The texture of this chicken is remarkable and even though it cooks at such a low temperature, it will cook through. That's how I used to poach tenderloins for my darling little Mochi and she loved them (although she never gave me feedback that they were tender).

Samgyetang Ginseng Chicken

The rice in this makes the broth creamy and milky in appearance. Although there may seem like there is too much broth, usually a second dish is made the following days after the first Samgyetang is eaten and that's a porridge made with the stock and shredded chicken. For the two of us it lasts 3-4 days and if you get sick of it you can use the chicken in a sandwich and freeze the soup until you hit a really cold way. Or if you're in the Northern hemisphere make this with American ginseng which may cool you down!

Speaking of weather, we were recently travelling in Port Stephens. It was perhaps the very worst weekend to visit there because while they are usually blessed with lovely weather, we visited during some truly hideous windy weather. It was so bad that all of our outdoor activities were cancelled and we had to redo our itinerary several times.

One reason that I hate winter is because it takes so long to get changed. There are just so many layers of clothing you need to go outside. I got used to piling on layers and layers of clothing and after lunch one day I thought I had put on my scarf but when I reach our accommodation I couldn't find it. I was beside myself, it was my favourite scarf. It was warm and versatile it looked like fur but wasn't and I had had it for 15 years or so and it still looked like new.

Samgyetang Ginseng Chicken

I rang the restaurant where I had lunch and the office that I'd stopped in to. No luck. I thought I had kissed my scarf goodbye but I kept thinking about it. "Could we go and retrace my steps?" I asked Mr NQN. Ever agreeable he drove me and told me to look out for places where people may have hung it. "What if someone is wearing it?" I said to him.

"What is it is someone sleeping rough that needs it?" he countered. "I'd offer to take them shopping for a new one," I said.

When we drove near the restaurant I screamed "There it is!!!". A good, honest soul had picked it up and tied it to a metal railing. I jumped out of the car, ran over to my scarf and unfurled it and put it on me. Thank goodness for honest people. And for things that keep you warm during winter. Like this soup!

So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever found something that you sure was lost forever? Have you ever tried this dish?

Ginseng Chicken {Samgyetang}

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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 1.5 hours

Serves 2

  • 1 small chicken (take it out of the fridge around 1 hour before you cook it)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup sticky glutinous rice (or you can use any kind of rice)
  • 2 ginseng roots (Korean), 2 jujubes, 2 gingko nuts, small bundle milk vetch root (or one Samgyetang herbal tea kit*)
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock (enough to almost cover the chicken)
  • 2 green shallots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the Samgyetang kit check out the Korean section of the Asian grocery store. Some herbal tea kits don't contain ginseng so be sure to read the packet. Both of the ones at my local store did and the only difference was whether they contained jujubes or red dates or not.

Samgyetang Ginseng Chicken

Step 1 - Place the chicken stock with the ginseng, jujubes, gingko nuts and milk vetch root and bring to a boil. Meanwhile stuff the chicken with 1/4 cup of the rice and the garlic cloves and tie closed. Place the additional 3/4 cup of rice in the pot and place the chicken on top and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low (1 out of 10) and simmer for 45 minutes.

Samgyetang Ginseng Chicken

Step 2 - Stir the rice at the bottom and then bring the heat back up to the boil and then turn down to 1 out of 10 heat and cook again at a really low simmer and cook for another 45 minutes. The chicken should be done by then. Sprinkle with green shallots and mix the sesame oil and salt and season the chicken. You can also add some grated fresh ginger although this is not a traditional Korean addition.

Samgyetang Ginseng Chicken

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