Central Seoul, Korean Eats

Tosokchon’s Black Chicken And Ginseng Soup

Tosokchon’s Black Chicken Samgyetang

So…many of you might be looking at the above picture and thinking, “what does black chicken taste like?” It tastes just like regular chicken but a bit of complexity. I can’t really describe the taste but there is an elusive flavor there. Most people don’t eat it for the flavor- they eat it for the miraculous healthy qualities it is supposed to pass on to the diner. It’s a dish that I will have a couple times a year because I do feel something after eating it. I wouldn’t say that I feel like Popeye after eating spinach- I would say it is more like spending a nice day in the sun after eating a very fresh salad. I feel something more psychological- I feel more optimistic like if an anti-depressant kicked in.

Tosokchon is a place famous for their chicken and ginseng soup. Often there is a line outside the door with Japanese tourists waiting to get in. I went there with a tour because one of my guests said they were feeling a little unwell. We got the regular samgyetang (chicken and ginseng soup), the black chicken samgyetang, and their roasted chicken.

The meal starts out with a shot of ginseng liquor and a few minutes later the roasted chicken came out. Not the best presentation (the chicken had 4 bullet like holes), but the chicken skin was crispy and savory. I thought the chicken was a bit dry- probably because of the way they skewered the chicken. Tosokchon isn’t known for their roasted chicken and I scolded myself for even ordering it.

Anyway, the chicken and ginseng soups are quite good. The broth is white and thick. The sticky rice that is stuffed inside of the rice thickened the soup. The black chicken samgyetang had pumpkin seeds and ginko nuts that added to the health factor of the dish. The broth was flavorful- a bit medicinal because of the ginseng. I thought it was quite good.

Now one of my guests, who never had this dish didn’t seem to enjoy it much. Watching them eat it was like watching an uninterested kid playing with a Christmas present that they didn’t ask for. Even after deboning the chicken and explaining the health factor of the dish, the guest seemed to hold their opinion to themselves.

This is a Korean dish that is an acquired taste. Having lived in Korea for a long time, I forgot that I reacted the exactly same way when I tried this the first time. Next time I am trying to introduce Korean food, I think I should pick something else. Tosokchon is great for those used this type of dish, but not so much for those who haven’t drank the ginseng-kool aide.

Tosokchon
T. (02) 737-7444
Hours: 10am to 10pm
Directions: Take the subway line 3 and get off at Gyeongbokgung station and go out exit 2 then walk 120 meter towards Hyoja-dong direction. At the GS25 make a left.

Oven Roasted Chicken from Tosokchon in Seoul

Tosokchon, Seoul
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Central Seoul, Korean Eats, The Best of Seoul

Review: Black Fowl is Fair: Black Chicken Ginseng Soup

This article was originally published by Seoul Magazine in the August 2010 issue. It is being reprinted here with permission. Please read my monthly columns in Seoul Magazine. The magazine can be found in many establishments around the city and at their bookstore in Samcheongdong. You can also read their online magazine at http://www.seoulselection.com/index.php/home/

Black Chicken Samgyetang at Kuryeo Samgyetang Seoul, Korea

   The idea of eating black foods seems like a paradox. Maybe it’s because we have all learned that burnt steaks, chicken, and grilled cheese don’t taste very good. Or maybe it’s because we all see ourselves as beings of white light and black foods might muddy that image. Whatever the reason, the concept of “black foods” is not instantly associated with deliciousness.

    An enigma in the food world is Black Chicken or called O-golgye in Korea. This rare bread of chicken has black flesh and black bones. This rare strain of chicken is very difficult to breed- I learned that one farmer in Jirisan (a mountain in the southern region in Korea) is only able to raise 50 a year.

Finding restaurants that serve this dish is also rare. After a long search, I went to Kuryeo Samgyetang over by City Hall. Here they prepare the chicken like poule au pot: the black chicken is stuffed with sticky rice, a clove of garlic, ginko nuts, and jujube (Korean date). The chicken is then stewed until the flesh is melt-off-the-bone tender and the broth rich. Just before serving, the chicken is topped with green onions.

    Served in a circular ceramic bowl, at first glance, the cross-legged black chicken in the whitish broth looks like a paintbrush drawn ying-yang sign. In the broth floats a circular purple jujube, a stalk of ginseng, and some green chopped onion. It’s very mindful.

    After admiring this dish, you might be wondering how you are supposed to eat it. There are no rules. You can start by taking your chopsticks and spoon to eat the black flesh and grey/white broth.

