This Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup is a nourishing, rejuvenating chicken soup made with Korean ginseng and stuffed with a mixture of sticky rice, dried jujube dates, chestnuts and garlic. Asian ginseng has been around for thousands of years and is used believed to help boost the immune system, stimulate physical and mental activity, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels and reduce stress.
I’ve been intrigued with traditional Asian recipes recently, and this Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup is one of the simple, nourishing dishes that I prepared one chilly day. I found fresh Korean ginseng and dried jujube dates at the giant Korean supermarket, H Mart, in Hartsdale, New York. Growing up in Maryland, we had a jujube date tree that we would harvest fresh dates from using a long stick. I have no idea where my father found a jujube date tree, but I fondly remember knocking down dates each year, eating some fresh and drying the rest.
Ginseng Types and Medicinal Benefits
This was my first time trying fresh ginseng root. There are two types of ginseng – Korean or Asian ginseng (Panax Ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, L.), each with different qualities. Ginseng was commonly used over five thousand years ago in China for its rejuvenating powers. The benefits of ginseng were first documented during China’s Liang Dynasty (220 to 589 AD).
Ginseng root is used in herbal medicine in Asia and North America for various medical conditions. Ginseng is believed to help boost the immune system, stimulate physical and mental activity among people who are weak and tired, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce stress. Ginseng is bitter so it is often used in tea or broths, but not eaten.
How To Make Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup
For this Korean ginseng chicken soup, I used cornish hens and stuffed them with a mixture of ginseng, jujube dates, chestnuts, garlic and glutinous rice (also called sweet rice or sticky rice).
Sweet rice, also known as sticky rice or glutinous rice has no gluten in it. It has a sticky quality that makes it perfect for stuffing poultry. My mom used to making sticky rice stuffing for Thanksgiving instead of the regular American bread stuffing.
To keep the soup from boiling over, keep the lid slightly ajar. I used two chopsticks to keep the lid slightly lifted above the pot, a trick I learned a number of years ago from my in-law’s caregiver who was from Shanghai.
This Korean version of chicken rice soup, made with Korean ginseng, is believed to have a rejuvenating effect. This recipe was adapted from a combination of recipes for Ginseng Chicken I found in various Korean cookbooks, including Wei Chuan Korean Cuisine, The Korean Kitchen by Copeland Marks, and Dok Suni by Jenny Kwak.
To serve this Korean ginseng chicken soup, break open the chicken and divide among bowls with some soup. Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds mixed with sea salt and black pepper, and fresh chopped scallions. Do not eat the ginseng (it is very bitter).
*There are precautions when using ginseng, including side effects and interactions with certain medications, so speak to your health provider before trying ginseng if you have any health issues or are on medication.
Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup
- 2 cornish hens
- 1/4 cup sweet (glutinous) rice
- 10 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 pieces ginseng each 2 inches long
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger sliced
- 7 dried jujube dates
- 6 chestnuts peeled
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 scallion chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- a few shakes black pepper
- a few pinches toasted sesame seeds
Soak sweet rice for one hour in water; drain. Stuff each cornish hen with 3 cloves garlic, 1 piece ginseng, 2 dates and 2 chestnuts. Spoon in soaked sweet rice until full. Gently place in saucepan so cornish hens sit snugly in pan. Add ginger, remaining ginseng, garlic, jujube dates, chestnuts, and salt. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 1/2 hour. Turn cornish hens over and continue to cook for another 1/2 hour.
To serve, break cornish hens apart and serve in bowls, with stuffing and broth. Serve with sesame salt and chopped scallions on the side.