Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Tosokchon (토속촌) - Jongno-gu - Seoul, South Korea.


Ginseng is believed to be associated with many health benefits such as life longevity, prevention of cancer, stress reduction, blood circulation, increasing energy, calming the mind and the list goes on and on. The Koreans love their ginseng and this is evident with the abundance of ginseng stores scattered throughout Seoul and they even have a yearly ginseng festival! 

The most popular Korean ginseng cuisine is the samgyetang which is a rice-stuffed chicken ginseng chicken soup. The ginseng chicken soup is extremely popular among the locals with many restaurants serving this classic Korean dish as it is not only healthy but also very hearty. Tosokchon are well known for their signature samgyetang.

As previously mentioned, we had trouble locating restaurants due to the hard to read signage and lack of English words prevalent. Tosokchon, was no exception and we did get lost before arriving. After getting off at Gyeongbokgung Station, we headed towards Jahamun-ro 5-gil Road and after a 10 or so minute walk, there was this adjoining street, and there on the left was Tosokchon. 

Tosokchon is a famous restaurant that has been mentioned and recommended in numerous travel guides and websites, known to be a tourist destination, given the number of tourists who visit the restaurant daily. It has been recommended as one of the must go to places when visiting Seoul. They say it is the best place to have the samgyetang in South Korea, so how could we have not gone there given its legendary status.

From the outside, it looks like a traditional historic Korean home and is hard to miss as it pretty much stands out from the regular looking store fronts. There is usually a queue during busy periods of the day but lucky for us there was no line so we headed straight through.

When you enter, there are a number of people standing in the corridor chatting but head straight through to one of the rooms. You have to take off your shoes prior to entering. Such a pain given it was winter and I had my boots on! Then you find a table and decide from the menu on the table, and the waiter will come over and take your order.  

The menu is limited as they focus on what they’re good at which is the ginseng chicken soup. 

It felt like we were in a Korean drama with the mats, low tables and sitting crossed legged on the floor. I really liked the ambience and overall setting of the place as sitting here made me feel like I was truly in Korea. Was nice to be able to escape the awful cold and be in a heated room.

Banchan is self-serve and free flow. There are two options on offer, so eat to your heart’s content. It was one of my favourites of the whole trip as the kimchi and cubed white radish were delicious. Couldn't stop myself eating it.

Samgyetang isn't an easy dish to cook. It takes a lot of time, effort and preparation to make, hence the premium price they charge. There are two kinds of chicken on offer, the white or black. The black chicken scares me and I don’t think I've ever tried it so I stuck with the safest option which was the white chicken. 

The ‘Samgyetang (KRW 15,000)’ includes a whole chicken. Yes you read correctly, a whole chicken! Though, the chicken was very small in size so it’s an adequate serving size for one person. 

When the waiter brought it out, it was piping hot and bubbling away with the smoke evaporating. It smelt so good and filled the air with a herbal scent. The chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice, gingko nuts, ginseng, garlic and jujube and then cooked in a soup containing over 30 different types of medicinal herbs and grains. It’s not one of those dishes where they skimp on ginseng with one or little ginseng pieces or none at all. There are whole pieces in that chicken and you can taste the difference.

Overall, I found the chicken to be bland and flavours were subtle but eating it with the sides gave it a more flavour. I found myself having to add some salt and pepper to give it more of a taste. The milky white stock was an absolute delight as it was rich and loaded with nutrients and soothing to the body. Inside the chicken was melt in your mouth sticky rice. Oh so yummy.

With the samgyetang, you get a cup of ginseng wine. It was the strong, potent wine which I struggled to finish but I could feel my throat burning after a sip.

Then once you're done, you take your number and go and pay at the front. 

I do recommend Tosokchon as many say what you’re having here is one of the best so it is a must try. This was my first time trying samgyetang so I don’t have anything to compare it to. However, I really liked what I tried and found it be was very delicious. Another item added to my list of potential Korean eats in the future.

After this satisfying meal, we strolled along to Gyeongbokgung Palace, known to be the most famous, and was just down the road from Tosokchon. 

There are five palaces in Seoul but Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the larger and more beautiful ones which was built in the 1300's. When your there, you can explore the halls and pavilions within the grounds. The architecture is amazing so I definitely recommend you go see it if you’re in South Korea.

5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu,

Phone no: +82 2 737 7444

Opening Hours
Open 7 Days a Week
10:00am – 10:00pm


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