Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The best chicken ginseng soup (samgyetang) @ Korea Samgyetang VS Tosokchon, Seoul, Korea

Another must-try in Korea would be their chicken ginseng soup (samgyetang) which is considered one of the healthier way to cook chicken. Basically, chicken samgyetang is a small chicken, stuffed with sweet (glutinous) rice, ginseng, dates and some other herbs, and cooked in soup. The most famous samgyetang in Seoul is probably Tosokchon. We decided to try out two different restaurants in Seoul that serves chicken samgyetang; Korea Samgyetang and Tosokchon.

Korea Samgyetang (고려삼계탕)
This is probably a less tourist-ty place which appeared quite popular among the locals; having seen the crowd at lunch hour. Moreover, this restaurant is not strategically located at a tourist spots, hence, probably lesser recognized by tourists.
Korea Samgyetang at Jung-gu, Seoul
Convenient cutleries and awesome kimchi (pickled radish)
Stick to the basic samgyetang (14,000 won) or black chicken samgyetang (20,000 won) to try the authenticity of this dish
Pipping hot black ginseng chicken 
Clear light broth with a piece of ginseng root as part of the stuffing

What we liked about this place is that their broth is clear and on the lighter side (not so starchy), which allows you to easily sip the broth as well. Honestly, the black chicken ginseng and normal chicken ginseng were not really much different taste-wise. So, you might just want to stick to the basic samgyetang and save some bucks there. Each dish also came with a little cup filled with ginseng wine; in case you prefer your soup with stronger ginseng. DO NOT pour the entire cup into soup at one go. Give it a try first to see if it fits your taste bud. 

Address: 1, Seosomun-ro 11-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul 서울특별시 중구 서소문로11길 1 (서소문동)
Website: Korea Samgyetang (menu)
Directions: City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 2), Exit 10. Go straight for about 100m to arrive at the Korea Samgyetang on the right (adapted from Official Korea Tourism).

Tosokchon (토속촌)
This is definitely the more famous restaurant in Seoul. Conveniently located near Gyeongbokgung station, frequent visits by their past president, and approval from the locals all definitely adds up to their popularity. The line-up will probably be long at lunch hours; even during winter. We were there at 3 pm and there was still a queue (but not too long). 
Yes, it's cold if you have to line up during winter ;p
A really unique place, with unique, traditional Korean house feeling (minus the throngs of people)
Slightly more expensive than Korea Samgyetang; normal (15,000 won) and black chicken (28,000 won)
There's the traditional floor seating and normal chairs.
The extra ginseng on the normal chicken soup (21,000 won). Not much of a taste, really
Obvious larger chicken compared to Korea Samgyetang but not as tender 
Spotted; chestnut as stuffing and super huge ginseng root
Please no stinky feet ;p
Maybe we were still full from our late breakfast earlier; but Panda and I thought that the broth was a little bit too starchy (probably from the glutinous rice). Also, although the chicken seemed bigger (more worth eating?), it was not as tender as Korea Samgyetang's. In fact, it was a little bit hard to chew. Perhaps there are just too many people, that the dish when served was not pipping hot as well (just tad warm). Stick to the normal chicken ginseng soup and forget about paying for the additional ginseng (extra 6,000 won!) because it was really not much of a difference. Again, the difference would come from how much ginseng wine you will be adding into your broth. 

Address: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul  서울 종로구 자하문로5길 5 (체부동)
Website: Tosokchon
Directions: Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2. Go straight about 170m and turn left onto Jahamun-ro 5-gil Road. Tosokchon (토속촌) is located 10m ahead on the left (adapted from Official Korea Tourism).

Overall, if you have the chance and if you decide that you loved this dish, go try both of them! I, personally am not a herbal/ginseng fan, but I definitely felt that this was probably one of the best Korean dish. Even my mum agreed on that! Panda and I preferred the Korea Samgyetang's because it was at least served hot, lighter broth and perfect size chicken. Tosokchon will definitely be a good place to go as well (since its so conveniently located) and the chance to experience a Korean traditional house without the need to pay extra. Again, it would be of personal preference :)

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