Why It Works
- Soaking the rice hydrates it, ensuring it fully cooks through inside the birds.
- Trussing the bird (without string) keeps the cavity closed and improves presentation.
- The soup is deliberately left unseasoned, allowing diners to season to taste at the table.
This Korean chicken soup contains small chickens, each stuffed with a mixture of sticky rice, jujubes, chestnuts, gingko nuts, ginseng, and more. The birds are poached in an herbal broth until incredibly tender and juicy. It's a warming soup that can be eaten year-round, not just in the cold winter months—in fact, in Korea this soup is a summertime dish, meant to make you sweat and, thus, cool down.
- 1 cup sticky rice (7 ounces/200g)
- 1 piece hwanggi (황기, milk vetch) root (about 1/3 ounce; 10g), see note
- 1 piece eomnamu (엄나무, prickly castor-oil tree) bark (see note)
- 2 small young chickens or Cornish hens (about 14 ounces/400g each)
- 6 small (about 1 inch in length) or 4 large (about 2 inches in length) dried jujubes, pitted
- 6 whole skinned gingko nuts (see note)
- 2 to 4 raw chestnuts, peeled
- 2 pieces fresh ginseng (about 10cm long), or 2 large slices dried ginseng
- 4 medium cloves garlic
- Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
- A mixture of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and ground toasted sesame seeds, for serving
In a medium bowl, cover rice with 1 inch of cold water and soak for 2 hours. Drain rice.
Wash hwanggi and eomnamu under cold running water, using a clean brush to dislodge any grit. Place hwanggi and eomnamu in a large saucepan, cover with 2 quarts (2 liters) cold water, and soak for 2 hours.
Transfer pot to the stovetop and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer hwanggi and eomnamu for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, trim off chickens' wing tips, tail, and excess fat. Clean inside of chicken cavity well, trying to remove any blood stuck between the ribs.
Stuff each chicken with alternating layers of sticky rice, jujubes, gingko, chestnuts, ginseng, and garlic.
Using a paring knife, cut a small slit into the skin on either side of the cavity. Cross the drumsticks, inserting the end of each drumstick through the slit on the opposite side of the cavity (this trusses the bird and seals the cavity without the need for string).
Strain the hwanggi and eomnamu from the broth, discarding the solids. Top up the broth with fresh water to equal 2 quarts (2 liters).
In a heavy, large pot or Dutch oven, arrange the stuffed birds side-by-side. Pour the broth over them. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer until the birds are fully cooked through and tender, about 2 hours. If the broth doesn't fully cover the birds, rotate them halfway through cooking.
Transfer each stuffed bird to a deep serving bowl or small earthenware pot and ladle the broth on top. Garnish with scallions and serve with the salt/pepper/sesame seed mixture alongside, so that each person can season the soup and chicken to their tastes.
Hwanggi, eomnamu, and the other Korean ingredients can be found at well-stocked Korean markets; you may not always be able to find every single one, so just use what you can get. Some stores will sell pre-assembled samgyetang ingredient packets, which can make it easy to procure the essentials. If your gingko nuts need to be peeled, roast them in a lightly oiled pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the nuts start popping out of their skins. Lower heat and continue cooking until skins have loosened even more. Transfer gingko nuts to a paper towel and rub together to fully remove their skins.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The rice can be soaked and strained up to 1 day ahead, then kept in the refrigerator until ready to stuff the chickens. The soup can be made up to 5 days in advance, then gently reheated until chickens are completely heated through (use an instant-read thermometer to confirm the heat has penetrated to the center of the stuffing.