Well as you may have guessed by my absence I’ve been on holiday. Which does mean my next few posts will be akin to those ‘what I did on my holiday’ reports you used to do at school – but with a more health related bent! Let’s start with Black Chicken Soup
Part of this trip involved a stopover in Seoul, South Korea, and while this offered me the opportunity to eat all manner of strange things (note to self: silkworm larvae don’t taste any better than fully grown silkworm) – the most exciting thing for me was ‘ginseng soup with black chicken.’ This is basically the carcass of a chicken boiled in a soup with ginseng root. It is no ordinary carcass however. Instead, it is that of a breed of chicken called a Silkie which has blueish black skin and bones, a sweet tasting dark meat and apparently five toes when most chickens have four – though thankfully I didn’t get to count that bit.
This appealed for a two reasons… 1) It made The Boyfriend go ‘urgh’ – always fun in my book 2) Black Chicken Soup is supposed to have a number of health benefits. The meat of Silkie chickens is traditionally given to women post childbirth to raise energy, it’s claimed to tackle headaches, it has higher levels of the antioxidant carnosine within it than normal chicken – and it’s supposed to nourish your liver and kidneys (which, after few weeks in Australia needed nourishment!). On top of this, of course you have ginseng – more on which later – and a couple of large chinese dates thrown in for luck.
When my Black Chicken Soup arrived it looked like this below. I was a bit surprised as I wasn’t expecting it to be stuffed with rice but it made the dish seriously filling. Tastewise it was just like a normal chicken broth – I was expecting the ginseng to add something, I wasn’t sure what, perhaps a bitter aftertaste, but that didn’t seem to happen. After the addition of pepper it was pretty nice (if you want to try it, I got mine at a Korea Ginseng Chicken Soup on Seosomun-dong near the Deoksugung Palace), then I went on my merry way.
Getting back to the hotel ready for an afternoon nap, my plans went astray as The Boyfriend decided to rearrange our schedule making sleep impossible. Normally missing my nap leads to much fatigue and grumpiness but that didn’t happen (score 1 for weirdness). However, it was during our flight home the next day that I really noticed something odd. As per normal flight hideousness, we woke up at 8am and arrived in the UK the equivalent of 7am the next day. I can’t sleep on planes so normally, the last four hours of a long haul flight and the journey home leave me deranged. This time I was wide awake. The only thing that had changed about my routine was a massive helping of ginseng packed Black Chicken Soup the day before, so in my happy optimistic style, I’m thinking it may have played a part.
This surprised me – ginseng isn’t a herb I’ve been impressed with previously. Part of the adaptogen family, its main use in Western world is raising energy and stamina (oh and libido) – but to be honest, when I’ve taken it in capsule form in the past it has done nada. Whether the fresh version is more effective, or black chicken does have super-powers, I don’t know but I can safely say this energy was not normal for me. What leads me to suspect a ginsengic roles though is that the adaptogenic herbs have ‘form’ with jetlag.
A few weeks prior I’d met one of my heroes, herbal guru The Medicine Hunter Chris Killam, he’d flown in from New Zealand the day before the meeting and was sickeningly awake. When asked for his secret he told us it was the herb rhodiola another member of the adaptogen family. He claims taking it completely eliminates jetlag – in fact his exact words were ‘it makes you bulletproof’. Personally I use rhodiola for its stress fighting effects – when I’m dealing with a few more deadlines than my nerves would like, I take a supplement called Vitano and, while you keep powering on at a rate of knots, it just smoothes out that jittery ‘I’m going to lose it any second now’ feeling that stress triggers. Now you might be asking how the same herb that revs up one person can calm down another. Well that’s the beauty of the adaptogens. They normalise your body – if you need energy they give it, if you need to chill they cause that to happen – and in an abnormal world anything that brings balance sounds good to me .
Oh and, if you want to check out some other strange things I’ve eaten at home or abroad, here are just a few examples …
Or, for even more odd travel stories,visit my travel blog Destination>Differentville which highlights fun, quirky or just plain bonkers sights, ideas and places around the world. Click the link above to check it out.
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