Magical Chicken Ginseng Soup

Ginseng has numerous health benefits and this soup is the "Korean penicillin." Whenever I am feeling under the weather, I'll make this soup and feel warm and cozy in no time. If using the dried ginseng root, there is no need for the tea and vice versa, but I have made this using both the tea granules and the roots and it is truly lovely.
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 2 hr 15 min
  • Active: 15 min
  • Yield: 2 servings
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8 cups (2 liters) boiling water

10 packets (3 grams/0.1 ounce each) Korean red ginseng tea

4 large cloves garlic

3 jujube dates or 15 goji berries

3 pieces dried Korean red ginseng, optional

2 cooked chestnuts, peeled, optional

1 cup (200 grams) uncooked sweet rice

2 baby chickens (poussin) or Cornish hens, about 2 pounds each, rinsed with cold water

2 pinches dried chile threads, for garnish

Handful fresh pea shoots, for garnish

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds, plus more if needed

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Sea salt or kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Brew the ginseng tea by mixing together the boiling water and red ginseng packets until dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Place 2 garlic cloves, 1 date, 1 piece of ginseng if using, 1 chestnut if using and 2 tablespoons of rice into the cavity of each bird. Skewer each closed with a toothpick. Place the remaining rice in a double-layer piece of muslin or cheesecloth with the remaining ginseng and date. Tie the cloth closed tightly but leave a little bit of extra space for the rice to expand. Place the chickens and rice bag into a large, wide heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with the tea, and top off with water to cover, if necessary. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, occasionally skimming away any fat that comes to the surface, until cooked through, about 2 hours. When done the chickens should be very soft and fall apart easily when tugged at.
  3. Carefully transfer the chickens to 2 bowls and divide the broth between them. Top the chickens with chile threads and garnish with pea shoots and a sprinkle of black sesame seeds. Drizzle with the sesame oil. Unwrap the rice package in a separate bowl and sprinkle with black sesame seeds, if you like. Serve with salt and pepper on the side.

Cook’s Note

You can use fresh ginseng in this soup--it is much cheaper and more readily available than steamed and aged dried red ginseng. Find and save the wishbone when eating this soup and make your soup extra magical by making a wish!