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. togiltokki& has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi, I love your blog. It makes cooking korean food so much easier! Since I am half korean, it is really important to me.
    Today i try to cook samgyetang myself and I got confused at my first step, the chicken now lying on my kitchen table: Did you take of the skin of the chicken before cooking it? Or do you leave it on? Probably a stupid question but i really dont know and i cant tell from just looking at the chicken in your video^^

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

    I suggest using a half ginseng root for each serving. Cut a small size fresh ginseng root in half lengthwise. You can skip ginseng root if you don’t like the flavor.

  3. Hi Maangchi!
    I’m going to make this for my little sisters and we’ve never had ginseng before. I’m just wondering, how many ginseng roots do you recommend for a mild flavor? I notice you used 4 roots in the video but only suggested 2 in the ingredients list. I just don’t want the ginseng flavor to be too strong since I don’t know what it tastes like.

    Can’t wait to make this soon. Please get back to me when you can!! :)

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

    Thao Bui,
    oh, I’m sorry to hear about your husband! I’m praying for him at the moment! Yes, samgyetang will be good food for him. Why don’t you make it instead of looking for a restaurant? If you find a fresh ginseng root, it’ll be easy to make good samgyetang.
    You can leave your question on the forum at
    then you may get good answer from someone else.
    I don’t know much about Korean restaurants in Hochiminh city.

  5. Hi Maangchi,

    Would you please give me names of Korean restaurants in Hochiminh city, Vietnam where I can buy Sam Gye Tang? I’d like to buy it for my husband who just get an operation of liver cancer. I think it good for him, isn’t it? Thank you.

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

    sorry I can’t give you answer because I have never used dried ginseng for samgyetang. You can leave your question here

  7. julisensei& has 3 comments

    Hi Maanchi,

    I have some slivers of dried ginseng that I would like to use in my Sam Gye Tang. If I pre-soak it, how much should I try to use do you think? This is probably American Ginseng that my mom got at the Chinese supermarket that is frequently used for making individual cups of ginseng water, so I know that a little goes far.

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

    oh, I’m sorry to hear that!
    Skip ginseng then. Dried ginseng is very hard so it is usually used for medicine by boiling for days.

  9. maangchi…i can’t find fresh ginseng…all I can find is dried ginseng. Would it still be okay since I can’t find any fresh ginseng?

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

    no, you need fresh ginseng root.

  11. HI Maangchi,

    Can you use dried ginseng?

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

    Jennifer C,
    It is usually sold in China town or Korean grocery store. If you find it, please leave the address of the store on the forum here. fresh ginseng is used for ginseng chicken soup.

  13. Jennifer C.& has 1 comment

    Where can I buy the Korean gingseng when I am around San Francisco Bay Area, near Sunnyvale? The white gingseng you use for the Korean Gingseng Soup.

  14. I am so glad to have discovered your blog. You are my cooking hero. We swapped places – you in Canada, me in Korea.

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

    I found an interesting article about samgyetang on the internet. Check this out.

    “Samgyetang is an ideal body energizing food made of chicken, which is rich in protein and essential amino acids, and ginseng (or “panax” in scientific parlance), known since ancient times as a cure for many diseases.

    It is an outstanding stamina-improving food with well-balanced nutrients from ginseng, glutinous rice, jujube and chestnut.

    According to the “Donguibogam,” a famous Oriental Science Medicine book, “ginseng in samgyetang strengthens the heart’s functions; garlic plays the role of a body energizer; chestnut and jujube protect the stomach and prevent anemia; and pumpkin seeds prevent parasites.”

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