Few local foods beat the chill of Korean winters quite like samgyetang (삼계탕). If you’ve not had the pleasure, samgyetang is a Korean ginseng chicken stew that’s warm, hearty and filling. The stew is served in individual bowls with an entire chicken (minus the head thankfully) in each. The chicken itself is stuffed with rice, ginseng, jujubes and assorted nuts and boiled until tender in a savory broth. Samgyetang has mild flavor so you’re welcome to add salt and gochujang, or hot pepper sauce, to taste. I dump in a lot of both, but that’s just me.
If you’re trying it for the first time, you might be a little befuddled about the actual mechanics of eating samgyetang. Koreans usually take the serving ladle and mash up the whole chicken, rice, bones and all, into the broth. They then pick out the bones as they eat, putting them in a side bowl. Being a bit more finicky, I try to pick the meat off the carcass first with chop sticks, then put the whole skeleton aside. That way I can eat my meal in peace without worrying about spitting out bits of bones as I go. But, like a lot of Korean meals, I find you appreciate your dining experience a lot more if you have to work for your food.
Luckily, one of the best samgyetang restaurants in Gyeongju is located near my house here in Seongeon-dong: Chowon Samgyetang (초원삼계탕). Chowon Samgyetang is famous locally and they know how to do samgyetang right. Each bowel is about 10,000 won each and if you’re not too hungry you could split one bowl between two people. It’s served with a just few sides, like radish kimchi and fried giblets. Considering that I almost never finish an entire bowl of samgyetang, I’m not complaining. Chowon Samgyetang also serves free shots of medicinal ginseng soju at the start of each meal, but I usually give that a miss. Try a sip and you’ll know why
Chowon Samgyetang, is just a block off the river road in Seonggeon-dong, across from Sangalae Takkgalbi. Just follow the signs up to the second floor landing and you can choose between floor seating or table and chairs. Or, if you’re not up for heading out into the winter cold, Chowon Samgyetang also delivers. Just phone (054) 771-3766.
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