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I, Guinea Pig for Eastern Medicine: Ssyal

I, Guinea Pig for Eastern Medicine: Ssyal
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  • I, Guinea Pig for Eastern Medicine: Ssyal

    Post #1 - June 18th, 2004, 9:13 am
    Post #1 - June 18th, 2004, 9:13 am Post #1 - June 18th, 2004, 9:13 am
    One of the more astounding discoveries made by one of our number on that other chow board was a Korean restaurant which basically served one dish-- ginseng-infused chicken soup, renowned for its health-giving properties which cure diabetes, the marthambles, mogo on the gogogo and many other ills. I think RST was the first to post on it, but I particularly remember Gary's moving account of his visit (perhaps he'd like to post that). As it turns out, not for the first time Monica Eng was there before all of us and wrote about it in the Trib in 1997. Nevertheless, to me it was an astounding discovery by my fellow then-chowhounds, because needless to say, the odds that I would ever have gone to a ginseng-chicken-soup-only Korean restaurant on west Lawrence before they called attention to it were slim indeed.

    Not that I did go; indeed I forgot the name and more than a vague sense of location. But yesterday, as a cold that had turned to a sore throat got to be worse and worse, and Gary just happened to call me for other reasons, I asked him for a suggestion of somewhere to go for restorative soup. Ssyal, he said, the gingseng chicken soup place on west Lawrence.

    As I walked in Alien-like ginseng beasts thrashed about in their glass jars, waiting for the chance to escape and clamp onto my face and breed in me. No, it was I who would be eating them soon enough.

    Image

    Sitting down, the waitress had only one question, in fact almost the only words spoken to me the whole time: "Chicken soup?" I said yes and she returned to the kitchen for about ten minutes.

    Image

    At last this spread was laid out before me-- a small chicken in a pot of soup, together with the usual Korean spread of appetizers or palate cleansers or whatever they are. Monica Eng had warned that the ginseng imparted a strange, disagreeable flavor, but it didn't bother me in my nasally-impaired state, and indeed it gave all the comfort I could have hoped for from a bowl of chicken soup. Of the side dishes, most of the hot ones didn't go well with a sore throat but the sticky brown rice at left was a good combination with the soup.

    I left feeling the ginseng coursing through my body, curing all my ills. Unfortunately, three hours later I realized that the glands under my chin were swelling and I was in the familiar progression of strep throat. Eastern medicine, whatever its culinary virtues, did not seem to be a match for Western antibiotics. I went to the doctor, got a pack of Zithromax, popped the first two and went to bed. By morning I was clearly on the road to recovery-- and while I'll give the ginseng soup some credit for making me feel better at the time, I give the antibiotic credit for the cure.

    Ssyal Ginseng
    4201 W. Lawrence
  • Post #2 - June 19th, 2004, 2:48 pm
    Post #2 - June 19th, 2004, 2:48 pm Post #2 - June 19th, 2004, 2:48 pm
    This is too good a post to go 24 hours without a reply. It's the one I'm sending to people to entice them to check out the forum. Great reporting. Great photos. Especially loved the ginsing beasts trashing about in their glass jars.
  • Post #3 - June 20th, 2004, 9:27 am
    Post #3 - June 20th, 2004, 9:27 am Post #3 - June 20th, 2004, 9:27 am
    AnnFisher wrote:This is too good a post to go 24 hours without a reply.

    Ann,

    Absolutely, this is a great post. Not only picture wise, but Mr. G knows his way around a word.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
  • Post #4 - June 20th, 2004, 4:30 pm
    Post #4 - June 20th, 2004, 4:30 pm Post #4 - June 20th, 2004, 4:30 pm
    Blushing... :oops:
  • Post #5 - September 12th, 2006, 7:56 pm
    Post #5 - September 12th, 2006, 7:56 pm Post #5 - September 12th, 2006, 7:56 pm
    Mike G wrote:I think RST was the first to post on it, but I particularly remember Gary's moving account of his visit (perhaps he'd like to post that).

    Mike,

    Feeling quite under the weather, my thoughts tuned to Ssyal.

    Here's my post from '02
    --

    I, like many on the Chowhound board, find RST an interesting fellow, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of food, an inquisitive nature and the ability to impart a sense of poetry to what is often taken for granted. This has led me, after some sleuthing and often a little help from Zim, to explore a number of places that RST has mentioned.

