Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Korean Ginseng

Jars of Korean ginseng in a Samgyetang restaurant in central Seoul.

I am told by my Korean friends that the best ginseng is six years old and that it is supposed to be good for all manner of ailments and medical conditions.

Samgyetang, or ginseng chicken soup, is one of my favourite Korean dishes. It is real comfort food for me and a pleasant, less spicy meal option. It is traditionally eaten by Koreans on three specific days during the long and steamy summer. It is supposed be a healthy food and also help one deal with the oppressive days of summer.


Hilda said...

Six years? Wow. I didn't realize they were kept (extracted?) that long.

The use of ginseng is so fascinating. We have large Chinese and Korean communities here, but I have yet to interview someone knowledgeable about it. I have so many questions, like what is the liquid that's in the jars with it?

I must say though, that those jars — and the way the roots are arranged inside — are beautiful! I guess it makes a lot of sense if they're going to be on your shelf for six whole years.

Phil_O'Logus said...

Hi Hilda, thanks for your comment. To my taste buds young ginseng tastes a bit like parsnip. In the the liquid form, as a tea made with hot water, it has a slightly bitter-sweet taste. Six years refers to the age of the ginseng root in the ground. I have heard that the six year old ginseng is controlled by a regulatory body to ensure the quality/age of the roots. It is also said the more human-shaped the roots are, the more beneficial or potent they will be and are thus highly prized. I have seen ginseng plantations and the plants are protected from the weather by a series of mini sun-shades. Cheers, Phil