|For the first Rosh Hashanah in our new house I wanted to make a meal which would reflect the change from summer to autumn. This soup is traditionally eaten in the hottest part of summer in Korea, the theory being that it warms the body so much as to make the outside temperature feel cooler. Yet the dates, chestnuts, and ginseng, and even the rice are fruit of fall. In any season, it is traditionally believed that sam gae tang helps to rejuvenate the body by replenishing essential nutrients while sweating out the toxins, thus promoting a long and healthy life. As we look forward to a sweet new year this soup was a flavorful meal to begin.
Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
——from James Beard
Korean Chicken Ginseng Soup
Sam Gae Tang (Samgyetang) (삼계탕)
- 2 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 ½ cups glutinous sweet rice, rinsed and soaked in water for an hour
- 8 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
- 8 dried jujube red dates
- 16 precooked or dried chestnuts
- 2 fresh or dried ginseng root
- salt and pepper
- 9 8-inch squares of thin cotton cloth or round coffee filters
- kitchen twine
- 2 scallions, sliced
Wash and dry the hens. Trim off the tail and excess fat.
Place ¼ cup of pre-soaked glutinous sweet rice in the center of an 8-inch square of thin cotton cloth (or coffee filter). Bring corners together and tie securely with kitchen twine. Repeat with the other cloths.
Put one garlic clove, a date, 2 chestnuts, and a packet of rice inside each Cornish hen’s cavity.
Close the cavity up with a toothpick.
Place stuffed hens, ginseng, remaining garlic, dates, chestnuts, the remaining packets of sweet rice and enough water to cover the hens in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and skim off fat and foam. Lower to low heat, cover and simmer for about 1 ½ hours.
Discard the ginseng.
Warm four large soup bowls. Place half a chicken into each bowl. Ladle the soup over the chicken, including some dates, garlic, chestnuts and an unwrapped packet of sweet rice. Garnish with sliced scallions. Serve with salt and pepper mixed in a small bowl on the side so you can dip the chicken directly into the seasonings. Kim chi is also a traditional accompaniment. Provide an empty bowl for the skin, bones, and date pits.
Mikey joined us at the table to remind us he is fond of chicken. He’s well-mannered and doesn’t beg by putting his feet on the table; he just sits quietly and looks sad.