Korean Stuffed Chicken Soup with ginseng (Sam Gae Tang) is a delicious, fragrant soup that is surprisingly easy to make.
In Korea, it is sometimes made as a restorative when people are sick or weak like chicken soup is used in the West, but it's more traditionally eaten and enjoyed during the summer months. Koreans like to drink hot soup or stews during the summer months in an effort to fight the heat with heat. Because ginseng and ginger are also “hot” spices according to Chinese medicine, you will sweat and detox after drinking a hot bowl of this soup on a summer day. The belief is that your body is better able to regulate itself and stay cool in the summer heat after being detoxed and rejuvenated by a bowl of sam gae tang.
Because of the medicinal properties of ginseng (see below), some Korean mothers give this soup to their newlywed daughters or son-in-laws.
- 2 small whole chickens or Cornish hens
- 2 roots of dried ginseng, washed
- 7-8 chestnuts, peeled
- 9-10 red dried dates, rinsed
- 1/2 cup Korean sticky rice (chapsal), washed and drained
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 inch piece ginger, peeled and cut in half
- 9 cups water
- 2 chopped scallions for garnish
- salt (to taste)
- pepper (to taste)
- Remove any innards from birds.
- Rinse the inside and outside of the hens or small chickens.
- Trim any visible fat off the chickens but don't trim skin needed to cover stuffing in cavity.
- Stuff the hens/chickens with the sweet rice, chestnuts and garlic. Use toothpicks if you need some help to keep the stuffing in the birds.
- In a large soup pot, add stuffed hens (or chickens), ginseng roots, dates, and ginger.
- Pour water to cover hens (or chickens).
- Bring up to a boil. Turn heat down to low simmer.
- Cook about 1.5 - 2 hours or until the thigh bones come off easily. Don't cook so long that the hens (or chickens) start to come apart. They should stay intact.
- Skim fat from time to time during cooking.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle with scallions to serve.
The Korean culture has a long history of treating food and drink as medicine; spices and herbs are regularly used to treat sickness and ailments. Koreans have used ginseng as medicine for thousands of years and Korea is currently the largest producer of ginseng in the world.
Korean herbalists use ginseng to restore strength and stamina, to increase longevity, as an aphrodisiac and to treat impotence*, and to treat high blood pressure, Diabetes and cholesterol. It's used for many other ailments in Eastern medicine, and to improve mental strength and memory.
These days, the medicinal properties of ginseng are also accepted in the West, since it often appears in energy drinks as a stimulant.
*In a 2002 study by the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, there was a link found between ginseng and sexual behavior: “recent studies in laboratory animals have shown that both Asian and American forms of ginseng enhance libido and copulatory performance.”Source: Murphy L, Jer-Fu Le T. Ginseng, Sex Behavior, and Nitric Oxide. Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences 2002.