Ssanghwatang (쌍화탕)

South Korea has a great deal to offer in the way of herbal medicine.  Here, you can find Korean traditional medicine hospitals (한의원) as easily as you could find any western clinic.  You don’t have to go to a hospital to try Korean medicines though, instead, you can stop by your local convenience store and try some ssanghwatang (쌍화탕).  To be honest, most people don’t like it’s flavor; Korean medicine is known for being bitter, even with added sweeteners.  I don’t favor the convenience store fare, but if you go to some cafes (such as those in insadong), you can find a nicer version of ssanghwatang.  I liked this more authentic version so much that I decided to enlist my wife to help me track down a recipe.

The first difficulty was that the herbs required were entirely foreign to me, and not just because they were written in Korean.  Mia gave me a list of herbs and roots and sent me down to the traditional market in town.  I went to the herb shop that I usually go to buy ginseng and asked him to fill the list.  Here is what I bought for making ssanghwatang:

  1. 황기 Hwanggi
  2. 당귀 Danggui
  3. 감초 Gamcho
  4. 백작약 Baekjakyak
  5. 칡 Chilk
  6. 천궁 Cheongung
  7. 숙지황 Sukjihwang
  8. 계피 Gyaepi (cinnamon)
  9. 대추 Daechu (jujube)
  10. 생강 Saenggang (ginger)

For about 100 grams of each, the total came to 16,000 won (about $15 USD).

The recipe that my lovely wife found was approximately the following:

  • 황기 Hwanggi (12g)
  • 당귀 Danggui (12g)
  • 감초 Gamcho (9g)
  • 백작약 Baekjakyak (30g)
  • 칡 Chilk (one piece)
  • 천궁 Cheongung (12g)
  • 숙지황 Sukjihwang (12g)
  • 계피 Gyaepi (cinnamon) (12g)
  • 대추 Daechu (jujube) (six pieces)
  • 생강 Saenggang (ginger) (20g)
  1. Measure all ingredients and add to a boiling bag (except Sukjihwang).
  2. Add bag to boiling water for 30-60 seconds (for cleaning).
  3. Remove bag and dispose of water.
  4. Add 3 liters of water and the bag to the pot.
  5. Cook on high until boiling.
  6. Once boiling, reduce heat to half. (Should be just barely bubbling).
  7. Reduce to half of original volume (to 1.5 liters).
  8. Drink immediately or store in the refrigerator (once it cools).

So, if that wasn’t clear enough, let’s look at some pictures!

Here we have all of the ingredients and my dear wife.
Cleaning for 30-60 seconds.
After cleaning, refil to 3 liters and add boiling bag.  Boil down to about 1.5 liters.  Remember to use half heat once it starts to boil. 
Serve in a nice tea cup with some candied ginger.  You can also add dried daechu and pine nuts to the tea (they usually do that at the cafes).  

I really hope that this entry has been helpful, or at the very least, interesting.  Another time I will write about how to make a different tea called Shipjeondaebotang (십전대보탕) as well as how to make that candied ginger.  Happy boiling!

Licorice Root Tea

As I mentioned last year, I had surgery to fix my vocal cords.  The problem began most likely due to the amount of talking I did and the amount of caffeine I was drinking.  It wasn’t really so much that I was drinking lots of caffeine, but rather that I was not drinking regular water to keep hydrated.  One very helpful discovery I have made is Kamchocha, or licorice root tea.  This tea is very sweet and it tastes nothing like licorice. In Korea it is fairly easy to find in the open markets, just look for a place that is selling other herbs.  Kamcho tea can be made simply by boiling the root in water for about 30 minutes or so.  I’ve also made it using the slow cook option on my rice cooker; I would set this up before bed and it would cook over night.  The latest method I have been using to make this tea is the easiest of all.  I take about 5 pieces of the root and put it into a 500ml thermos.  I then put boiling water in and put the cap back on.  After an hour this tea is ready and the thermos can be filled up one or two more times.

I am not sure of any medical benefits of this tea; some websites say that it acts as a demulcent to protect your throat.  In my experience I find it to be helpful to drink before a class, and soothing to drink after.

Shell fish in Korea


One of my favorite meals in Korea is grilled shellfish!  It is not cheap, but it is very delicious if you enjoy shellfish.20131029-212512.jpg


First, these are grilled, not boiled.  You can order a boiled dish, but I like them grilled.20131029-212455.jpgAs you can see, there is a wide variety of shellfish! The big ones and the half shells are my favorite.

20131029-212523.jpgHere is the first round of shellfish.

20131029-212535.jpgAs the shells cook over the grill, the clams start to open. Once they do, the meat can be eaten or added to a sauce that also cooks on the grill.  The juice from the shell fish can also be added to the sauce.

20131029-212545.jpgIt is also tasty to add chili pepper paste to the sauce! 

It is a fairly easy dish to cook, once you are done with the shells, you just toss them into the trash can.  Be careful though, if some of the shells get to hot, they tent to crack and throw some of their shell fragments.

S’mores in Korea

While I was at Costco last month I found that they sold large bags of marshmallows! I normally don’t like them, but it had been a long time, and I wanted to try s’mores again. Not only did I want to try them, but I wanted to share them!


The only problem was that Graham Crackers are a bit difficult to find here.  I made do (wonderfully) with a Korean digestive cookie (Diget) that already had a coating of chocolate on one side. Using the convenient microwave method, I had s’mores ready in seconds. 20131029-211846.jpg

I also have a portable gas range that I tried roasting marshmallows on, and that worked pretty well too.  So if you can manage to find marshmallows, the rest of your s’more journey is easy!

Also, since marshmallows go stale, I decided to use them as rewards for my students, they love them!

Ginseng water (인삼물)

This weekend I went out to the traditional market and I bought bought some fresh ginseng (인삼).  I had heard about some of the benefits from eating and drinking it, and I thought I would give it a try.  20131006-134910.jpg

This ginseng (인삼) cost 1,4000 won for 300 grams.  Converted to US currency and measurements, that is about $14 for 2/3 pound.20131006-134922.jpg

When you buy fresh ginseng, it comes with the dirt still on it.  Ginseng (인삼) is a root after all. 20131006-134934.jpg

So the first step in using ginseng is washing it.  You can either cut off the little bits and wash them separately, or leave them on.  The important thing is to get rid of the dirt.  20131006-134946.jpg

What a difference! 20131006-134959.jpg

Next, add the roots to water; one liter of water per root is a good rule of thumb.20131006-135010.jpg

Turn the heat on and wait for it to boil. 20131006-135021.jpg

Once it boils, put a timer on for 30 minutes.20131006-135032.jpg

Turn the heat down to half.20131006-135046.jpgThe water may still boil; that is ok.


After the timer goes off, turn the heat down to about 1/4.20131006-135113.jpg

Set the timer for another 30 minutes20131006-135128.jpg

When the timer goes off, remove the ginseng and set it out to dry.  You can use it a total of 2-3 times (1 or 2 more times).20131006-135139.jpg

And you are done! pour a cup of tea and add honey if you like.20131006-135149.jpgAs for the left overs, you can store them in bottles and put them in the fridge.  You can also eat the ginseng once you have used it for the last time.

This can be taken hot or cold and can be used any time in place of regular water. To make a stronger drink, add more roots or subtract water at the beginning.

Making Samgak Gimbap

I’ve always wanted to make samgak (triangle) gimbap, and now I finally have a triangle press.

I think this all the time, and it is very delicious! It is also very easy to make!


First, you need rice. I added vegetable flakes to my rice along with sesame oil.


Fill the triangle press about halfway full of rice. Now make a small hole in the rice.


Next, add about a spoonful of your filling. I used tuna with chili pepper paste.


Next, fill the rest of the press with rice.


Now, put the lid on the press and push down firmly.


Remove the lid, and turn the press upside down onto your seaweed. You can find this special seaweed online. It has plastic to keep it fresh.






Remove the press from the rice and wrap the seaweed. It may take a few tries to perfect this wrapping. Add one of the stickers that comes with seaweed to fasten the wrapping.


Now you have an easy snack that is great for a picnic! You can also try to make new fillings if you want.

Fried Gimbap

I’ve been making gimbap for a while now, but I haven’t been able to make it last more than one day.  The problem is that the rice always dries out and the seaweed gets soggy if I keep it in the refrigerator.  I heard about a method for frying gimbap, and I decided to give it a try. It is very simple, simply dip the gimbap into a bowl of mixed raw egg, and then set it on a fry pan. The egg acts as a delicious barrier that keeps the rice from drying out as much.  You can also season the egg to add more flavor to the gimbap.Fried Gimbap-154