Elwood 5566

Monday Market – Shepherd's Purse (냉이)

Posted in herbs and 'woods', Quintesentially Korean by 노강호 on March 8, 2011

a tasty weed

I now realise I have an intimate relationship with this weed developed through years of mowing lawns. Shepherd’s Purse, which has tiny white flowers, is considered a lawn pest in the UK and numerous British gardening websites devote space to facilitating its annihilation.

the plant usually stands higher than surrounding grass and is easily identified

Such a shame! All I needed to do to clear my lawn of this ‘pest’ was to pull it up and consume it. I have never tired it in British cooking but I’m sure with creativity it could have uses. In Britain, there is a long history of Shepherd’s Purse as an herbal remedy and in China it is used in both soup and as a wonton filling.

Korean 'naeng-i' (냉이)

I wrote a brief post on Shepherd’s Purse (냉이) last year and made it clear I wasn’t sure how much I liked it. However, I actually bought several bundles and froze them and there was ample to last the entire year. Like many seasonal oddities, especially ones used by grandmothers, as is naeng-i, it’s a case of ‘here today – gone tomorrow.’  Only a few weeks after noticing it, it will have disappeared until next year. Naeng-i really livens-up a bowl of bean curd soup (됀장찌게) and I was quite excited to buy it fresh yesterday. I can’t  be bothered trimming off the roots and have one of those mesh balls in which I put whole plants and simply immerse the ball in the soup. Quite a few of my students love naeng-i and apart from telling you how their grandmothers use it, are often excited recounting its flavour.


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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.


Garlic (마늘)

Posted in herbs and 'woods', seasons, vegetables by 노강호 on June 26, 2010

You can smell the garlic wafting on the air before you see it.

Sunday afternoon street vendors

Sunday afternoon

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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)

High on Mugwort (쑥) Artemisia Asiatica

Posted in herbs and 'woods', oriental Medicine by 노강호 on May 16, 2010

After using mugwort in various soups, I decided to use it for the purpose of eliciting deep and prophetic dreams, which in the little research I did on this herb, is one of its claimed properties. You can find an interesting link for ‘dream pillows’ in my original article (mugwort). I bought two large bags of fresh mugwort, each the size of a carrier bag which I subsequently dried on my apartment floor after spreading them fairly thinly on newspaper. The drying process took about 5 days, each day, turning the ‘leaves’ to minimise the chance of decomposition. They entire two loads dried quickly with no decomposition at all. What started out as a large amount of mugwort quickly shriveled to around a quarter of the original proportion.

This was originally one entire carrier bag load of mugwort. it significantly reduces when dried.

I bought a small pillow, cost 4000W (£2) and taking out the inner pouch opened it and removed the filling. This I then replaced with the dried mugwort.

bagging the mugwort

In then replaced the inner pouch, now stuffed with dried mugwort, back into the original pillow. This in then inserted inside the larger pillow on my bed.

The 'dream pillow' - ready to go!

Now, strangely, as the mugwort was drying in my room, and it was quite a smell, like decomposing grass cuttings. I awoke one morning and instantly recalled a vivid dream about a boy who had left our school  a few months earlier. Why I dreamt about him, I don’t know but I subsequently forgot the dream and started my day. However, in the evening, as I was about to leave school, my boss told me that this boy is due to return to our school later in the week. Suddenly, I remembered my dream. Yes, strange!

I subsequently slept using the ‘dream pillow’ for around a week before removing it. I have a theory that the smell of mugwort, which is reminiscent of lying on a pile of grass cuttings, actually interferes with your deep sleep, causing you to hover over the kind of sleep during which dreams are more easily recalled. So, I don’t want to dismiss mugwort as a dream enhancers as total ‘crystal crap,’ because of the one odd, and vivid dream I did have. So,  next I want to try sleeping with the bag after the smell no longer wakes me up.

