Samgyetang: What Is It, Where To Buy, and How To Eat?

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In cool weather, soup is a perfect choice. Not only are most soups easy to get, but many of them are healthy and a great comfort food. 

In Korean culture, soups and stews are huge because of the cooler climate. One of these soups is samgyetang.

Samgyetang is a type of healthy soup in Korean cuisine. Also called ginseng chicken soup, samgyetang has a whole chicken inside a pot. From there, the pot gets different seasonings, sauces, and ingredients that change the flavor. 

You’ll commonly see garlic and rice in the dish.

The rest of this article will cover what samgyetang is, how to eat it, and a brief conclusion.

What Samgyetang Is

Samgyetang (삼계탕) is a popular soup originating in South Korea. This may come as a surprise, but samgyetang is typically a summer soup due to its unique mix of flavors. 

Back when it was first founded hundreds of years ago, it was always served during the summertime. 

To make samgyetang, first you’ll need to select a chicken. You’ll need a whole chicken to put in the broth. 

Along with that, you’ll have a choice of what ingredients you want to use next. There’s your choice between garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, scallions, and much more.

In 1541, samgyetang was born. This was when the first reference to samgyetang in Korea’s history was made. 

The reference came from Yeongju, Korea, a place known for using their high quality chicken as an ingredient in many of their cuisines. Thus, samgyetang was born.

The Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) was the time period Korea was in back when samgyetang was born. 

As time went on, samgyetang evolved and got new ingredients. When it was commercially sold in the 1940s, it was more commonly called gyesamtang (계삼탕).

Where To Buy Samgyetang

In South Korea, samgyetang is around every corner. Since it’s a common dish, you’ll find it at most restaurants. 

To increase your chances of finding it, try going to a restaurant during the summer. Restaurants that don’t typically sell it are more likely to sell it during the summer.

If dining in doesn’t appeal to you, there’s always take-out and delivery. Delivery is huge in South Korea, so you should try getting samgyetang delivered to you. 

If those options aren’t convenient for you, there’s still a few more options you can try.

In Korea, you can find ingredients for samgyetang at a Korean grocery store. There’s even cute little samgyetang kits that you can buy. 

They’ll give you instructions and all the things you need to make it yourself. You can also order these kits online.

Outside of Korea, there’s still ways you can get samgyetang. For starters, online ordering is still an option. 

If online ordering isn’t available to you, or you prefer a different method, then you can go to the closest Korean restaurant and dine-in, get take-out, or get delivery.

If none of those options are available, then you can do one of two things. 

Go to your local grocery store and see if they sell kits, or you can pick up the ingredients and make it yourself from scratch. If there’s no packaged samgyetang, then you’ll have to cook it.

How To Eat Samgyetang

Although there’s no vegan or vegetarian options for samgyetang, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat it in a variety of ways. 

To begin, you can try adding different ingredients to samgyetang. You can add whatever you want to better pander to what taste you prefer.

In South Korea, meals come with side dishes called banchan, or 반찬. These dishes can range from tiny portions of rice to larger portions of vegetables. 

Samgyetang goes well with various types of side dishes. If you’re looking for something new, try your meal with side dishes.

Summer isn’t the typical season you’d think of when you want to eat soup.

However, samgyetang is a traditional meal eaten during the summer. You should try eating it in summer to replenish your energy and nutrients. 

Adding Different Ingredients To Samgyetang

Flavor changes depending on what ingredients you’re using. To begin, choose which seasonings you want to use. 

There’s the basics like salt and pepper that you can use in moderation, or you can add more items like sesame.

Beyond seasonings, there’s also different sauces you can use and stir in. In general, samgyetang is tasty and tender. 

The broth itself is rich, and depending on what sauce you use, you can get a sweet, salty, or even umami flavor.

No matter what ingredients you use, samgyetang is a very healthy dish. It’s full of nutrients, protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

This is why you should experiment with the taste and try it. It’s a healthy meal that you can adjust to your personal liking.

Eating Samgyetang With Side Dishes

What better way to sample Korean cuisine than by adding side dishes to your main meal? Side dishes are a massive part of Korean food culture. 

Depending on what restaurant you go to, you can get free, unlimited side dishes with your main meal.

Side dishes are small enough that you can try plenty of them without getting full, and if you don’t like them, you can pass them off to your friend or get rid of them without worrying about wasting too much food.

Koreans will recommend a side of kimchi with samgyetang since the taste of kimchi (spicy and sweet) compliments the soup. 

However, if you don’t like kimchi or don’t want to try it, you can try these instead: Korean cucumber salad, Korean seasoned spinach, and bean sprouts.

Eating Samgyetang In The Summer

Seeing as this dish is used the most during summer, you should join in on the tradition and have it then. 

The reason it’s eaten in summer is to replenish the nutrients you lost during the day whether that be through physical activity, sweating, working, or other events.

Did you know that in South Korea, there’s specialty restaurants that serve only samgyetang? 

They have different recipes for it, which gives you a variety of choices when you visit. Also, some of these restaurants provide a complimentary bottle of ginseng wine called insam-ju.

Insam-ju (인삼주) is a special type of liquor made from ginseng, which is the root of a plant called Panax. 

These plants are popular in east Asia as well as east North America, where it’s originally from.

Conclusion

There’s a summer soup dish that’s growing in popularity in both South Korea and other countries like America. 

This dish is called samgyetang, and it’s a soup consisting of a whole chicken inside a pot. Ingredients like garlic and rice are also added to enhance the taste.

Samgyetang originates from South Korea back in the Joseon Dynasty, and more specifically, the first recorded history of it dates back to 1541. 

If you’re looking to buy it, you can order kits for it online, order it at a Korean restaurant, or you can make it yourself.

As for eating it, you can have samgyetang in multiple ways. If you’re looking to increase the flavor, try mixing and matching different ingredients. 

If you want to try a lot of Korean food all at once, try samgyetang with side dishes. Or, you can get in the mood by eating it in the summer.

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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