4.219 OKRKL/7 Korea Samkyetang: Samgye Tang

-Cycle 4, Item 219-
12 (Mon) August 2013

OKRKL/7 Korea Samkyetang: Samgye Tang


at Korea Samkyetang (Goryeo Samgye Tang) [고려삼계탕]

-Seosomun, Seoul-

with Wife

Given 100 landmark restaurants listed in the book Old Korean Restaurants that Koreans Love (OKRKL) (한국인이 사랑하는 오래된 한식당) (see generally 4.173 OKRKL/1 Woo Lae Oak...), I'm taking it upon myself to visit and review as many as I can.  For obvious reasons, I'll start with the 28 restaurants in Seoul, which I hope to complete within this cycle.

We got there at 16:00 to avoid the potential crowds; check out the tents to shelter the anticipated lines of customers.

Good through 2101.

This is the 7th restaurant, in no particular order, to be reviewed (see previously 4.215 OKRKL/6 Myeong-Dong Halmae Nakji...).  Actually, I did plan to eat here on this day, which is malbok, as explained back on jungbok (see 4.199 Baeksuk + Juk [recipe]).

the best food restaruant in korea, 
we' ll hople you have a great time withe us 
please be yourself korea samkyetnag
Thanks you

Korea Samkyetang (as the restaurant refers to itself in English on the website) is a Korean chicken soup restaurant.  In addition to the basic samgye tang (SGT), variations feature a special type of chicken or a special type of ginseng or an abalone tossed in or some/all of the above.

Prices aren't cheap.  Starting at 14,000 won for the basic up to 32,000 won (!!) for the all-in combo.  

Next time, if ever, I'll try that whole rotisserie chicken.

The restaurant, according to its own website (see link below) and OKRKL, claims that it invented SGT.  Supposedly, his sister-in-law running a ginseng farm at the time, the founder was inspired to add the root as both a flavor enhancer and a health booster to the ubiquitous/basic baek suk.  That's it, once again--similar to the dubious claim about bibim bap (see 4.206 OKRKL/5 Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan)--a single sentence is the extent of the origin story for another iconic Korean dish.  And again, I ain't buyin' it.    

Other sources seem to suggest that the dish's origins, as well as the coinage of the name, are unknown (see samgye tang on Naver).  And no, no mention of Korea Samkyetang.

Side dishes included napa cabbage kimchi, ggagdugi kimchi--both quite good--sliced garlic and ssamjang, as well as a shot of ginseng wine--also good.

salt & pepper

5 Reasons Why I Don't Like Samgye Tang.  (1) Being such a small bird--here, described in the book as a 49-day-old rooster--not much meat.  (2) What little meat there is tends to be way too soft, having been boiled for so long--here, 4 hours at various heat levels.  (3) The structural integrity of the bird crumbles into a mess of tiny bones.  (4) That lump of gloppy chapssal (glutinous rice) stuffed within, yuck.  (5) Ginseng--here, 4 years-old--yuck.

It all broke down with one tap of the spoon.

Whether invented there or not, the SGT was a respectable represention of the dish.  The whole chicken was sweet and fall-apart tender, which I suppose might appeal to others.  The chapssal was a bit too dense.  The ginseng, who knows, since I didn't touch it.  The broth, the best part of the dish here, was light in texture yet rich in chicken flavor with hints of the chapssal and ginseng.  The complimentary noodles on the side were nice.  Not my thing personally, but well done objectively speaking.  Overpriced at 14,000 won.

 The little bucket lined with the plastic bag on the table is for discarding bones.

According to OKRKL, Korea Samkyetang was founded in 1960, the 25th oldest restaurant listed in Seoul.  The business relocated from Myeong-Dong to its present location in 1979.  It's now run by the founder's son, who shut down operations for 3 months in 2001 to modernize the facilities, supposedly in preparation of doing business for the next 100 years.  Best of luck.

Address: Seoul Jung-Gu Seosomun-Dong 55-3 (서울시 중구 서소문동 55-3)
Phone: (02) 752-9376
Hours: open 10:00 - 22:00; closed on holidays
Parking: public nearby
Menu: Korean, Japanese, Chinese, English
Wingspoon Rating (as of this writing): 8.38 (64 reviews)
Additional Location: Gwanghwamun

 Nice touch: takeout orders come in these optional Lock&Lock containers, 1,000 won each.


  1. i love samgyetang b/c (1) the chicken is usually soft; (2) i can take the bird out, de-bone it and put the meat and glutinous rice back in the earthenware, then the food is just cooled down enough to eat; (3) the glutinous rice is a porridge-substitute and no additional cooking time required. i can do without the ginseng. that lock-n-lock container thing for 1000 is genius!!

  2. to each her own, i guess. seems like u like this dish for the same reasons that i don't. can't recall if i ever had it when i was in LA, or where they even had it...