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. it looks sooo juiciee!~ i luv ur recipes ^_^

  2. Hi Maangchi,

    Whenever my mom made me samgyetang, she always used a ginger root, not ginseng, and never used dates. Is there a big taste difference?

  3. Indonesian girl& has 4 comments

    Can breastfeeding mom eat samgyetang? Do u eat the ginseng or not?

  4. curiouskitty& has 2 comments

    i can find any ginseng where i am but i saw ginseng ‘maca’ powder ca i use it?

  5. I can’t find fresh ginseng root….can I use dried one?

  6. hi maangchi-ssi! thx so much for the video, this looks really easy to make. just like to check, is it ok to substitute fresh ginseng for dried ones? i bought a pack of the dried ones (called jilin ginseng), do i use the same amount? would appreciate your advise.

    also, do you have a recipe for kyeran mari (egg rolls), i wanna make that after watching 꽃보다 남자. hehe. thanks!

  7. hi maangchi,
    this morning I went to korean groceries to buy ginseng for samgyetang. but they run out of ginseng. so I went to japan grocery, I found ginseng-like root, labeled “doraji/ginseng”. at that moment i forgot that the koren name for ginseng was susam, so I bought some. but when I saw the price, I wondered why that ginseng was much cheaper than the ginseng I used to buy. I asked the lady who sold it, she said that it was ginseng.
    I just realised that it’s not the same ginseng as I used to buy, right after I got back home. and i search in the internet, that it’s called bellflower & not for samgyetang.
    what i wanna ask you, is doraji similar with susam? can I make samgyetang with it? is it good for health as susam? i want to make ginseng soup for my brother who suffered from fever, to help him getting back his stamina.

    thank you

  8. maangchi, it’s me again.
    you know, now I’ve just made samgyetang soup an hour ago for dinner, at least that’s what I planned to ;) . because I couldnt get small chicken, i used breast chicken. unfortunately I’m not a good wrapper, so the rice was all over the pot. now, I come out with samgyetang porridge ha.ha.ha. but it’s also delicious though. it gives me idea to make chicken & ginseng porridge again one day. now I’m still trying to finish my dinner.
    I also want to try to make sikhye but it’s difficult to find the barley powder. I’ve got two korean minimarkets close to my office but both dont have it. there is only the barley seed. so, can i use the seed? if it’s okay, how to make the sikhye with barley seed? I have lakchi, can you suggest me what is it for?
    thanks a lot!

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

      Yeah, you made chicken porridge called daakjook in Korean. I will post daakjook recipe someday. I use a huge pot when I make the porridge. Anyway, I’m glad your chicken soup turned out good!
      To make shikhye, you will have to find right ingredient barley malt powder: Yeotkireum
      I am copying and pasting my answer made for someone else a few days ago.
      “There are 2 types of barley malt: powder type and coarsely crushed (or pounded )barley malt.
      I use either powder type or crushed type. But be sure it is really crushed barley malt. If you find these words “엿기름 가루” or “식혜가루” on the package, buy it.”

  9. Yun-Chong& has 1 comment

    OMG!! I tried some of your recipes and it came out sooo good!! My husband, who is American, loved it too! I am going to try Samgyetang some time this week! I have to drive 45 minutes to our “local” Korean grocery store, but it will be all worth it!!!

  10. 만지님 you are awesome! ^0^
    Now i can learn to cook for my bf after his military serviceㅎㅎ
    Can`t believe you have 삼계탕 here! Thank you so much!!!
    Anyways in the chicken section you only seem to have 2 recipesㅠㅠ
    By any chance will you be posting on how to cook 닭똥집? Possibly
    something that looks like this?? ^^;;

  11. The pot can stand on an elektronic plate for cooking?

  12. hi: i’m trying your samgaetang recipe however i’m making 2 cornish hens in one pot. would i could it for the same amount of time, boil 20 high heat, then boil 40 min over medium heat? i don’t want to over cook it.

  13. thx lord.. finally i found korean food recipes…
    i really love samgyetang.. hahha… i always order it everytime i visits the korean restaurant.. ^^ (i’m at jakarta, indonesia and hell yeah they got many korean restos here!!)

    고마워요…!!! ^^ ㅎㅎㅎ

  14. hi maangchi i am seriously saying thank you to you i had throat infection that was so painfull that when i speak few words also i fell pain i made sampyetang 3 days regularly and i am very well now

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

    no, don’t skin it unless you really want to.
    Today I made chicken porridge using normal size chicken. I skinned it to remove fat and it turned out good.

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