Yesterday I came down with yet another cold of the month. Feeling defeated after an exhausting afternoon of running errands, I decided to follow my Mom home instead of going to my cooking class in the evening.  There was just one stop before going home: to my Aunts, where luckily it was Wednesday Market day.  Literally, as we hopped out of the cab, there was fresh ginseng staring at me.

The guy gave me a little piece to try.  I took a bite and gave a little squint at the bitter, medicinal taste – yup I guess it’s the right stuff.  Really, I had no idea as it was my first time buying ginseng, but my Aunt gave it an ok – we bought about 350g for 12,000 won of 5 yr old ginseng.

Down a couple of tents, there was a guy selling free-range chicken.  8,000 won for a small chicken, maybe 1.5kg.  He gave it a nice little trim, quickly bagged it, and we were almost on our way out of cold, wet snow misery.

Just a quick stop by the fruit and vegetable tent, a place we frequent a lot.  Though you pay a little bit more, they have great fresh produce.

Here’s the guy peeling the chestnuts on this nifty machine, it has an abrasive wall inside that tumbles the chestnuts until it is peeled down to your liking in about 30 seconds. Great tool as it’s a pain to peel raw chestnuts!

Finally home, I searched online for a samgyetang recipe.  There are just a few recipes, and in fact most are quite straightforward – stuffed chicken with sweet rice, ginseng, daechu and garlic, boiled in water for a couple of hours.  But I found a great blog by with a post on Super Natural Samgyetang Recipe, a souped up version of the classic.  Besides some different ingredients, what makes it better I think is the herbal broth preparation prior to boiling the chicken, and using a slow cooker to get good extraction from the medicinal herbs and chicken to make a deep, rich broth.

Unfortunately our slow cooker was too small for the chicken we bought, so I started with the herbal broth with daechu and ginseng in a large pot, simmered on low for 1.5hrs.  And no gogi berries today, instead a chunk of fresh ginger went in.

Meanwhile I prepared the soaked rice with garlic cloves, shelled ginkgo nuts, chopped chestnuts and more daechu for the stuffing, and wrestled with the chicken as I tried to sew up the ends with a small needle and thread.

I added about a quart more of cold water with the chicken, brought it to a boil, then added the strained herbal broth to cover the entire chicken.  Then rest was easy, just simmer for… well I didn’t know how long.  It definitely needed at least 2-2.5 hrs for good extraction and to cook the chicken until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. And this was key IMO, about half way into simmering, not being sure about the watery broth, I added rest of the rice that didn’t fit inside the chicken to the broth and threw in another ginseng root for good measure.

The hot broth was comforting, but my taste buds were shot from the cold so I didn’t know what I was tasting…just knew it was good for me.  Before going to bed, I had the entire inside stuffing filled with rice, garlic cloves, ginkgo and chestnuts, like it was my medicine.

The next morning, though the cold was still there, I felt surprisingly better considering I felt like a truck ran over me before going to bed.  It felt as if  the cold was reversed on its tracks (I swear!).  And the soup was 100x better.  Maybe I got my taste buds back, but certainly this is one of those dishes better the next day.  The aroma wafted of bitter-sweet ginseng that was not off-putting, the broth was rich, fatty and soothing, and the chicken and broken rice were oh-so-tender and nourishing.  So with LOTS of leftover still, I now have the goodness to fight off this cold to never return again^^!