by Michael Jones.
Korea produces some of the most delicious soups on the planet. I would say on par with, or even greater, than the other more well-known soups from Asia such as Ramen and Pho. There are so many varieties of soup in Korea that the Korean language has many different words like 국, 탕, 찌개, and 죽 to describe them. One of the most famous of these soups is Samgyetang. Samgyetang is the closest thing you will get to finding some old fashioned American style chicken noodle soup. My grandma always made hers with a whole chicken, freshly sliced carrots, onions, celery, and noodles. Samgyetang also uses an entire chicken, but instead of noodles, rice is used and is usually stuffed inside the chicken. The vegetables are also different and Samgyetang is made with ingredients like garlic, scallions, dates, and spices like ginseng and jujube. I’ve only had Samgyetang a handful of times, probably because it’s fairly expensive compared to a lot of other Korean dishes, and because I was never that impressed by it. This changed, however, when I went to Tosokchon Samgyetang (토속촌 삼계탕), near Gyeongbokgung, this month. I’ve walked by this restaurant many times and have witnessed lines 50 people long, so I knew someday I had to try it. The other day we did. It was about an hour before closing, so they were not packed, and I was impressed by the size of the restaurant. The place is basically constructed out of many conjoining traditional Korean buildings. I can’t believe a place this large could have waits out the door consistently. I knew at this point that we were in for something special.
The three of us ordered the basic, traditional Samgetang (~15,000 won) and a bottle of Makgeolli. A complimentary bottle of Insamju, or ginseng wine was served. However, this alcohol tasted so strong we didn’t drink very much of it. The chicken came out boiling and in a dark, rich smelling broth. After waiting a few minutes to save my taste buds, I ate the first spoonful and it was extraordinary. The chicken was tender and the broth was creamy rich from the bones. On the table there was salt and pepper provided so you could season it to perfection. I added just a pinch of salt before dismantling the chicken and spreading the meat and white rice through the broth. Every spoonful was packed with flavor and I savored every bite. Now I finally understand why so many people rave about this dish. I know one thing for sure, when you see Korean people waiting in line for Samgyetang this summer, be on the lookout for some foreigners, it might just be me and my friends.
Directions: Come out of Gyeongbokgung, exit 2 (subway line 3)
Walk straight about 120 meters.
Once you pass Popeyes and GS25, turn left onto the small alleyway.
The restaurant will be on your left.
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