Samegyetang – Ginseng Chicken soup

My pal Bruce Bottomley, who spent more than 15 years working and raising a family in Japan, often feels like a transplanted Asian man in Halifax. To compensate for the pull of Japan, and his homesickness for Asia in general, he creates small tasks for himself to shorten the distance between himself and his spiritual homeland.

Right now, he takes Korean language classes from Korean students and he works on perfecting classic Korean dishes. I (enviously) follow him @bruceley on twitter as he posts one delicious photo of dinner after another.

 [By the way, he’s a talented photographer, too. Here’s a flickr stream of his photography, some of which have gone viral in Japan, and another very active flickr stream he started to document his other passion: ramen noodles.] 

 Bruce’s wise guide to learning another another cuisine. If you’re smart, you’ll imitate him: 1) Invite native speakers to your home to speak with you. 2) Cook one of their native dishes for them. 3) Take notes as they discuss (argue over) your technique. Once you learn multiple perspectives over how a dish is cooked, you get to the heart of the dish itself.

Recipe: Bottomley’s Samegyetang

This was the third time Bruce cooked Samegyetang. Apparently it’s a summer dish in Korea. Funny, with it being January and cold season, it seems to me that by adding giant hunks of ginseng and garlic that will annihilate any traces of cold in your system, you are inviting me to eat this on a weekly basis throughout the winter.


  • One chicken (say 3-4lbs)
  • One whole head of garlic
  • Ginseng root – 2×3 inch piece
  • 3/4 c sweet rice – soaked for one hour
  • Dried figs 4-6


  • Wash and rinse chicken.
  • Superstition alert: remove the tips of the chicken wings (to lessen chance of spousal infidelity) and the nub of the tail (it’s fatty).
  • Stuff bird with half the garlic, one piece of ginseng root, rice and figs.
  • Seal up the bird with some toothpicks or skewers or whatever
  • Put the bird in a pot. Like a stock pot. Pour water in the pot to cover the bird (about half full, say) and bring to a boil.
  • Add the rest of the garlic and ginseng to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil, skimming off the fat, keeping the lid on with a steady boil about 40 minutes or until done.

The bird is done when the meat comes off the bone with ease.

Serving the bird:

  • Take out the stuffing from the chicken. Place a scoop of rice in everyone’s soup bowls. Everyone should get a fig. Add in some stock from the pot, so the consistency is one of soupy rice porridge.
  • Pull apart the chicken and lay it out on a platter. Dress it with chopped green onions, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Chop up the ginseng root and leave on the plate. You can chew on it if you like.
  • Serve with kimchi or Kaktuki (daikon radish kimchi), on the side. Everyone helps themselves to the chicken, then adds a few scoops of the kim chi to their bowl, so the clear broth turns red and gets some heat going.

Save the broth! You have some lovely soup broth there, brother. Use it the next day with some noodles.

One large chicken, with a heaping first course of dumplings, and lots of tea, fed four people. Finish with peanut cookies.