Is Samgyetang Healthy? (Nutritional Value)

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Broth dishes are an important part of the typical Korean diet. The warm water, fat, and seasonings are not only comforting but also nourishing. 

It assists delivery of other nutrients to the body while helping to maintain the feeling being full. Samgyetang is a type of Korean chicken soup that embodies this concept.

But, is samgyetang healthy? Yes, samgyetang is very good for you. It’s a whole stuffed young chicken that contains things like jujubes, garlic, ginseng and onion. 

This submerges in a pot of boiling water until the flesh softens from the bone and the meat completely infuses with the spices.

This classic and historic dish not only cures and prevents illness, but it’s also a famous summertime soup. 

It helps fight the heat and humidity while allowing the body to regulate its temperature efficiently.

Let’s dive deeper

About Samgyetang & Its Ingredients

Samgyetang literally translates to “ginseng chicken soup” in English. This is essentially a whole chicken, usually young, that stuffs with things like rice, ginseng, jujubes and garlic. 

Some people will also include peeled chestnuts and gingko nuts. It boils for about an hour, which creates bone broth while making the meat tender.

This is an old dish hailing from the Joseon Dynasty (1392AD to 1897AD). Actually, during that time, there were several types of chicken soups complete with customs. 

For instance, soup with young chickens was for the elderly in the summer. Others stuffed it with special herbs, like milkvetch roots, that were specifically for sickness.

The earliest known documented recipe of what we know to be samgyetang today comes from a professor named Shinyoung Bang in 1917. 

It discusses gutting a chicken and then stuffing it with ginseng powder along with rice. 

After closing the openings, it undergoes boiling with 10 bowls of water. But the author calls this “dakguk.”

Nutritional Value of Samgyetang

As a traditional summer health food, samgyetang is one of the best and most nutrient-rich things to eat. It’s one of those dishes Koreans will serve all year, regardless of the season. 

The softened rice infused with garlic and ginseng is excellent for stomach and digestive issues, women’s concerns, and overall male health.

One cup (260 grams) has about 200 calories. This comes with about 10 grams of fat, 64 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, and only 15 grams of carbohydrates. 

This magical soup also has 234 milligrams of potassium and 27% of your daily requirement of vitamin C.

There are other vitamins and nutrients too, like vitamin A and D. 

However, potassium and vitamin C are essential in being able to fight off colds, flu, sore throat, clogged sinuses, and many other conditions.

How Samgyetang Is Healthy

This is an excellent soup for replenishing the essential vitamins and minerals after vigorous exercise, working in humid weather, exposure to freezing temperatures, and for illness.

People looking to eat a more sensible diet can have two or three cups of samgyetang without worry or guilt. 

Having said that, working out will be essential within 24 hours of eating it (either before or after).

Making Samgyetang at Home

While it is possible to make samgyetang at home, it is a little long. If you decide to make it, go to your local Asian grocery and buy a samgyetang kit. 

It will come with ginseng, rice, jujubes, and other ingredients. This way, you’ll ensure you have everything you need without having to buy each one individually.

Items You’ll Need

  • Measuring Cups & Spoons
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Medium Mixing Bowl
  • Paper Towels
  • Medium-Sized Boiling Pot

Ingredients

  • 1½ lbs Small, Whole Chicken (Cornish Hens work)
  • 6 Cups Water or Chicken Stock
  • 5 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 Green Onions (one for the stuffing& two chopped for garnish)
  • 3 Jujubes
  • 2 Ginger Slices (fresh or pickled)
  • 1 Ginseng Root (fresh)
  • 3 Tbsp Short Grain White Rice
  • Ground Black Pepper & Salt (to taste)

Directions

  1. First chop the ginseng, garlic, ginger and green onion, reserving the white end of the green onion.
  2. Thoroughly rinse and clean the chicken, ensuring you don’t cut away the tail or neck. These ends will help keep the stuffing inside.
  3. Place the chicken on a cutting board and use paper toweling to dry it thoroughly, ensuring all blood clears away.
  4. Whichever end is longest and has the most skin to work with, fold it over and into the cavity to create a seal for the stuffing.
  5. In the open end, put in the rice, a few slices of garlic, the white end of one green onion, one slice of ginger and the ginseng root. Seal up this opening with the remaining skin or use skewers. You want to ensure none of the stuffing escapes while it boils.
  6. Place the stuffed chicken in the medium-sized boiling pot and cover it with enough water (or chicken stock). This is usually six cups but it could be five or seven depending on the size of the bird.
  7. Set the stove on medium heat and bring the samgyetang to a violent, rolling boil. This will take about 15 minutes, adding more liquid if required and removing scum buildup at the top.
  8. Reduce heat to a medium-low setting, add leftover rice and herbs to the broth, cover the pot and let it simmer for another 25 minutes to 30 minutes.
  9. Turn off the heat and let the chicken remain on the burner for about 15 minutes. Serve samgyetang boiling hot with salt and pepper.

Conclusion

Samgyetang is one of the healthiest dishes in Korean cuisine. It has medicinal value while simultaneously being delicious. 

In fact, a poll done by the South Korean government asked foreigners what their favorite Korean dish was, 90% of the participants indicated that samgyetang sat in their top five.

It’s good for so many illnesses, conditions and concerns, you can’t go wrong having a bowl. Chicken soup cures everything, but samgyetang takes the concept to a whole new level.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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