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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:







Monday Morning Market – Tofu (두부)

Posted in Food and Drink, Monday Market (Theme) by 노강호 on April 19, 2010

Monday morning market. Steaming tofu (두부)

Back home, some of my friends don’t particularly like tofu and it’s hardly surprising as its crap; its expensive and sold in amounts not much bigger than a bar of soap. It’s never fresh, totally tasteless and apart from being packaged in cartons  that don’t require storage in a refrigerator, I suspect it contains chemical preservatives. In Britain, tofu is about as oriental as a pizza  in Korea, is Italian. This is quite natural of course,  it is not a particularly popular food.


Every Monday morning, I buy my tofu at the street market in Song-So. The block, which is about a third smaller than a house brick, costs 1000 Won (5o pence sterling), and it will last me a week used predominantly in soups. It is aslo very nice fried with sesame oil, sprinkled with sesame seeds and accompanied with a little soy sauce.

The tofu is always warm when bought and indeed, when I sliced this cake to put in the fridge, it was still steaming. What I like most is the smell when warm, somewhat like steamed milk, but this is lost the moment it cools. Eaten warm it is pleasant though it’s hardly bursting with flavour. Like a number of other Korean foods, oak curd for example, (도투리 묵), I think the appeal lies in the texture and their  combination with other textures and flavours.

Tofu deteriorates very quickly if kept in the plastic bag in which it was bought. The best way to keep it is to place it in a plastic container filled with cold water. You can store this in the fridge and if you change the water every few days, it will easily last a week.

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Strawberries and Musk Melon – Monday Market

Posted in Food and Drink, fruit, Monday Market (Theme), seasons by 노강호 on April 16, 2010


Ahh, the smell of these strawberries was delicious. A common sight now spring is here as is the musk melon. The strawberries can be fairly large, some the size of golf balls.

Syrupy sweet

Musk melon is okay but personally, I don’t find it as delicious as the much larger, and sweeter, honeydew melon.


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.

Oranges Galore – Monday Market

Posted in Food and Drink, fruit, Monday Market (Theme), seasons by 노강호 on February 24, 2010

Chejudo Mandarins

I forgot to mention the mandarins/tangerine variety of orange in my post before Christmas. Usually from the sub-tropical Chejudo, the southern most island, these are delicious. They are usually sold at varying prices with the sweetest being more expensive. However, even the cheaper ones can be relied upon to be persistently sweeter than mandarins/tangerines sold in the UK. A general distinguishing feature of Chejudo  and oriental mandarins/tangerines  is that they are loose-skinned and seedless. Their name derives from the bright robes worn by the elite mandarins of China and the fruit was formerly reserved especially for the mandarin class. Mandarin and tangerines sold in the UK are often not loose-skinned or seedless, are often yellower and can be  tart. These  are probably imported from the likes of Morocco. which was the first county to export the fruit to the UK. I have to say, I can eat the Chejudo variety as easily as I would chocolate.

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

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Winter – Monday Market

Posted in Food and Drink, fruit, Monday Market (Theme), seasons, vegetables by 노강호 on December 13, 2009

I intended making a visual collection of seasonal fruit and vegetables as they appear and was going to start this in spring, I decided to start earlier.

Persimmon (홍시)

Persimmon (also known as Sharon Fruit. 감, 땡감, 반시, 홍시/연시,꽃감.) Early December and the Persimmon season is over but these ones I bought a few weeks ago. Currently I have around 60 Persimmon in my freezer. Persimmon is called Kam and like the octopus, there are three types each called by a different name which can be confusing. Kam range from hard to very, very soft. If you like sweet and gooey you’ll love the hongshi, sometimes spelt yonshi. This is the softest persimmon and appears in late summer to early winter. It is very delicate, like a fragile bag of water. Unlike the other types of persimmon, which I don’t eat often, these can be easily frozen. They are delicious cold,  simply slice the skin and squeeze and scoop out the jam-like innards. Some coffee shops serve hongshi smoothie. You can also buy dried persimmon, rather like dried apricots but with less flavour. I’m told persimmon is quite high in calories – which is usual as anything delicious tends to be calorie laden.

Oriental quince. (모과)

The Oriental Quince  (Moghwa. 모과) , is used for its fragrance which is slightly appleley. It has a waxy skin. They do scent small areas like cars and small rooms but unless you dangle them under your nose, they’re pretty useless in larger spaces – but they look good. Moghwa appear in late summer and early winter. Make sure there are no small holes in them as these will contain worms. I had one with a small hole which were  fruit flies front door, a piece of gum blocked future access and entombed any inhabitants. If you turn the fruit regularly it should keep into the spring. The moghwa  is used in oriental medicine and can be used to make tea.

Daegu, famous for its apples (사과)

Apples. (사과) I live in Daegu which is renowned for apples and Daegu apples are truly delicious. In England, I rarely eat apples partly as there are so many varieties I never know which ones I like and because they can never be relied upon to be tasty. I suppose the variations in British weather result in fruit which can be sweet  one moment and sour the next. Daegu apples are never sour and they are never fluffy or soft. Some are truly massive in proportions. Recently, a Korean teenager told me that had Snow White been Korean, she wouldn’t have died because Koreans always peel the skin off apples and pears. (and the witch, so he said, put the poison on the skin). In England we tend to wash them, if we can be bothered, and eat them with the skin on – a habit many Koreans find odd.

Cabbages (배추)

My God! I nearly forgot the most important seasonal product of all… The Cabbage – usually called a paech’u (배추) As with most imported fruits and vegetables which I might buy back home, the Chinese Cabbage ( which I think is a pak choy – or maybe its a bok choy???), is a piddly little thing which usually sits in the palm of your hand, is almost pure white and has no green leaves and cost W2000. In Korea when the cabbage season is at its peak, some are colossal in size and this week in the market they cost around W1000 each which is about 50 pence  in sterling. Two will make me enough kimchi for several months. Check inner leaves for signs of caterpillar.

An occasional site, especially in more rural areas, are large vats of paech’u being salted ready for making kimchi. Indeed, in street markets at this time of year you can buy kimchi which has already been soaked in salted water.

Salted cabbages in Cheonan

My Winter 2009 kimchi (배추 김치)

Paech’u after being salted and pasted with kimchi paste. Yes, it looks like something from a road accident but it tasted delicious!

persimmon – 감, hard – 땡감, between soft and very soft -반시, very soft – 홍시 or 연시, and dried – 꽃감.  Oriental Quince (moghwa) – 모과, apple – 사과,  Chinese cabbage – 배추.

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© Nick Elwood 2010  Creative Commons Licence.