(photo from cbs.co.kr)
Until recently, I wasn’t in favor of insam cha (ginseng tea), or any dish that has insam (ginseng) such as samgyetang (Korean chicken ginseng rice soup). I assume it was my natural reaction against my mother’s forceful(?) feeding of insam whenever I visit my parents in Korea.
She boils down ginseng with dates (daechu) in water and have all of my family eat it with honey. I appreciated her intention and efforts especially when ginseng is not cheap for us. But I just hated eating ginseng like that, or in any other possible way. Honey is not enough to make it eatable. The bitter ginseng wasn’t delightful at all and I didn’t like the lose texture of boiled ginseng.
There was no working excuse that could have saved me from my mother’s ginseng feast. My excuse was pretty reasonable, that is, ki (qi in Chinese, 氣, energy flow) of my body, eum ki (cold energy), doesn’t go with ki of ginseng, yang ki (warm energy). Well, that was always ignored. I know why she insisted it so much. She wanted us to get healthier! However annoyed I was, I was still very thankful to her that she would cook it for us.
In Korea, ginseng is typically considered as one of the best nourishing stimulants (or traditional medicine, hanyak). There are many Korean parents, just like my mother, cook ginseng for their children to improve their immune system and make them stronger.
It is believed among Koreans that it would do good to prevent people from catching minor illness just like all other functional food. That’s where my mother was at when insisting it that I should finish my portion (usually three or four roots of insam (ginseng)).
It was only recent that I started to be more open-minded about medical benefits that ginseng may have. Simply, I’ve started to have ginseng without complaints. Insamcha (ginsengtea) is one of easy ginseng food that I can get here in Los Angeles along with samgyetang (Korean chicken ginseng rice soup). I haven’t had samgyetang here yet, but I’ve been waiting for a chance.
When it gets cold starting October, some nights I make insam-saenggang (ginseng-ginger) tea with honey for my husband and myself. (What I mean by ‘making the tea’ here is that I boil water, mix ginseng and ginger tea with perfect amount of honey. =))
I don’t know how much it does to prevents us from catching a cold or other slight ailments which usually comes around this time of the year, but I think that definitely helps immune system. Instead of having a night snack, a warm insam-sanggang cha (ginseng-ginger tea) is a much better choice for us. It’s very soothing at winter nights especially when the pungent taste of ginger is almost neutralized except its refreshing taste.
It’s generally said that ginseng is good for people who have eum ki (yin qi, cold energy), or people whose hands, feet or boy itself is generally cold because it is yang ki (yang qi, warm energy).