Be ready everyone! It looks like we have a hot day or two coming up, a rare but wonderful occurrence. So of course, we’re going to need to find some ways to keep cool and relax. Whilst you might usually reach for some ice cold beverages. But just as sweet and lovely is sikhye, the Korean sweet rice drink.
Half way between a drink and a dessert, sikhye has been massively popular in Korea for many years. There’s a common misconception that skihye is alcoholic, which may come from it’s alternative names dansul and gamju, which both mean sweet wine. However, there’s no alcohol content in sikhye at all. It’s made with cooked rice and malt water. Despite its sweetness, there’s no sugar added. It’s simply boiled until the natural sweetness in the rice and malt becomes more pronounced, especially when cooled.
There are lots of restaurants across Korea that make their own sikhye. In fact there are a lot of variants on the recipe dependent on the region it’s produced in. Hobak-sikhye contains pumpkin and a small amount of sugar, Yeonyeop-sikhye adds sake, honey and pine nuts. And Andong-sikhye contains red pepper, making it slightly more savoury and red in colour. Each are distinct and worth trying for their unique flavours.
Even more unique is the way in which sikhye is traditional consumed. If ever people are seen drinking from small bowls, there’s a very good chance that it’s sikhye that they’re drinking. As it can be served either warm or cold, it can be relaxing on a hot day or warming on a cold day. It can be served with many different additional toppings such as jujubes, pomegranates or pine nuts.
Nowadays, it’s really easy to get your hands on some of this traditional drink. It’s sold in cans and bottles in convenience stores all over Korea, which means it can also be found internationally too. Next time you want something sweet and a little different, try searching Asian food stores online and you’ll be sure to find one of these bottle varieties to taste test.
If you’re feeling more adventurous in the kitchen, you could always try making some yourself. As there are few ingredients, all it takes is a couple of simple steps and time to have some delicious homemade sikhye to sip from. Check out Sweet the MI’s relaxing video below detailing the whole process, and see what you think of the unique taste!