Black Chicken Samgyetang at Kuryeo Samgyetang Seoul, Korea

    The classic, advanced way to eat O-golgye is to use your chopsticks to split the chicken in half and pull out all the black bones in the chicken. Afterwards, you can take the rice and all the stuffing and stir it together to make rich rice porridge.

    Korean people don’t think of O-golgye as a meal, but as medicine. While talking with Professor Jia Choi of Ewha University, I learned that people of a certain body type: the Soo-umin (lanky, tall and thin) benefit greatly from eating this dish. She also mentioned that one of her friends always has at least 5 black chickens in her freezer and whenever she feels like is going to be ill, she cooks one. After eating it, she says she feels reborn.

    Now I don’t know what sort of body type I have, but eating this chicken has become my new obsession. I had this dish on Wednesday night and afterwards I went out drinking until 6am the next morning. I followed this outing with long days at the office and late nights (until 3am) on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I don’t know if it was the chicken, but normally, I turn in around 11pm. I didn’t suffer from hangovers and I felt energized the whole time. I am going to have to return soon to see if this was a fluke or the real deal.

Kuryeo Samgyetang
Seoul, Jeong-gu, Seosomundong 55-3.
02-752-9376
Directions: Go our City Hall Station Subway Station (Line 2) Exit 10 and walk 2 blocks. It’ll be on the right.

Whole Fried Chicken at Kuryeo Samgyetang Seoul, Korea
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Central Seoul, Korean Eats

Black Chicken on Samgyetang Day at Korea Samgyetang Restaurant

Whole Fried Chicken

Yesterday (July 19th), was Cho-bok 초복: the hottest day of summer. On this day it is customary to eat Samgyetang (Chicken and Ginseng Soup.) During this time, you’ll find most Samgyetang restaurants packed. Koreans eat this dish because it is supposed to relieve fatigue from the blaring hot sun. It might do that, I don’t know. What I do know is that I love eating this dish because it’s like a mini Thanksgiving Dinner with chicken soup. It’s a mutant fusion dish like my favorite submarine sandwich from Delaware: the Bobbie. This is a sandwich with pulled turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mayonnaise and tons of black pepper. This dish is like that because it has a whole young chicken stuffed with Asian stuffing (rice, chestnuts, ginseng, and ginko) and Asian cranberry (jujube).

There are three days of Cho-bok (the 3 hottest days of summer). The next one will be on July 29th (according to Chinese Calendar) and the last cho-bok will be on August 8th. The days of chobok change according to Chinese Calendar.

This post is for all those that wanted to know what Black Chicken looked like from a previous post.

Sides: Radish Kimchi, Cabbage Kimchi, and raw garlic
Black Chicken Samgyetang
Take out all the bones and make a porridge with your black chicken samgyetang

Restaurant Name: Kuryeo Samgyetang
Location: City Hall
Number: 02 752 9367
website: www.koreasamkyetang.com
Directions: Go out City Hall Subway (Line 1,2) and go out exit 10. Walk 3 minutes and it’ll be on your right.

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Central Seoul, Korean Eats

Feeling Tired? Eat Black Chicken!

Seriously, this is no joke. Last week I went to Kuryeo Samgyetang (chicken and ginseng soup) for black chicken samgyetang.

You might be asking yourself, what are black chicken? Well, they are a special breed of chicken whose skin and bones are black. How they get that way, I don’t know. Anyway, after eating the chicken last week, i went on 3 consecutive late night drinking sprees and I didn’t miss a beat. I didn’t get tired or hungover during that time.

Was it the chicken? That was what I have been trying to figure out. I mean, I have believed the whole medicinal food thing that many Koreans believe. Also, many of the foods that Koreans say “restore fatigue and stamina” are generally just foods rich in spice and protein. Of course these foods will restore the body if you work out in the fields all day and protein is something that you rarely have.

But black chicken, seems to be different. It works.

I talked to a oriental doctor about this and she said that black chicken is supposed to be good for the kidneys and high blood pressure. It is also good for people that have a cold body type. I asked her what she meant and she said, “some people’s skin seem cold to the touch. Others are always warm. Samgyetang is good for those with a cool type.”

It must be because I woke up today and I felt absolutely wonderful. Since this is the second time I have had this food, I can say that there maybe some truth to it’s “health restorative claims.” The next time I feel tired, I will be sure to go check them out.

Dan

Restaurant Name: Kuryeo Samgyetang
Location: City Hall
Number: 02 752 9367
website: www.koreasamkyetang.com
Directions: Go out City Hall Subway (Line 1,2) and go out exit 10. Walk 3 minutes and it’ll be on your right.

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