Shik Hae for the Soul

Let me state for the record that Korean cuisine is not easy. There are some that are less painful than others, but many dishes require lots of pre-preparation and hands-on work. Rather than letting this dissuade you, it’s more of a personal challenge for me, to see if I can recreate the flavours that I’ve grown up with from my mothers cooking. Sometimes, this proves a mite difficult as she doesn’t follow written recipes or measure quantities, but by standing by her side, tasting the progress and making notes, I think I’m getting closer to the mark 😉

It’s approaching summer here in Australia (though you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’d hopped back to winter weather today in Melbourne), and on those hot, stinking days when you’re in dire need of a refreshing drink which isn’t carbonated and liquid sugar, I turn to a traditional Korean drink known as shik hae, a malted barley drink which is an absolute pain in the ARSE to make, but is definetely worth the effort on a sweltering summer day.

This unassuming milky-white liquid is only slightly sweet and surprisingly refreshing

This is one of those old traditional Korean foods which goes back to the time of emperors, for all I know, possibly before then. Korea tends to have humid, sticky summers and I can imagine many people sitting in the shade of a persimmon tree to enjoy a bowl (as this is traditionally meant to be served in a shallow stone bowl with a few pine nuts floated on top) of shik hae whilst seeking solace from the sun. This dish is much easier to make if you have one of those Asian-style rice cookers, but not impossible without, so I urge you to give this a try!

Traditional Korean Shik Hae (rice punch)

300g malted barley, slightly crushed using a mortar and pestle
5 litres cold water
1-2 cups sugar
1 cup cooled and slightly undercooked calrose rice (or any other medium grain white rice)
Pine nuts, to serve

1. Soak the malted barley in 3 litres of water for 2 hours, then rub all the soaked barley between your hands in the water to till the water is thickly milky-white. Strain out the liquid and set aside, then soak the barley in the remaining 2 litres and repeat.

2. Put the cooked calrose rice into the liquid and rub together with your hands, making sure that there are no clumps and all the rice grains are separated from each other. Pour the liquid and rice into a rice cooker and put on ‘warm/heat’ setting (not the ‘cook’ setting) and leave for approx. 5 hours, or till the rice grains begin to float to the top.

3. Once there’s about 1-2 tbsp of rice floating at the top, transfer the mixture to a large stock pot and add as much sugar as you like. Place the pot over low-medium heat and allow to come to a rolling boil, occasionally stirring.

4. Allow to boil for 5-10 minutes, then turn the heat off, remove the lid and allow the mixture to cool. If the weather is very hot (over 30 degrees C), then you may want to place the pot in the fridge to cool in case it spoils.

5. Once cooled, transfer liquid and boiled rice grains to any pourable container (such as old juice jugs) and store in the fridge for up to a month.

6. Before serving, shake the container so that the rice grains are suspended in it, pour into a glass and sprinkle a few pine nuts over the top. Enjoy 😉

[tags]malted barley, shik hae, traditional korean food, korean drinks, rice punch[/tags]


  1. Branka Klinec says:

    I absolutely love your blog!. I live in Canada and was worried these last few months when you disappeared.

    I have a request for you. I was in Toronto over the holidays and l had delicious food in this tiny Korean restaurant. I always ordered the cinnamon tea. It was served cold but it was so so good!

    How is it made. I have seen recipes and some call for ginger, but l don’t recall tasting ginger or getting the heat from the ginger.

    Glad you’re back and your recipes are amazing!!

  2. @Branka Klinec – Thanks hon :) It’s definitely got ginger in it but the amount of ginger used just depends on the tastes of the particular family. And, since it was served cold, you shouldn’t have noticed heat but a certain fragrence and ‘freshness’ that ginger provides :) I’ll make a note to blog it in future!

  3. thanks for the recipies. especially the korean food ㄱrecipies…marrying a korean man soon so it’s great to be able to know how to cook the food he likes~*^^*

  4. My pleasure! I hope he enjoys it when you make this for him :)

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