Although the popularity of this dish boils over (literally!) during the summer months in Korea, samgyetang can actually be enjoyed throughout the year.
According to the official Korean Menu Guide (thank you, Korea Food Foundation for my copy!), samgyetang 삼계탕 is a soup made of "tender whole young chicken stuffed with ginseng, jujubes, sweet rice, and whole garlic cloves simmered until tender." The Guide adds "the combination of chicken and ginseng creates a complex yet harmonious flavor" and is a "classic summertime dish that revitalizes the body and soul."
There used to be a restaurant serving only samgyetang at the basement arcade of my workplace, but it closed years ago. But thanks to friends, Arlene and Stephene, I discovered another samgyetang restaurant in the Yongsan District here in Seoul. It's quite tricky finding the restaurant; luckily, Stephene's driver knew the place very well. It's in a very small alley: Wonhyo-ro 89-gil 13-10 in the Yongsan District.
Gangwonjeong Samgyetang's samgyetang is probably one of the best I have tasted. No wonder, at their doorstep, it has a 'Good Restaurant' plaque from the Yongsan District Office. Each serving is KRW12,000, a bit pricey, but it's worth the trip. This summer, it must be full at lunch time and perhaps even more during the weekend.
The cooked rice stuffed inside the young chicken was savory, and the chicken is so soft it disintegrated in my mouth. I added salt to the the broth as I wanted it salty, and that day, the flavors of the ginseng, jujube and soft chicken just made my summer complete. Burp!
If you want to have some, too, Gangwonjeong Samgyetang is about 600 tricky-to-locate meters from Exit 2 of the Hyochang Park (Line 6) subway station, but it's just a few meters from the 용산경찰서 03-139(서울) bus stop.
From this bus stop, continue walking until the corner (about 30 meters from the bus stop), turn right into the street and on the second alley, turn left. That second alley is where you will find the restaurant. If you get lost, do save their number and call. The place is small and they close at 2:30PM, and reopens at 5:30PM. They also close on some Sundays of the month.
Who's up for a samgyetang lunch?