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What Is Omija (Schisandra Berry)?
The Schisandra Chinensis, commonly known as the Schisandra vine, magnolia vine, or Chinese magnolia vine, is a variety of plant native to the forests of Northern China, the Russian Far East, and the Korean Peninsula. While the vine is rarely consumed, the leaves and berries are frequently used in both Chinese and Korean traditional cooking and medicine.
In English, the berries are commonly known as the Schisandra berry, five-flavor fruit, five-flavor berry, magnolia berry, and more. In South Korea, people refer to this fruit solely as ‘omija’ (오미자). Literally, this means ‘five flavors.’
In this article, I will discuss some of the uses of the Schisandra berry in Korean cuisine as well as answer any questions you may have about this ingredient.
Schisandra Berry (Omija) in Korean Cuisine:
As stated above, in South Korea, people refer to Schisandra berries as ‘omija’ (오미자). In Korean cuisine, people use this ingredient both fresh and dried.
Below, I list a few popular ways people use Schisandra berries (aka magnolia berries) as an ingredient:
- Omija-Hwachae (오미자화채): In English, we can translate this to ‘Schisandra berry punch.’ To make this traditional Korean punch, you soak your omija berries in water for an extended period before sweetening the liquid with honey or sugar. Then, you serve the punch with some combination of mungbean jelly, cut Asian pears, pine nuts, etc.
- Dasik (다식): In English, we can translate this to ‘traditional Korean pressed cookies.’ Often, people use the omija berries to flavor and color these cookies.
- Omija-Cha (오미자차): In English, we can translate this as ‘Korean Schisandra berry tea.’ This tea is used to make the omija-hwachae dish mentioned above.
- Omija-Cheong (오미자청): We can translate this to ‘Schisandra syrup.’ Cheong refers to a type of syrup used for cooking in Korea. Another example is maesil-cheong (green plum syrup). You can buy pre-made omija-cheong online!
Note: Further uses of this berry include utilizing it for medicinal purposes. In traditional Korean medicine Medicine, the five magnolia berry flavors are connected to five organs in the body. These berries help keep the organs healthy and functioning.
Omija Frequently Asked Questions:
Now that we learned about omija in Korean cuisine, I want to answer some questions you may have about this ingredient! If I do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment in the section below or email me at [email protected].
What Does a Schisandra Berry Taste Like?
Famously, this berry has ‘five flavors,’ which are sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and spiciness (also described as pungency). You can truly taste all these flavors in this unique fruit!
Where Can I Buy This Ingredient?
You can buy this Korean ingredient at your local Korean or Asian grocery store as well as online! Typically, outside of China, Russia, Korea, and Japan, you can only find these berries dried in both the whole and powdered form.
In South Korea, you can also buy this ingredient fresh. If you find fresh omija at your local Asian grocery store, make sure to buy some! It is a rare find!
How Do I Properly Store Dried Schisandra Berries?
I recommend storing dried Schisandra berries in a cool, dry place such as your pantry unless the packaging states to refrigerate them. Once opened, make sure to place it into a sealed container with the air removed (such as a Ziplock).
Fresh berries need to be stored in the refrigerator until used.
What Is a Good Omija Substitute?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a substitute for this famous five-flavor fruit. As stated above, this fruit tastes sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and pungent. Some would describe it as tasting medicinal. In other words, nothing quite tastes like this unique fruit.
I would wait until you can buy the berries before making a dish that requires them rather than looking for a substitute.
I Hope You Enjoyed Learning About Ojima!
In the end, I hope you enjoyed learning about the uses of omija (Schisandra berry) in Korean cuisine. If so, let me know in the comment section!
If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find recipes as well as further Korean ingredient articles on my blog. I listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey Korean recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by my family’s blended Korean and Southern heritage.
Korean Ingredient Articles:
- Dried Kelp (Dashima)
- Dried Persimmon (Gotgam)
- Korean Pepper (Gochu)
- Garlic Chives (Buchu)
- Hot Mustard in Korean Cooking (Gyeoja); And
- Korean Green Plum Extract (Maesil Cheong)
Further Carving A Journey Recipes:
- Korean Egg Soup (Gyeran Guk)
- Korean Anchovy Broth (Myeolchi Yuksu)
- Korean Acorn Jelly Salad (Dotorimuk-Muchim)
- Korean Acorn Jelly (Dotorimuk)
- Korean Plum Tea (Maesil Cha); And
- Korean Sausage Stir fry (Sausage Yachae Bokkeum)
If you have any questions or comments, you can also email me at [email protected]. And, finally, I would love to hear from you through our social media as well! You can follow me at @carvingajourney on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Or, if you would like more articles like these, you can subscribe to the blog by joining the mailing list. Let me know if you try using dried or fresh omija while cooking! Thank you so much for stopping by!
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