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Mistletoe – Viscum album Coloratum (겨우살이) Not Just for Kissing Under

Posted in herbs and 'woods', plants and trees, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on May 15, 2010

Specifics: a tea made with leafs and branches. I have only seen this being sold in bundles either in the mountains or street markets. It is not always easy and more common in spring. I would be very cautious of using this in Europe as the species may be poisonous, from the little I know the berries are. I can’t find any reference to its use as a tea in the West, though I have not searched extensively.

A few months ago I noticed a little old lady street vendor selling, amongst other things, what appeared to be mistletoe. I was intrigued as of course, in the West it is usually only ever seen at Christmas when it is used to kiss under. Like most of my Korean friends,when asked about this plant, none had the slightest idea what it was,  nor any interest.

Kayasan National Park

On Children’s Day, I went to  Kayasan National Park (가야산)  which is a short distance from Daegu. As is the custom on such days, we made a ‘pilgrimage’ to the Haeinsa (해인사) Temple, one of Korea’s most important temples and home to Korean National Treasure No. 52, the Tripitaka Koreana. These comprise 81.340 woodblock templates, carved in the 13th century and forming the most accurate, oldest, and extensive treatise of Buddhist law and scripture.  With full foliage not yet set on surrounding trees, I noticed ‘balls’ of what appeared to be mistletoe growing on their upper branches. I was quite excited, an excitement my friends find quite strange and eccentric. None of them could tell me what they were but their interest was microscopically sparked when I pointed out to them that the leaf shape on the balls, only just visible, differed from that  on the surrounding branches. And then we stopped by a small ‘kiosk’ selling the customary objects found in such locations, dried mushrooms, steaming silk worm cocoons, – various fresh mountain greens, herbs, onions and wood, and in one corner, a large pile of mistletoe, instantly recognizable and available either fresh or cut and dried at 10.000W (£6) a large bag.

'Balls' of mistletoe can be seen in distant the tree tops

Mistletoe, Viscum album Coloratum -a hemi-parasitic plant

Cut and dried mistletoe

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant with an extensive and ancient history in many cultures. Myth suggests mistletoe was the wood from which the cross of Jesus was made, after which, as a punishment, the former tree was withered and reduced to a parasite. The plant has various hosts and usually grows on higher branches where seeds fall in bird droppings.

Instructions for making tea – Mistletoe can be kept in the fridge, though I was told not to store it in the freezer. A handful of twigs and leaves are then boiled in approximately 2 litres of water and the tea drank warm or chilled. I have discovered that a fuller infusion is made if the ‘leaves’ are left to steep over night before being removed. European Mistletoe can also be used for making tea herbalists claim it has numerous benefits, one of which is lowering blood pressure. Here  is made by way of a cold infusion.

The taste – I am not really into hot herbal or cereal teas and generally prefer these chilled. Mistletoe surprised me as it has a very distinct and pleasant taste with a lemony aroma. The taste is remarkably similar to that of western type tea (Ceylon, PG Tips, Liptons etc)  but quite soft. It lacks  the bitterness or tartness associated with tannin in un-milked, un-sugared tea. Currently I prefer this ‘tea’ to Korean barley, corn or green tea.

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Minari – Hemlock Water Dropwort (미나리) Monday Market.

Posted in Food and Drink, herbs and 'woods', Monday Market (Theme) by 노강호 on April 26, 2010

미나리 Minari

Yes, ‘hemlock’ raises alarm bells!  Historically, one of the most common ways to poison enemies, ‘retire’ the aged and of course famed for its association with Socrates. Minari is probably the closest you will come to tasting hemlock and surviving to tell the tale. Rest assured however, Minari, Oenanthe Javanica, differs from the lethal variety, Oenanthe Crocata.

Minari grows all over Asia and is even used in Italy. It is a crisp, fresh herb which lacks the strength of water cress which is often recommended as an alternative in Korean cooking, (western style), when minari is unavailable. Personally, Id leave it out altogether as water cress has a very distinct taste.

