This is originally posted on Koreataste.org
There was a Ausie person asking me about how to make Kimchi when I was travelling in Australia, the first international country I went in my life. I went out of my way to tell them about Kimchi and my country. My explanation went ok mixing my personal experience to help my mom for making kimchi in childhood. Then I had to stop in the fermentation part because I didn’t know the word ‘fermentation’. The only word came to my mind was ‘rotted’ unfortunately. When I finally said that Kimchi is supposed to rotted during winter, I knew that I had egg on my face. They didn’t say anything for a minute and left me. They never talked to me again. And I printed the word on my mind from that day.
Fermentation is heart of Korean cuisine. Even though it originated as a way to preserve food during cold winter, fermentation also gives food to flourish its’ own flavor fully. Not to mention Kimchi, various pastes, vegetables and fish including Jeotgal (fermented and salted seafood) dominates Korean family’s table everyday.
However, one barrier of Korean fermentation food for people from other cultures is ‘unpleasant flavor’ when first time to taste, in my opinion. I saw only one American friend who liked Kimchi for first taste. But it can’t be counted because he likes every food on the earth. Anyway, whenever I try to understand how they feel , I think of my first experience of blue cheese. Smell and taste were awful and not a pleasure at all when I tasted for the first time in grocery market. Of course I love blue cheese now.
So for you who like to introduce more pleasant fermentation Korean food for first taste to other people or like to try, I would recommend Sikhye(sweet rice punch), also called ,Gamju. In one word, it is gulp-worthy beverage. The drink is nutritious since it is made from fermented barley-malt powder and rice. Even better, sweet and delicate flavor is pleasant enough to render you smile when first sip. I’ve never tasted any drink bearing resemblance to Sikhye till now. It is unique traditional cold drink with a long history from Chosun dynasty.
To make sikhye, you want to be prepared to spend a day because of fermentation. Process is easy, but it requires 3-4 hours for fermentation. Plus, you need 2-3 hours to get clean barley-malt water before that. Good way to do it is, do your thing at home and check sikhye from time to time as I did. If you start in the afternoon, you ‘ll gonna sleep at dawn.
Once you make it, sikhye will give you great daily delight for a while unless you literally gulp at once.
1 pound Barley-malt powder , 2 L water, 2 cups of steamed white rice, 2 cups of sugar
1. Pour barley-malt powder and water in a bowl. Wait for 3 -4 hours until clear liquid and the sediment on the bottom are completely separated.
2. In a rice cooker, place steamed rice, 1 cup of sugar and pour ONLY CLEAR LIQUID leaving the sediment of the bowl. Set ‘warm’ ( if you don’t have rice cooker, put in a pot and boil but make sure about the right temperature, 130-140 F). Let it fermented for about 3 hours. It is done when rice grains are floating to the surface of the water.
3. Move to a big pot and boil with 1 cup of sugar for 20 minutes removing bubbles and forms on the top.
4. Cool down and store in refrigerator. Serve when it is cool.