One of Siem Reap’s newest tourist attractions, the Angkor Rice Wine Work Shop, is doing a roaring trade with a wine made from the rare, expensive and almost forgotten traditional soo krom healing mushroom.
The tourism business, owned by Lima Lin, was spun out late last year from a family rice wine making operation. The showroom and working museum guides tourists through all the steps of making a range of rice-based wines, including the soo krom mushroom wine.
Lima Lim explained that the mushroom was used medicinally in ancient times, but knowledge about it disappeared during the war years. It also only grows in heavily forested mountain ranges, particularly in the Dongrek mountain region, and this has made it hard to collect in recent times due to the possible presence of unexploded ordnance.
When Koreans recently discovered the mushroom on sale in some villages, business surged. Lima Lim and her family also discovered the mushroom used to be as popular in Khmer culture as ginseng is among the Chinese. But Lima Lim’s sister Viriya Lim points out the mushroom is exceedingly rare and expensive.
It grows in large clumps weighing up to about 30 kilos or, as Viriya said, “It comes in pieces almost as big as the ruins of Angkor.” A clump can be up to 100 years old, but clumps in the 50-60 year old range are best for medicinal purposes and can cost up to $60 per kilo.