Monday, July 1, 2013

삼계탕 Sam Gye Tang: Korean Chicken and Ginseng Soup

I thought I would take a break from posting sweets and share with you one of my favorite Korean foods:

During my 3 years in Korea I learned a lot of wonderful things....and some strange things that no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get use to.  One of those things was eating hot food when it was crazy hot out.  The idea was that you would feel cooler after eating something hot because it was closer to the temperature outside.  I however just felt extra hot and sweaty.  That being said I will eat 삼계탕 (sam gye tang) no matter the weather just because I like it sooo much.
Mr. Lee's mom would frequently make it when I came to visit the house.  I was close to 90 degrees inside but let me tell you that didn't stop me from enjoying this delicious soup.
It is a fairly easy soup to make, and I have adapted it a bit so I am able to make it in the U.S.

For 2 servings you will need:
2 Cornish game hens
8 dried dates (jujube's)
2 pieces of ginseng root (or ginseng powder)
6-8 cloves of garlic
1-2 cups of sweet rice partially cooked
Green onion (garnish)
Salt and Pepper
Tooth picks
Optional: Sam gye tang soup package

Before even starting to make the soup you are going to want to soak your rice.  1st wash is till the water runs clear then let it soak for 4 hours.... or at least this is what most recipes will tell you.  I have never had much luck using the rice this way.  I find the Cornish game hens cook too quickly (because of their size) and the rice doesn't have enough time to cook.  Instead I cook the rice about half way and let it cool and then use it to make 삼계탕.

If you have a Korean market near you, you could pick up one of these lovely soup seasoning packages.  I have made 삼계탕 with it and with out it and it tastes great both ways.  If you do have the soup flavoring package add the contents to some water and let it boil for about 10 min. 

While your water is boiling you can get the rest of your ingredients ready.  Here I have my sweet rice jujube's and garlic ready to go to stuff the game hens  

Before stuffing the game hens you will want to wash them off, and trim off as much fat as you can and be sure the inside cavity is nice and clean.  After washing the chickens pat them dry and close up the smaller opening (by the neck) with tooth picks. 

Turn your birds over and fill with rice garlic and jujube's.  I like to put 3 jujube's inside and 2-3 cloves of garlic and then leave the rest to add to the broth. 

Once filled close up the opening with more tooth picks. 

Broth with flavor package

Put your hen in a large pot and fill with water, I never fully cover the bird because then you end up with a weaker flavored broth.  At this time if you used a flavoring package remove all the pieces (leave the ginseng root and jujube) If not using a flavor package add your additional jujube's and garlic as well as some ginseng powder to flavor the broth (you can make the broth without ginseng but it isn't quite as good)

Broth with ginseng powder
Bring the soup to a boil and skim off any fat/foam that forms on the surface.  Once foam stops forming add a little salt and pepper and cover the pot with a lid.  Cook until the meat is just about to fall off the bone.  

Garnish with thinly chopped green onion and a side of salt for dipping the meat into.  Kimchi and pickled daikon radish are great side dishes with sam gye tang.  

Be sure to remove the tooth picks before serving or let your guests know that they are there.  Crack open the hen and mix the rice with the broth and dip the chicken into your dish of salt eat and enjoy! 

There is a great video tutorial here: just in case you didn't follow my directions.  

Feel free to ask questions if you have them and enjoy your 삼계탕!