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Traditional Winter Beverage and thirst quencher, Sikhye
2011-02-25 VIEW: 6593
Seol (New Year’s Day on the lunar calendar), the biggest traditional Korean holiday, is just around the corner. Seol is a joyous day when family members gather together. Such gatherings are made more pleasant with a sumptuous table filled with various dishes that lead to one thing - overeating. What is not missed on the feast table is a cup of sweet and icy sikhye, a beverage served with dessert to help digestion.
Sikyhe, also called sansul or gamju, is a traditional Korean beverage made with steamed sweet rice or rice fermented in malt water. Sikhye served as a sort of digestive aid that Korean people drank after meals. There are various kinds of sikhye, Andong sikhye, Jinju sikhye, dried meat sikhye from Gyeongsangdo, dried pollack sikhye from Gangwondo, halibut sikhye from Hamgyeongdo, sailfin sandfish sikhye, and yeonan sikhye. According to one theory, sikhe (食醢) made with spicy seasonings and fish meat, as well as steamed rice and malt, was the original form of sikhye. Spicy seasonings and fish meat were eliminated from the recipe of sikhe, and only rice and malt were used to cook the sweet and rich beverage.
The taste of sikhye depends on the powdered malt used. Powdered malt is significant not only for its taste but also for its nutritional value. Malt contains a diastatic enzyme, amylase, which breaks down starch into maltose. Maltose is the source of the unique sweetness of sikhye. Thus, sikhye tastes sweet without the need to add artificial sweeteners or seasonings.
Sikhye contains substances that prevent food from decomposing in our bodies and anti-cancer substances, such as anti-oxidants, which add great medicinal value to Korean food. sikhye is made by fermenting sweet rice or normal rice in malt (allowing the diastatic enzymes to do their job) to create its unique sweetness and aroma. It doesn’t have to be a holiday to drink a cup of sikhye. When you eat a lot of food, such as at a buffet restaurant, you may want to drink a cup of sikhye as a dessert. This is because the sikhye prevents the food you eat from fermenting or decomposing inside of your body. Because of such digestive effect, sikhye was served to kings as a dessert. Sikhye also contains more dietary fiber than the popular fiber drinks currently on the market. The enzymes in sikhye assist digestion in the stomach as well as in the small intestine, like yogurt.
In addition, sikhye helps balance the body’s constitution by acting as a warming agent for a cold body and a cooling agent for a hot body. Therefore it is effective for diets or curing a hangover. Sikhye is also very effective in inhibiting bacterial growth, quenching thirst, and reducing lumps in the body, which makes it a great remedy for mastitis in mothers who have just given birth.
When making sikhye, what you need to do first is to mix warm water and powdered malt and leave it for three to four hours until the water becomes yellowish. The next step is to mix hard-boiled rice with the malt water in a small earthenware crock and keep it warm for four to five hours. At this time, the temperature should be kept at 60 to 70 degrees because lower or higher temperatures would spoil the fermentation process. After about four hours, open the crock and check to see if the grains of rice are floating. If the grains are floating take the rice out of the crock using a strainer, rinse it with cold water and keep place it in a separate container. The next step is to boil the remaining water and add some sugar to taste. The foam that appears on the surface while boiling should be removed with a cooking spoon.
When you serve sikhye put the water in a glass bowl and float rice grains, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds in it for decoration. One or two drops of yuzu syrup add extra fragrance to the drink. For those who want extra sweetness, you may serve sugar on the side. In the past, sikhye was served cold and sweet at special occasions during the cold winter, such as dongji (winter solstice) or seol. When sikhye was served, pine nuts were added to make people drink the sikhye more slowly because drinking a cold beverage too fast could result in health troubles.
The reason why sikhye was served during the wintertime in the past was because it was difficult to keep it from going bad. However, sikhye is now enjoyed throughout the year and has become very popular. How about quenching your thirst with a cup of icy cold sikhye?
Dalsaeneun dalman saenggakhanda (Dalsae only thinks of the moon)
You can enjoy various kinds of traditional Korean tea made with good quality herbs and special care. The yuzu tea and quince tea are much richer than those served at other tea houses since the teas have been left to mature for a year. The most popular items are icy cold sikhye and sujeonggwa with a whole dried persimmon. Tea is served with a few pieces of yugwa and ddeok (traditional Korean pastry and rice cake).
- Exit No. 6 in Anguk Station, Subway Line 3
Cha masineun ddeul jjimhagi (a garden for drinking tea)
The tea house itself is 100 years old. As the name of the tea house signifies, you can drink a cup of tea while enjoying the scenery of a garden. The tea nicely served in a personal tea set and freshly steamed pumpkin and rice cake are some key secrets that have made this tea house so popular.
- Exit No. 1 in Anguk Station, Subway Line 3
Byuldabang Miss Lee Season 2
Byuldabang Miss Lee Season 2 is a fusion café much loved because of its delicious food. The traditional tea, lunch box, and patbingsu served in a pot throughout the year are some of the popular menu items. The café is decorated with self-made furniture pieces, about 100 pieces of traditional patchwork wrapping cloths, and cute decorations that fully showcase traditional Korean culture in a beautiful modern space.
- Exit No. 1 in Hyehwa Station, Subway Line 4
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