Solving the Mysteries Of Omija May Bring Touch of Good HealthFor centuries, Koreans have served traditional drinks made from a mysterious fruit called omija that is found deep in the peninsula's mountain valleys. The fruit yields a bright pink beverage that may be non-alcoholic but whose alluring taste and unique fragrance are nevertheless most intoxicating. Omijacha (fruit tea) and omija hwachae (fruit punch) are two of the most common beverages made from the rare vine fruit.
The name omija, translated from its Chinese characters, literally means "fruit bearing five different tastes." The fruit is actually sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty all at the same time. The omija ripens to a deep red during the peak of the summer and is picked between August and September. It is then usually sun-dried to be preserved and either soaked or boiled in water.
People like omija water for its medicinal value and it has been widely used in oriental medicine as a cure for many ailments related to the lungs, bronchus, heat exhaustion and dehydration, and to strengthen the function of lungs, throat and liver. It is also effective at suppressing chronic coughs.
Omijacha or hwachae both have an enjoyable taste, appearance and fragrance. The following is a recipe to prepare a classic omija beverage:
How to Make Omijacha or Hwachae:
Ingredients for 4 servings: 1/2 cup of omija fruit, 2 cups sugar or substitute, 7 cups water, 1/2 bae (Japanese pear), dash of salt and other in-season fruits cut into small, ball- shapes (optional)
1. Wash the fruit in running water, then dry. In large glass bottle, put omija and 2 cups cold water. Hot water makes the fruit taste bitter and sour, so be sure to use cold water. Set aside overnight.
2. In small bowl, put 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
3. Cut pear into thin slices. Cut slices into flower or square shapes.
4. Put pear decorations into bowl of sugar water. Set aside for about 10 minutes, then drain.
5. When water in glass bottle turns bright pink, juice is ready. Remove fruit and strain using fine gauze.
6. Add salt and remaining sugar to glass bottle and mix thoroughly until both dissolve. Dash of salt enhances omija's sweet taste, but be sure to add only small portion of salt.
7. Add remaining cold water and stir.
8. This juice is the base for hwachae (punch). To make punch, pour omija water in large glass bowl. Add ice cubes and pear decorations. Add optional fruits balls, using fruits such as watermelon, peaches and melon.
9. To make iced tea, put juice in tall glass or ceramic cup and add pear decorations and ice cubes. Serve immediately.
by Inēs Cho