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When people think of Korean food, mostly they think of very hot food that is red in color. However, not all Korean food is that hot. A typical exception would be samgyetang, a dish enjoyed in summer for good health. Samgyetang contains ginseng, garlic, dried jujube fruit, and glutinous rice and is cooked for a long time. The same dish without ginseng is called baeksuk (백숙) and it is samgyetang if it has ginseng in it.
Samgyetang is not that difficult to make. First you stuff a chicken with these ingredients and tie it up so that the ingredients won’t fall out. Then you cook it in a broth at high temperature until it boils, at a point you will then cook it for over an hour on a weak flame.
The ingredients are important, but it is also critical that it is cooked in a stone or earthenware pot. In Korea there are something called bongnal three times each summer when it is supposed to be especially hot. Individually these are called chobok, jungbok and malbok and it is on these days that Koreans go out of their way to eat samgyetang.
People have it on chobok, at the summer’s beginning to make sure they don’t succumb to the heat. They have it again on jungbok, when it’s the middle of the summer, to hold back the heat. Finally, on malbok, at the end of the summer, they have it because it is good for your health and it’s still hot anyway.
This is a tradition that has continued for ages. Pass by a Korean restaurant specializing in samgyetang on one of these bongnal and you’ll see people lined up all the way outside. Many schools and companies cafeterias have samgyetang on their menus on these days. Isn’t it interesting that there are days when you’re supposed to eat a special dish while thinking of your health?
How to make Samgyetang - Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup
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