Tosokchon is possibly Korea's most famous purveyor of Samgyetang (Chicken Ginseng Soup), a Korean summertime specialty. Located in Chebu-dong, just to the west of Gyeongbokgung Palace, this place was a favorite of late president Roh Moo-hyun.
This 30-year-old icon is housed in a sprawling hanok (traditional house), and for many locals – and even ex-president – it's the best in Seoul. Walk straight for 100m from Exit 2, Gyeongbokgung station, turn left at the GS25 convenience store and it's on your left.
Tosokchon features traditional Korean style tables inside small divided rooms. Before entering the dining room, guests first remove their shoes and sit on the ground on padded floor mats while eating. With its warm wood accents and traditional wood low tables, Tosokchon is a cozy spot to build up your appetite.
The soup is served with a small cup of ginseng wine which can be drunk as it is or added to the soup for the extra kick.
Despite the crowds, the samgyetang (KRW 15,000 / RM 41) arrives fast and still bubbling.
It is made of a whole young chicken, stuffed with glutinous rice, a ginseng root, gingko nuts, garlic, jujube and boiled in a ginseng broth prepared with about 30 different ingredients, including medicinal herbs, nuts, grains and ginseng.
The broth was thick, rich and the hearty chicken meat falls off the bone tenderly. The unique taste and aroma were simply intoxicating even for someone like me who doesn't fancy medicinal soup.
We were so hooked to the taste till when we got back to Malaysia, we tried at least 4 different samgyetangs but none of them lived up to the expectations. That really made us appreciate Tosokchon more.
The other specialty dish of Tosokchon is the Ogolgyetang (Black Chicken Ginseng Soup, KRW 22,000 / RM 60). It didn't taste much of a difference but historically, black chicken is eaten by the Chinese as a medicinal cure. It is said to have a positive effect on the yin, blood, lungs and stomach. It may appear bizarre to some, but the nutritional values pack a punch.
Well, Roast Chicken (KRW 14,000 / RM 38) was a mistake in our order. We wanted the ogolgyetang but the waitress mistakenly understood it as roast chicken. Luckily, it wasn't too bad and it had a whiff of ginseng aroma in it. Tipped some salt and pepper together into a small saucer and used it as a dip.
Tosokchon can be crowded with locals and tourists during lunch and dinner hours. You can expect there to be a line to get in and the best time to visit is one hour before or one hour after the peak dining hours.
Verdict: It was expensive but it was well worth it! Definitely the best ginseng chicken soup we've had and must try whenever you are around Gyeongbokgung.
Tel: 02-737 7446
Business Hours: Opens daily from 10.00am - 10.00pm
GPS: 37.577744, 126.971593.
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