Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) is a must-eat in Korea, but you know that this restaurant must be truly special to have its own feature on the Korea Tourism Organization webpage.
Located near Gyeongbokgung Station, the restaurant was also frequented by late President Roh Moo-hyun. It produces their ingredients like Tojongdak (Korean chicken), 4-years ginseng, chest nut, jujube, garlics, ginger, adlay, perilla seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seed, nuts, pine nut, black sesame, and etc.
Even though one has to wait to enter during lunch time, do not worry about long wait as the restaurant is spacious. Besides Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), it serves Ogol-samgyetang, otdak, pajeon (green onion pancake), Rotisserie chicken, and other menus.
Frequented by the late Korean president? That sounds like a fantastic selling point already.
I actually didn’t know about this samgyetang place, but my friend had done some research on places to eat on our weekend trip to Gyeongbokgung and recommended this. It took us some walking and getting lost (because we are that bad at directions and finding our way). I forgot to take a photo of the actual place, so I have to make do with a photo from the Internet:
We were really fortunate not to have to suffer from a long queue because when we were done with our meal, we saw a SUPER long queue that snaked all around. Maybe it was because we went relatively early? In any case, we actually managed to get a table when we reached, but the whole restaurant was already very crowded.
Customer service here isn’t the best, which is understandable because there are so many tables to serve, but the food is one of the best I’ve eaten in Korea. I initially didn’t believe that there could be a restaurant actually labeled as the best in anything, but I changed my mind after I tried this.
The restaurant is actually famous for its black chicken, but we were cheapskates and decided to go for the normal samgyetang instead, together with pajeon (vegetable pancake). As you can see from the photo, the soup is thick and rich! The chicken portions are also very generous – in fact, so generous that I had to share one bowl with my friend because we couldn’t finish one on our own. It also comes with salt (?) and pepper powder for you to dip your chicken in, and the rich flavour of all the ingredients really overwhelms (in a good way!)
I forgot to take a photo of the ginseng inside, but the ginseng chunks (yes, not even slices) really surprised us. We joked that we’d probably get a nosebleed from finishing the ginseng because it was that nutritious. I’m not that big on healthy food or traditional herbs, but this soup really made me feel very energized and healthy.
The pajeon was also delicious, in fact probably one of the best that I’ve eaten in Korea. The pajeon was chock full of ingredients (spring onion, octopus, etc.), and the batter was chewy and fried to perfection. 4 of us shared one pajeon (which is pretty big by the way, about the size of a large pizza) and our stomachs almost burst by the end of the meal.
I found out afterwards that Tosokchon Samgyetang is really famous, and is the kind of restaurant recommended to tourists. I’m not bothered by the fact that it’s advertised to tourists, because the restaurant was actually filled with more Koreans than tourists during our meal there. I think that says a lot about the quality and popularity of the samgyetang with the locals.
I can’t remember the exact prices, but you have to expect to pay a little bit more for samgyetang in any case because it’s a more expensive Korean dish. I think the prices are justified for the quality and serving size – not so expensive that it becomes daylight robbery, but not something you’ll be looking for if you’re eating on a budget either.
Would I come and eat this again? Absolutely!
Address: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 자하문로5길 5 (체부동)
Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2.
Go straight about 170m and turn left onto Jahamun-ro 5-gil Road.
Tosokchon (토속촌) is located 10m ahead on the left.