Tosokchon Samgyetang (Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup) 토속촌 삼계탕 (土俗村参鸡汤)
When Ryan’s aunt learnt what I liked, she quickly arranged for a dinner date at the famous Tosokchon, a restaurant best known for one thing, Samgyetang!
삼계탕 (Samgyetang) is Korean’s Ginseng Chicken Soup. Fresh young free range chicken below 50 days old is stuffed with with glutinous (sweet) rice, chestnuts, garlic, dried jujubes but the star ingredient is, of course, the Ginseng – a precious root which Chinese considers the elixir of life!
Traditionally eaten on one of the 3 dog days of summer (Sambok), Samgyetang is simmered for hours on end to draw out a delicious broth. According to TCM, this dish has revitalising nutritional properties and can re-energise a person’s languishing spirit.
What is Sambok?
In the past when most Koreans depended on farming for their livelihood, all family members worked in the fields from spring to fall. But when the scalding heat of summer made field work nearly impossible, everyone would take a short respite from the sizzling sun. Part of this summertime ritual was eating a carefully prepared, nutritious meal meant to build stamina and cool the body: a wise and easy way to recover from fatigue and gear up for the fall harvest.
Sambok refers to the three hottest days of summer, which mark the peak of the growing season. After these days have passed, farmers look forward to the ripening of the rice. According to the lunar calendar, the sambok period extends over a month and is marked by the three days of chobok (beginning), jungbok (middle), and malbok (last). There is a 10-day interval between chobok and jungbok, and a 20-day interval between jungbok and malbok. This year, chobok is July 20, jungbok is July 30, and malbok is August 9 after the monsoon season (June 10, 20, and July 10 respectively by the lunar calendar). And since Sambok is counted according to the lunar calendar, the days are different every year.
Samgyetang, the most popular Korean dish for sambok days, is prepared with a tender young chicken (one small chicken each for individual servings), ginseng, garlic, jujube dates, and glutinous rice. – information obtained from visitkorea.or.kr
Ryan’s aunt said the best place to eat Samgyetang is at Tosokchon (near Gyeongbokgung Palace), where the flavours of the soup – sweet, nutty and soothing, are testified by its adoration among locals and tourists alike. It was also a favourite restaurant of the late president, Noh Muh-hyun.
Samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup)
Tongdak (roasted chicken)
Otgyetang (chicken cooked in Chinese sumac bark broth)
Dak Baeksuk (boiled chicken stuffed with rice and ginseng)
Dak Bokkeum Tang (chicken hotpot)
Agwi Jjim (spicy monkfish with soybean sprouts)
Haemul Pajeon (green onion pancake with seafood)
The dishes available was limited but generally, people go there just to eat Samgyetang. If you like very strong ginseng taste, you can opt, with additional cost, for the 100年 山参培养根 which is cultured roots of a 100 year-old Korean mountain ginseng. We ordered both the black and white chicken Samgyetang with the standard preparations.
The invigorating ginseng wine and soup did their job well, my face was blushing when we left Tosokchon. Later that evening, I could feel the warmth in my body building up as we paced the street in search of some bargain shopping.
So is Toksokchon the best in Seoul? Yes, according to Ryan’s aunt!
I am not sure if there’s a price difference between the black and white chicken but the standard bowl cost about KRW15,000.
Thanks for the treat Ryan’s aunt 🙂
Tosokchon Samgye-tang (토속촌 삼계탕, 土俗村参鸡汤)
Address: 서울 종로구 자하문로5길 5 (체부동).
5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu,
Seoul, South Korea.
Tel: (+82) 2737 7444
Opening hours: Daily
10am – 10pm.
Happy eating 🙂