Elwood 5566

Monday Market: Ot. 옻. Rhus Verniviflua

Posted in herbs and 'woods', plants and trees, Quintesentially Korean by 노강호 on May 24, 2010

Ot (옻) costing 2000W (£1)

I’ve had some difficulty trying to find information on this ‘food.’ I’m not even sure how categorise it. The closest relative ‘food’ I can relate it to is cinnamon, which is a bark and a spice but Ot (옻), Rhus Verniviflua (Toxicodendron vernicifluum), is chunk of log and isn’t spicy. It is related to the poison ivy family and can cause skin irritation. When I first ate chicken and ot soup, I was warned it might upset my stomach but suffered no ill effects. It is a regular ingredient in chicken-ginseng soup (삼게탕).

Most information on Ot seems related to its use as a lacquer that is traditionally used in Korea and Japan to coat wooden chopsticks but also a range of other items, including fountain pens. The lacquer technique takes great care to apply and is extremely durable and beautiful and in this context the plant is referred to as the ‘lacquer tree.’

Ot can be seen in street markets where it is sold in a variety of sizes. It is boiled in soups and obviously removed before eating though smaller pieces of wood may be left in situ to be discarded at the table. It is also used to make a particular type of both bean and red pepper paste. In chicken-ginseng soup it provides the slightly bitter background taste.

Nothing beats a log in your soup

Ot bean paste (된장)

ot barbecued pork (옻 삼겹살)

Ot as an integral ingredient in chicken ginseng soup. (삼게탕)

Ot as used to make a highly beautiful lacquer

ot as it grows

Ot is also used as an oriental medicine but extensive information is difficult to find in English. If making chicken-ginseng soup, ot is one of the dried ingredients available in packets costing around 4000Won (£2) and available widely.

dried ingredients for chicken ginseng soup (삼게탕)

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