Friday, May 10, 2013

Asian Eyes' Korea - Ginseng

Now even Germany also started
to cultivate their own Ginseng
          Day 7, 23/Nov/2012, 9.00 am: We stayed the night in Hotel Capital, a small hotel in the heart of Seoul. The breakfast fare was another tourist friendly buffet breakfast setting called Orientin. The breakfast was nothing to shout about, some Chinese, Thai and Korean fare thrown in. After breakfast the first itinerary breakfast was Dong Hwang Korean Ginseng center visit.
          Ginseng is any one of 11 species of slow-growing perennial plants with fleshy roots, belonging to the genus Panax of the family Araliaceae. Ginseng is found only in the Northern Hemisphere, in North America and in eastern Asia (mostly Korea, northeastern China (Manchuria), Bhutan, and eastern Siberia), typically in cooler climates. Panax vietnamensis, discovered in Vietnam, is the southernmost ginseng known. Ginseng root is most often available in dried form, either whole or sliced. Ginseng leaf, although not as highly prized, is sometimes also used; as with the root, it is most often available in dried form. Folk medicine attributes various benefits to oral use of American ginseng and Asian ginseng roots, including roles as an aphrodisiac, stimulant, type II diabetes treatment, or cure for sexual dysfunction in men. Ginseng may be included in small doses in energy drinks. It may be found in hair tonics and cosmetic preparations, as well, but those uses have not been shown to be clinically effective.
            We were under strict order not to take photographs, an action I do not understand why. Anyway we were allocated an appointment time, and ushered into a room like a flock of sheep waiting for our feeds. In the room, there were jars upon jars of preserved Ginseng with roots, stem, leaves and flowers in solution, much like the biology specimen one saw in TV program. Soon, a lady in Hanbok addressed and briefed us in Mandarin about ginseng, their ages (1 year to 6 years old, older the better), its multiple uses as well as being shown the video of how ginseng is being cultivated. What I learnt was Ginseng comes in two kinds, red and white. The color of the ginseng depends on how it is processed. White ginseng is unprocessed and dries naturally. Red ginseng is processed with steam and is believed to be more effective. We were bombarded with propaganda that once one had ginseng, nothing else matters in this world, and one cannot make do without ginseng and it is a must have item if one visits Korea. 
          We were led to another room and was given some sample Ginseng drinks. Then the buying and selling process started. Mr. Cheng and Madam Chen did bought some. I was tempted, but was setback by the steep price tag which was way above my budget. We came out empty handed, except with lingering memories of having visited a ginseng sale showroom. Here are some pictures I took at the Ginseng showroom:
E-mail adress:
Tel: +82-2-6261-6200
Hotel Capital at 22-76, Itaewon-dong, Itaewon, Seoul, South Korea,our stay for the final 2 nights, is situated in Itaewon area, an area where more foreigners frequent compared to other area in Seoul. 

A blow fish or Fugu or Puffer fish restaurant, opposite Capital Hotel, caught my attention. I  only had tasted Fugu in Japan once some 5 years ago and I am still alive today to tell the experience.

Orientin restaurant where we had our breakfast which the foods there were below average.
Arriving at the Korean Ginseng Center early. Visit to Korean Ginseng is a by appointment only and only for international tourists. I guess locals can get cheaper ginseng elsewhere and do not need to shop here!
We were ushered through through a walkway to the showroom for the presentation on Korean Ginseng.
Picture adorned the wall of the showroom showing farmers drying out the lesser roots from the main roots. These lesser roots were dried and then made into powder for Ginseng by-products like sweets, powder pill or beauty products. 

A picture of Ginseng with its lesser roots, main root, stem, leaves and fruits. It is actually a beautiful plant.

Jars upon jars of embalm ginseng roots on display. They were from 1 year old up to 6 years old ginseng.

An interesting ginseng logo of the Korean Ginseng co.

 In Korea a lot of Hallyu stars were endorsing products. In this Korean Ginseng showroom, Lee Young-ae endorsing the Ginseng products. I am sure there were some ladies (and even guys) smitten with this popular actress from the movie Dae Jang Geum and willing to part with their cash or plastic to get those products with her picture

Ginseng roots bade us goodbye as we exited the showroom. I noticed the roots resembled a "girl" ginseng (on the left) and a ''boy" ginseng (on the
right). Hmm, maybe just my imagination.

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