Monday, April 28, 2014

Korean Food: Samgyetang (삼계탕)

It is really difficult to find authentic Samgyetang (삼계탕) in Singapore. Samgyetang, also known as Ginseng Chicken Soup, is literally translated from Korean to English - Sam (Ginseng), Gye (Chicken), Tang (Soup). In Kimchi boy's three months in Singapore, we have never successfully found any Korean restaurant that serve an authentic samgyetang. We've had reasonably good ones like Hansang Korean Family Restaurant in Novena, or cheaper versions like Hwang's at NUS Utown, but never like the ones you will get in Korea.

This my most favourite Korean food of all. It is a really "friendly" food for foreigners who are trying Korean food for the first time because it is not red, not spicy and looks like Chinese chicken soup. Somehow the restaurants do it best, but it is also simple to prepare it yourself at home. Here's what you need.

Samgyetang Pack
Can be bought in any Korean supermarkets like Lotte Mart, SolMart, Shine Supermarket in Singapore. It would probably cost about sgd 6 but if you're in Korea, you can get it for much cheaper. I got mine at Home Plus for ₩2. It does not look appetizing because they do resemble tree branches, tree bark and roots (they probably are - the edible kinds). But trust me, after you start falling in love with samgyetang you will start buying the ones with MORE tree branches & bark.

Real Ginseng
The older the better. Because the ones in the samgyetang packs are lousy quality ginseng of low or almost no grade, you will need high-grade ginseng to bring out the taste in the soup. 

Korean salt to be exact. I don't know why and how but it just tastes better with Korean salt. (not because it is flavored). Whenever I try to cook Korean food in Singapore, Kimchi boy would always ask "do you have Korean soy sauce or Korean xxx". He insists that the taste would not be the same without 'Korean' ingredients and sauces. Now I think it's true. HAHA.

1. Boil the samgyetang pack, together with ginseng, for an hour at least. (Make sure there is enough water to cover the chicken completely later on). 

2. After an hour, put in one whole chicken and boil for another hour or longer. If you're cooking for four, you will need a large chicken (i.e get the jumbo chicken from NTUC). As simple as that! 

3. Usually I am really lazy, but it would be the perfect but still non-authentic samgyetang if you can just stuff glutinous rice or *Japanese/Korean rice into the insides of the chicken, from the butt. Use toothpicks to make sure the butt it tightly sealed. Yes, it does not sound good at this point but you cannot imagine how amazing the rice will taste at the end. 

*Kimchi boy will not be pleased. You should use Korean rice HAHA.

4. Remember to add some salt before serving. 

TIP: The longer you boil the soup, the better it will taste. But I do not recommend you to exceed 4 hours because gas is really expensive in Singapore. LOL.

There are many variations of this, like the black samgyetang that we had in Jeju Island. I've also had one at Tanjong Pagar before that used black/purple glutinous rice instead of the normal kind.

I was like "please don't talk to me while I enjoy this".

I think the best (I've ever had) and the most famous one that most tourists will definitely visit is the one near GyeongBok Palace in Seoul. The place is called 토속촌삼계탕. (I don't know if there is an English name.) Just google "gyeongbokgung palace samgyetang" and you will probably find the shop. Most, if not all of their waiters/waitresses can speak chinese. They do serve alot of tourists from China and Taiwan. I would go there whenever I arrive and depart from Seoul.

Gyeongbok Palace

Rare sight of the 'queue-less' samgyetang restaurant. It was about 3pm at that time.

Dining with Kimchi boy (right) & his cousin in the restaurant.

If I remember correctly, the price of a normal samgyetang is ₩15,000 (less than sgd20). It does not include rice but it is really not necessary to order rice because there is glutinous rice inside remember? They also do take-aways - great for me because if I were to get pregnant one day, I can order kimchi boy to go get take away for me. The queue is SO long during meal hours (min. waiting time ~30mins) so the best time to visit them is between 2-5 pm. The roast chicken is a must-try (if you love ginseng)! Most people don't order it because they think it is just ordinary roasted chicken but the taste is so extraordinary it will blow your mind. You will never look at roasted chicken the same way again. HAHA. The roasted chicken is marinated with ginseng and it has so much flavor in it, yet not too oily at the same time.

Writing about this is makes me hungry. 

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