Since it’s wintertime, I figured it would be apt to have some Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup while we were in Seoul. In fact, my dad specifically asked for this as he’d never had it before. And if there’s one place in Seoul to have samgyetang, it’d have to be at the legendary Tosokchon. Everyone raves about how delicious the chicken soup is there, clearly it’s a crowd favorite and a must-go for anyone visiting Seoul.
I sorta imagined it’d be at an obscure alley somewhere, but boy was I completely mistaken. Sure, it was in an alley alright and situated near Gyeongbokgung (which I had visited back in 2009 during a short trip to Seoul; I prolly should do a photo post on that to go along with this Seoul series I’m writing). But it’s no where close to obscure because as soon as we alighted from the taxi at the main road, we could already spot the hordes of people standing in line to get a seat inside the restaurant – much to my dad’s astonishment and my mom’s fascination. Crowd favorite, alright. We got there at around 2pm-ish so I’d say it was still within peak lunch period. We gamely stood in line along with everyone else and thankfully it moved pretty quickly. I think we stood for 15 minutes or so before we reached the front door and then instructed to go straight to the back annexe.
This hanok-style restaurant, ie. traditional Korean building, had us taking off our boots and sat on wooden floors for the meal. There was a separate room which had chairs but it was a smaller space and there’d be additional wait. Eager to devour the ginseng soup ASAP, we went ahead with the main dining space option. There were rows and rows of low tables in there, and it was super packed so we were sitting side by side next to other groups.
There are two options for the signature Korean Ginseng Soup at Tosokchon: black chicken or regular chicken. We decided to get the regular kind. Even though the service was efficient and brisk, we did have to wait for a little bit after ordering so we snacked on kimchi in the meantime. Two different kinds and free-flow, self-serve from the pots placed on every table. When our chicken soups arrived, they also came with two small shot glasses of ginseng wine which were meant to be added into the soup to enhance the broth.
OMAIGAAADDDDDDDDDDDD. This ginseng chicken soup was outta this world delicious as fuggggggggg. I’ve had samgyetang elsewhere many times (as in, different countries) before but this was the first time I had it in Korea. I was totally blown away. A whole young free-range chicken, stuffed with glutinous rice, jujube, gingko nuts, garlic, ginger, wolfberry and other medicinal herbs, in a milky broth with a solid piece of ginseng. The chicken was so tender it fell off the bones without any resistance. The glutinous rice was beautifully sticky and soft, while the broth… oh, the broth. Every hearty sip was like happy flowers blossoming in my belly. Robust, flavorful, soothing, utterly inspiring.
Oooh, pine nuts! See ’em? Damn, are pine nuts cheap in Korea!? I should’ve bought some back. :0
My dad thought the entire dish was a tad on the bland side so he added a bit of salt (present on the table, for those who felt similarly). But for my mom and I, the dish was spot-on as is and didn’t require any additional seasoning. We enjoyed this meal tremendously and nodded in agreement that standing in line was worth it. Honestly the queue looked insanely long, but we didn’t really have to wait for that long. Standing in the cold for a bit probably also heightened our appreciation towards this delicious experience. Personally, I’d say this was one of the most satisfying meals I had in Seoul and I’d totally go back to have it again. Glad that the soup lives up to the hype. The portion and the price were reasonable and decent too. One serving would fill you up nicely. I read on the internet that if you go early around 11am, you’ll beat the lunch crowd and there’s no queue. I kinda wonder though, whether locals eat here too because clearly only the tourists would bother standing in line. But according to what I read, a former Korean president used to eat here too so I’m guessing it’s a fave amongst the locals too?
5 Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul