I am constantly on the road for work, and so I always come across crazy “foods” from other cultures.
I just got back from Korea, and the hotel I stayed at had a wonderful concierge floor that always had snacks out. And seriously…who doesn’t love snack time?
Anyway, there were these little bowels of something next to the various pastries, fruits, and other bite sized goodness.
It looked like hay or dried grass. But it was free, and something new so I tried it. I felt like I was eating a bunch of twigs. It was NOT good. I am pretty well travled, and familiar with most foods, but I had never seen “wild ginseng culture root,” as the little sign described. Yes I see “ginseng” added to all sorts of random foods and drink to play along with the current superfood trend that is out of control. I think it is rumored to make you smarter, or taller, or have some other magical ability that marketers love to exaggerate. Anyway I had never seen this in a simple raw form before; and there is a reason for that. It taste crappy.
I am pretty sure the hotel staff is just having a good laugh at all the dumb Americans who try the stuff straight up. I am sure it is supposed to be added to tea or something first. And if ginseng root is supposed to be eaten plain like that, why the hell would it be sitting on the buffet table next to so many other good tasting things? They were just getting your guard down so you would unknowingly eat the junk.
I know I may simply be looking at the whole scenario from a strictly American perspective, and Koreans may find this a true delicaicy. I am just fed up with exotic foods where a typical Western is completely lost as to how to consume it and the little description cards offer no explanation on what to do with the stuff.
Even if it is supposed to make your life somehow better due to its nutritional or spirtual protperties; I say if you see “wild ginseng culture root” on your next trip to Asia, just avoid it (but be sure to reccomend it to your traveling companions).