Samgyetang Samgyetang Photograph courtesy of Hyosun Ro


Samgyetang is a chicken soup made with a small, whole chicken and ginseng. It is an iconic summer dish in Korea. People eat this boiling hot soup to beat the heat and stay energized during the summer. It is especially popular during sambok, the three hottest days of summer; these days are based on the lunar calendar — chobok (beginning), jungbok (middle) and malbok (end). As the Korean saying goes, eating the hot soup is “fighting the heat with heat.”

Sam refers to ginseng, gye is chicken, and tangmeans soup. Ginseng is used because it is highly prized for its medicinal benefits, including boosting energy and the immune system. Samgyetang is made with a young chicken for its tender and tasty meat. If you need to feed more people, cook two small chickens in a larger pot rather than one large chicken.

The chicken is stuffed with soaked sweet rice (aka 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 maximum flavor. 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. 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 have had before.

Makes 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 to 6 plump garlic cloves

1 thin ginger slice (about 3 centimeters round)

2 to 3 jujubes (dried red dates)

1 scallion (white part only)

5 to 6 cups of water

2 scallions, finely chopped, to garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Clean the chicken. Do not cut off the neck and/or tail, if they are still attached. They will 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.

2. Stuff the cavity with the sweet rice and a couple of garlic cloves, leaving room (about 1/4 of the cavity should remain empty) for the rice to expand as it cooks.

3. 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.Alternatively, you can make a cut on the bottom part of one thigh and insert the other thigh through to keep the legs crossed together.

4. In a medium-sized 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 its removed neck, add it to the pot.

5. Bring 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.

6. 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.


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