Korean Summer Food: Samgyetang at Tosokchon
Two Saturdays ago, after a visit to the National Cemetery for the Memorial Day, my second brother-in-law and his wife treated us at a famous restaurant in Seoul. It is called “Tosokchon” and their specialty is samgyetang or “ginseng stewed chicken”. The late President Roh Moo Hyun frequented this place. In the summer, it is not unusual to find a long line outside the restaurant. When we arrived there at 9PM, we had to wait for 15 minutes to be seated. The restaurant has a capacity of almost 450 seats and yet we still had to wait at such a late dinner time.
Tosokchon looks like a big Korean traditional house. There are no chairs so we had to seat on the floor with the big square pillows. Frankly, I’m so used to seating on the floor that I find it more comfortable than seating on a chair.
They only have three things on their menu when we visited: samgyetang, otgyetang and ogolgye. They also serve agu jjim and mideodeok jjim. My brother-in-law said their otgyetang is really good and it’s better than their samgyetang, which is really tasty and probably the best I’ve ever had in Seoul.
We ordered samgyetang for each adult (there were six of us including my parents-in-law who were staying with us at that time). We were also served “insamju” or ginseng wine. The kimchis were served in jars: paechu kimchi (napa cabbage) and kkakdugi (radish kimchi squares).
Samgyetang is one whole spring chicken filled with ginseng, glutinous rice, and other stuff. The one we had in Tosokchon had a milky white broth and garnished with squash seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, black sesame seeds and chopped green onions. The broth was so refreshing and flavorful that I didn’t have to add salt in it.
The Tosokchon samgyetang is filled with glutinous rice, real ginseng (there are restaurants that substitute cheaper roots), chestnuts, jujube and garlic. I’ve tried making samgyetang at home using real ginseng and ginseng substitutes. There was a real difference in flavor when I used ginseng. We got the ginseng from Ganghwa-do’s Ginseng Market for only 25,000 won a pack.
Just be careful not to eat this everyday and you might need lipozene to lose all the weight you could gain.
To get to Tosokchon, exit from gate 2 of Gyeongbokgung Station (orange line). Walk until you see a Family Mart convenience store. Turn left and you won’t miss this busy restaurant.