Out with the bad, in with delicious chicken soup
[FOOD & KOREA] Samgyetang, Geumsan
|Samgyetang is made with whole ingredients to preserve the nutrients. Provided by the Korea Tourism Organization|
The traditional Korean soup known as samgyetang consists of a whole young chicken and ginseng.
According to myth, 1,500 years ago in Geumsan County, South Chungcheong, there lived a scholar named Kang who had great devotion and love for his widowed mother. When she became ill, the scholar went to Gwaneum Cave at Mount Jinak to pray for her recovery. The guardian spirit of the mountain appeared to Kang in a dream, telling him to find an herb with three red fruit and to feed the roots to his mother. When Kang awoke, he immediately ran to the mountaintop, where he found such an herb. Kang grabbed the roots and brewed a tea for his mother, and almost immediately she stood up again.
The herb was ginseng. Geumsan has been famous for it since the late Goryeo Dynasty, and today it’s one of the biggest sources of the root in Korea, producing more than 80 percent of the country’s crop. It is still accepted practice in Korea to use ginseng to cure physical ailments and prevent sickness, which is what made samgyetang a famous health food.
Though samgyetang can be served in both warm and cold weather, it is mostly sought after during summer. It has long been a tradition to eat samgyetang on Chobok, Jungbok and Malbok, the hottest days of the year. The goal of eating a hot soup on a hot day: sweat, believed to detoxify and rejuvenate the diner. Ginseng, too, is known to induce sweating.
Samgyetang also is said to restore nutrients that can be lost in summer sweat. Samgyetang is also believed to be an excellent hangover cure.
To make samgyetang, a whole chicken is stuffed with sweet rice, then boiled in a broth of Korean ginseng, garlic, ginger and dried jujubes. All the ingredients are used whole and uncut to preserve their nutrients, which include proteins, minerals and hormones from the chicken, as well as various beneficial properties from other ingredients. Other medicinal herbs may be added to the recipe, such as wolfberry (gugija), Codonopsis pilosula (dangsam) and Angelica sinensis (danggwi).
Samgyetang is often accompanied by a variety of side dishes, including kimchi. Some restaurants also offer a complimentary shot of insamju, ginseng wine, to finish the meal.
By Kim Mee-soo Contributing writer [email@example.com]