    I have been Los Mogotes de Michoacan on N Kimbal, eaten Quesadillas Flor de Calabaza and Huaraches with Nopales and quite enjoyed myself. Did I see generations of Mexican/Americans and Mexicans all the way back to the pre-Columbian era in the waitress hands and sense love in the masa? Sorry to say, no I did not.

    I have been to George's Kabab on W Lawrence, had very respectable marinated grilled Cornish hen, mediocre rice, very good pickled vegetables, all served by a pretty Iraqi waitress with whom RST implied he flirted. (I could see why) I even had a conversation with the gruff, though not all that loveable George, about Pacha (braised goat head), Dolmas and his thick red foule. While George's Kabab was exactly as RST described, down to the TV and pool table, I somehow missed the beauty, continuity of national perspective and overall sense of wonder that RST felt for George's.

    I realize that RST has a poetic nature and, simply put, I do not, but I was starting to worry that I was no longer able to see beauty in the simple things in life. Was I doomed to spend the rest of my life as one who could see the tree, but not the forest.

    I needed not worry as I found Ssyal Ginseng, which RST referred to as 'an almost spiritual place', to be restful, almost meditative, beyond the simple nature of the fare or surroundings. Ssyal specializes in ginseng, with fresh and dried ginseng for sale along with a number of ginseng products and, of course, the chicken ginseng soup that RST described.

    The soup consists of a whole small chicken lightly filled with short grain brown rice, three kinds of beans, bits of garlic and a red date all served in a light, but flavorful, broth that contains whole ginseng root. The chicken soup is served with small dishes of Korean style accompaniments; ginseng root in red chili paste, daikon radish kimchee, translucent cooked yam gelatin, and a slightly bitter water vegetable. There is also a side dish of short grain brown rice studded with multiple types of beans that is quite reminiscent of macrobiotic restaurants.

    The chicken, which is incredibly tender, is eaten off the bone with chopsticks along with the occasional dredge through a small dish of salt mixed with fragrant Sichuan pepper. The broth, possessing of a slight cleansing astringency from the ginseng, is unique, each spoonful seeming to be a multi-vitamin for both body and soul. My description of the chicken in broth is not doing the harmony of the dish justice, this was truly wonderful soup. This is chicken soup that my Jewish grandmother would be proud to serve, though she would serve it with matzo balls instead of brown rice.

    The waitress, who seemed incredibly calm, yet was quite efficient, provided, along with the calming new age/world music, the perfect backdrop for RST's 'spiritual' chicken ginseng soup.

    Just a couple of notes, Ssyal ginseng, while definitely having a different feel than most Chicago restaurants, is a place to eat, not meditate. The whole chicken, along with side dishes, is filling and the place, at least on the day I was there for lunch, had a number of customers, all eating chicken ginseng soup. Ssyal does have two other offerings, fish and miso soup, though chicken in broth is the main focus.

    After my lunch at Ssyal, I am now able to see at least part of the forest, thanks for the recommendation RST.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Ssyal Ginseng Growing Company
    4201 W Lawrence
    Chicago, Il 60625
    815-648-4601
    773-427-5296-7
    Mon-sat 10:30am to 9:30pm
    Sunday 1pm to 9pm
    Parking in Rear

    George's Kabab
    3216 W Lawrence
    Chicago, IL. 60625
    773-588-1800
    Open 24/7

    Los Mogotes De Michoacan
    4734 N Kimball Ave
    Chicago, Il 60625
    773-583-3791
    7-Days 10am to 10pm
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #6 - September 13th, 2006, 12:39 am
    Post #6 - September 13th, 2006, 12:39 am Post #6 - September 13th, 2006, 12:39 am
    Beautiful post... but I wonder why your MD gave you azithromax. Are you allergic to penicillin?
    Let the wild rumpus start!
  • Post #7 - September 15th, 2006, 10:18 pm
    Post #7 - September 15th, 2006, 10:18 pm Post #7 - September 15th, 2006, 10:18 pm
    One of my students sneezed on me thrice this week and woke up this morning with a raging cold. After taking some airborne and blowing my nose for about five minutes, I realized I needed another course of action: Sam Gae Tang at Ssyal. I was inspired by Mike G's post and decided that I should give it a try. It worked for me when I was a kid, why not now? But I wondered if it would be as good as my grandmother's sam gae tang, a favorite of mine when I was sick and younger.

    And I am happy to report that I LOVED Ssyal's chicken soup. It tastes just as good as my grandmother's. How about that for a ringing endorsement? For $11, it's cheaper than the gas that costs me to drive up to my parents' in the suburbs to visit grandma...

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