Ginseng chicken soup

Samgyetang 삼계탕

Ginseng chicken soup (in Korean, Samgyetang) is a hot, steaming, delicious dish that features a small chicken stuffed with rice, ginseng, garlic, and  jujube. You have to commit to eating a whole chicken all by yourself when you sit down for a bowl of samgyetang! But it’s totally worth it.

Koreans traditionally eat this dish during the hottest days of summer as a way to keep up their energy and to balance their body heat with the weather outside. We have a saying: Yi yeol chi yeol (以熱治熱: 이열치열), which means “fight fire with fire.” If it’s hot outside, you have to overcome it with hot soup!

A while ago I ran into one of my readers in a restaurant here in New York. He was sitting at a table with his friend. The first thing he said was: “Oh man, Maangchi!! I can’t believe I ran into you here!” We talked for a while and I asked him what his favorite recipe of mine was. He answered “Samgyetang” and told me how he often made it for himself and his mother. I was very impressed!

Koreans designate the 3 hottest days of a year as sambok (3 bok: 삼복) and their dates vary from year to year but they usually fall in July and August. First is chobok (beginning), and then 10 days later is jungbok (middle), and 20 days after that is malbok (last).

During this time, well-known samgyetang restaurants will be lined up outside, and inside they are full of diners eating hot, steamy, ginseng-infused soup, with sweat trickling down their foreheads as they fight fire with fire! Housewives make samgyetang for all her family, too. I usually prepare samgyetang and cold watermelon. After finishing hot samgyetang, finish with cold watermelon. The contrast makes your body feel shocking cold.

So if you like to follow Korean tradition, you can join them in 2015 on July 13 (chobok), July 23 (jungbok), and August 12 (malbok). Let me know how it turns out!


  • 2 cornish hens. Each hen weighs about 1½ pounds, a nice portion for 1 person.
  • ½ cup short grain rice (or glutinous rice), rinsed and soaked in cold water for 1 hour.
  • 2 fresh ginseng roots, washed
  • 2 large dried jujubes, washed
  • 16 garlic cloves, washed and the tips are removed
  • 2 to 3 green onions, chopped
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper

fresh-ginseng (susam: 수삼) cornish-hens

For the sesame dipping sauce:

For  sweet sour soy dipping sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or sugar)
  • ½ a medium size onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 Jalapeno (or green chili pepper), chopped


Make the dipping sauces:

  1. Combine salt, sesame seeds, ground black pepper, and toasted sesame oil in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
    sesame salt dipping
  2. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, and honey (or sugar) in another bowl. Mix well with a spoon. Add onion and jalapeno. Set aside.

Cook the chicken:

  1. Strain the rice.
  2. Remove the giblets from the hens and rub them with salt all over to clean them nicely. Rinse under cold running water.
  3. Put the hens on the cutting board, pat dry, and remove any extra fat around the body cavities with kitchen scissors. Cut off the tips of wings if you want.
  4. Stuff each hen with rice, 1 ginseng, 1 jujube, and 8 garlic cloves. Put any leftover rice in the pot.
  5. Place the hens into a heavy pot. Add 8 cups of cold water, cover, and cook over medium high heat for 30 minutes.Samgyetang making (삼계탕)
  6. Turn down the heat to medium and cook another 40 minutes until the chicken, ginseng, and rice turn soft. Open up the pot from time to time and ladle some broth from the bottom over top of the chickens. If the broth evaporates too much, add more water.
  7. Remove from the heat.samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup: 삼계탕)samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup: 삼계탕)


  1. Place each hen into 2 individual bowls and add the chicken and broth. Sprinkle with chopped green onion and ground black pepper. Serve with kimchi, the 2 kinds of dipping sauce, and a small bowl of salt on the side for seasoning.
  2. If you serve them in earthenware pots, preheat the pots with a little water inside (about 2 tablespoons) and add the chicken and broth. Let them sit in on the heat until the samgyetang starts to sizzle. Then remove from the heat and sprinkle green onion over top and grind some black pepper. Serve hot with the dipping sauce, kimchi, and a small bowl of salt on the side for seasoning. 


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  1. Hi Maangchi,

    Is it alright to replace sweet rice with normal rice?


  2. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    How about the recipe I posted radish soup with beef. I strongly recommend it. I posted it when I made stuffed cucumber kimchi (oisobagi)

  3. catherine& has 6 comments

    This is so beautiful! Do you have recipes for more similar soups? Thanks maangchi.

  4. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    I never use ginseng powder in sam gye tang. fresh ginseng is good. If you have to use the ginseng powder, use only 1 tablespoon. If you put it too much, the soup will be thick.

  5. Hi Maangchi,

    I like to know if I can substitute the ginseng root with Ginseng powder?


  6. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    wow, congratulaion!

  7. Hey Maangchi!
    I made this soup a little while ago and my mom and brother LOVED it and it was gone before the day was over. Thanks so much for posting these recipes! :)

  8. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    Your lesson sounds like poem!
    The soup seemed to be medicine instead of a meal. : )
    Sorry to hear about your failure.
    Anyway thank you for sharing your story even though it was failure.
    “Don’t use much ginseng for samgyetang”!

  9. I wish to try fresh ginseng, it is not available here. (There’s Hong Sam red ginseng root available for 19.99/lb)

    I made the Sam gye tang with dried ginseng root hair but it was a failure.

    Since you used 4 thick fresh ginseng, so I added 2/3 cup of dried ginseng root hair, however, it became way too bitter, as the tiny ginseng roots enlarged after cooking, it was almost 2 cups. I had to added a lot of water and green onions to cover up the overwhelmed ginseng taste, on the other hand, the taste of chicken was diluted.

    Lesson learned:
    Do not add too much ginseng.

    Interesting facts that I’d like to share:
    Maybe it was a late supper…
    Maybe I was very tired…
    Maybe it was the power of the amazing ginseng…
    After having the “Super” ginseng soup, I felt very sleepy, and I had a very nice sleep that night right after the meal. :)

    The other person who had my super soup felt warm current inside his chest after tasting the soup.

  10. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    Yes, I think it will be ok. Why don’t you ask the owner of the store if you can buy a good looking ginseng? : )

  11. I saw packages of tiny roots of Korean ginseng available at a Korean store for $15.99 USD per pound.

    I wonder if I can use these hair like little roots to subsitude the actual body of ginseng for the sam gae tang.

  12. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    I usually go to a korean store located west of bloor and bathurst. The closest subway is Christie or Bathurst. You can ask people where a korean grocery store is. There are 3 or 4 grocery stores there.
    I bought the fresh ginseng there.
    Or when you come down to Toronto, let me know via email, then I will find a time to help you get it.

  13. Maangchi,

    I would love to make this soup – however, I wouldn’t know where to buy the ginseng. I live close to Toronto, Canada – can you suggest any shops?


  14. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    Good to hear from you!
    Since I met you last time, I sometimes have been thinking about you, especially when I make some special food. I just think, “Deborah may like to learn this.” : )
    Next time I make my kimchi, I will let you know through e-mail.

  15. Deborah Toronto, ON joined 4/09 & has 47 comments

    fantastic video!! sam gye tang looks sooo simple (and yummy) to make :) i’m definately gonna try this recipe out at home.

    p.s. hope you have been well :)

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