Minari is used added to soups and a sprig is often used to garnish noodle dishes and it is a common component in cabbage kimchi. It is also used as a salad, often tossed in a red pepper based paste dressing. It is readily available throughout the year in street markets and supermarkets.

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Quintisentially Korean – Mugwort (artemisia asiatica) 쑥

Posted in Food and Drink, herbs and 'woods', Monday Market (Theme), oriental Medicine, seasons by 노강호 on April 20, 2010

Mugwort (artemesia asiatica) 쑥

In the  ebente-tang (이벤트 탕) last Thursday, the essence of the day was mugwort (쑥) which is a coincidence.  This plant has a long and extensive history in both the east and west and being Spring, it is currently readily available in street markets and from the elderly women who sit on pavements with a small selection of vegetables.

I bought a very large bagful for 2000Won (£1 sterling) which I washed, drained and put straight in the freezer. Now, to be honest, I’m not sure how it is used but a quick search revealed one use is in soups. Immediately, I added some to my bean paste soup (된장 찌개)  which I was making for breakfast. Don’t be fooled into think I’m a health freak, I had a BHC fried chicken last night, with a complimentary bottle of cola! My initial reactions to the mugwort were good but I’ll need to try it again.

Mugwort is also known as Felon Herb, Chrysanthemum Weed, Wild Wormwood, Old uncle Henry, Sailor’s Tobacco, Naughty Man, Old Man or St. John’s Plant. Korean uses it to colour some types of rice cake green and it is known as a blood cleanser. It is also used in the production of the small cigar shaped burners used in the oriental medical practice of moxibustion.  The genus, artemisia, is extensive and one type, artemisia absinthiumm, is used in the production of absinthe, the oil of the plant giving this powerful drink, among other things,  its rich green colour.


Mugwort pillows, also known as dream pillows,  basically a pillow slip filled with mugwort, can apparently induce vivid and even prophetic dreams. I’m skeptical when it comes to ‘crystal crap’ so in my trawling for information on various aspects of mugwort, I fell upon a youtube video by ‘New Age Goddess, Djuna Wojton,’ which was too good to ignore. Djuana is a typical Earth Mother eccentric who is both entertaining and somewhat charismatic, so you can try the link and learn how to make yourself a mugwort pillow – which I intend to do when the market is next in town.

Interesting links for Mugwort:







Shepherd's Purse (냉이)

Posted in Food and Drink, herbs and 'woods', Monday Market (Theme), seasons by 노강호 on March 24, 2010

Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

With the approach of spring many seasonal ‘vegetables’ are appearing on the streets and one of the most common is Shepherd’s Purse. This costs about 2000W (£1 sterling) for a large bunch and can be bought from the elderly women who usually sit on the pavements selling various ‘vegetables.’ I haven’t yet seen it in my local E-Mart. Two of my Korean friends didn’t even know the name for this ‘vegetable’ and neither did they know how to use it. My best Korean friend is a total muppet when it comes to cooking so  a much younger colleague gave me instructions.  Shepherd’s Purse grows in the UK where for most people it would probably be classified as a weed and indeed when I initially tried it in a soup it tasted as one might imagine boiled grass to taste. Subsequent experiences revealed a subtle taste which some students describe as ‘medicine.’ However, not giving up easily, I have cooked this several times and find it pleasant.

Shepherd’s Purse doesn’t seem to keep long, even in the fridge and it will need washing and the small roots trimmed off. If you buy a bagful this job is tedious! Subsequent purchases, I  prepared, chopped and then put in a plastic zip bag in the freezer. It makes a subtle addition to bean paste soup (된장찌개)and is quite often used with oyster soup. I have also used it in fish soup (해물탕). Shepherd’s Purse won’t win any taste awards and although I haven’t quite decided the extent to which I like it, it does provide a distinct but gentle background flavour.

Additional Note

(Three weeks later) Shepherd’s Purse has grown on me. In bean soup it definitely provides a pleasant flavour. I decided to buy some more later in the week. It keeps well  stored in the freezer.


Monday Market – Shepherd’s Purse (March 2011)

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.