Best Samgyetang Restaurants in Seoul
In need of a little pick-me-up? Samgyetang might be just what you need. Commonly known as a nutritious energy-booster for fighting off fatigue during the hottest days of summer, samgyetang consists of a whole young chicken jam-packed with glutinous rice, ginseng and goodies like garlic, ginger and jujube; all placed inside a bubbling milky-white chicken broth. Whether you’re in Seoul during the sweltering heat in the summer or the frigid temperatures in winter, this warm and nourishing delicacy can be found across Korean restaurants year-round. Grab yourself a bowl and get slurping! You’ll find the life returning to your body and soul from the very first sip. Scroll down and discover some of the best samgyetang restaurants in Seoul
Best Samgyetang Restaurants in Seoul
Staying true to the classics
Toksochon is one of Seoul’s best. Just Google ‘top samgyetang spots’ and you’ll see the same Hanok-style restaurant with a long line of people, no matter the weather, all waiting for a bowl of this celebrated chicken soup. Samgyetang here is more than just glutinous rice and ginseng. Packed full of other nutty goodies like pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and chestnuts, the clear aromatic broth has a distinctively thick consistency and a deep, delicious flavor. Locally sourced-ingredients are cited as one of the reasons for Toksochon’s 36 years of success: chickens are delivered fresh daily, making for the tenderest meat.
Inside, you’ll find menus in various languages, thanks to increasing attention from international visitors. With both traditional low floor seating and higher tables with enough space for 400 people, don’t expect to wait in line for more than an hour. After ordering your samgyetang (we’d say skip the frills and go straight for their signature original version), you’ll be given a cup of homemade ginseng liquor. Feel free to pour it into your soup if you find the flavor a little strong on its own.
Considered by many locals as the definitive bowl of samgyetang in the city, Toksochon’s addictive flavors have made this place one of Seoul’s worst kept secrets.
Seongbuk-dong Nurungji Baeksuk
Gather the squad for an unforgettable meal
Although most would think that Seongbuk-dong Nurungji Baeksuk’s signature dish is the traditional samgyetang, baeksuk (boiled chicken with scorched rice) is the real main star of this restaurant. Rather than the smaller chicken used in samgyetang, the larger chicken used in baeksuk provides a portion size perfect for three-four people to share.
We recommend getting the deliciously chewy memiljeon (a buckwheat pancake) to wake up your palate before digging into the scrumptious baeksuk entrée. You definitely won’t be disappointed – just one glance at the large, impressive plate of poached chicken perched on top of an earthenware pot of nurungji (scorched rice porridge) will surely tantalize your senses! Soft, chewy chicken packed with treats like glutinous rice, ginseng, jujube, and garlic will make your taste buds sing. Once you’ve made your way through all that chicken, dive into the savory and soft nurungji underneath. Unlike most Korean restaurants they don’t sell alcohol here, but if you’re longing for melt-in-your-mouth chicken without the strong ginseng-infused scent of samgyetang, Nurungji Baeksuk is the place for you.
A winning combination
Craving samgyetang but don’t fancy sweating over boiling-hot soup? Chogyetang, or chilled chicken soup, is the perfect solution. Another chicken-based health food, chogyetang originated in the northern half of the peninsula and is considered ideal for fighting off a lack of appetite during the summer days. Served in an ice-cold chicken and beef broth (the secret behind that zingy flavor in the broth is, of course, radish water kimchi), chogyetang is jam-packed with nutritious cuts of chicken, buckwheat noodles, and assorted vegetables. An explosion of tastes, its sweet, sour and refreshing flavors shine through thanks to the vinegar and mustard added to the broth. (FYI: the ‘cho’ in ‘chogyetang’ means ‘vinegar’, and the ‘gye’ means ‘mustard’)
A North Korean style restaurant that has been in business for nearly 70 years, Pyeongraeok is undoubtedly our top pick for chogyetang. Seoul is home to a number of third-generation restaurants, many of which were originally established by North Koreans who came to the South during the war. Amongst these establishments, Pyeongraeok continues to be one of the most desirable. But don’t be mistaken; customers aren’t limited to elder citizens wishing to re-experience the tastes of their hometowns. Formidable lines of young people from the office spaces nearby are now common during weekday lunches too. Chogyetang is available for a minimum of two people and its popular spicy-sweet chicken side dish is hard to beat. In our opinion, it’s best enjoyed with a shot or two of soju. Geonbae! (Cheers!)
Extra rich flavors with a twist
Think you know samgyetang? Think again. Gobong Samgyetang offers up the beloved classic with a unique twist. Unlike the traditional milky-white color, here you’ll find a dark yellow broth, produced from their unique process of cooking the chicken in a reduced sanghwang mushroom and specially sourced mineral water mix. It’s the ultimate contender against physical fatigue – the mushrooms are delicious and guaranteed to give your immune system a much-needed boost. Despite the thick consistency of the broth, the taste of herbal medicine is nowhere near as strong as you might think. And the chicken is so tender that it literally falls apart at the first touch of a chopstick. Try adding a little salt to the broth or your chicken to pack on a little extra punch. Gobong Samgyetang’s most popular lunch spot is located in the heart of Myeongdong but branches can also be found in Samseon-dong, Yeouido and Songpa.
Baeknyeon Tojong Samgyetang
A hearty respite from the bustling streets
With locations in hotspots like Hongdae and Bukchon, stumbling across the Baeknyeon Tojong Samgyetang branches is often a happy accident for tourists exploring the area. Unlike the standard small chicken traditionally used in samgyetang, Baeknyeon uses a locally sourced larger whole chicken that provides a bite more bite and texture. Pass by Bukchon, and you’ll find the quaint hanok style restaurant almost as pleasing as the bubbling bowl of samgyetang itself. Make sure you pair your dish with side dishes provided, such as the delightfully crisp kkakdugi (diced radish kimchi). Baeknyeon also offers up other mains, such as the rotisserie chicken and the chicken stew; both of which are excellent.