Sikhye (rice punch) is a traditional sweet Korean drink made of fermented malt and rice. As the rice ferments, the grains turn white and become spongy, releasing their starch into the liquid, which turns light amber. The punch is never fermented long enough to become alcoholic, and it’s often served as a dessert in Korean restaurants. It has a pleasantly malty aftertaste.
It’s also sold in cans at Korean grocery stores, but the homemade version has a more intense malt flavor than anything you can get in a can. Sikhye is usually served cold, but when you make it at home, you can enjoy it right after boiling it, or even freeze it into slush!
This recipe uses a rice cooker to ferment the barley malt powder water and rice, but if you don’t have one you can do it in a pot on the stove. Just keep the temperature between 122°F and 150°F (50°C to 65°C) for 4 hours, until some of the rice is floating. This is the traditional method I show in the larger batch of sikhye in my first cookbook. The point is to keep it at a warm temperature without cooking it, so the enzyme amalyse can help the starch from the rice turn into sugar.
- 18 cups cold water
- 8 ounces yeotgireum-garu (barley malt powder)
- 1 cup rice (210 grams)
- 1 cup sugar (optional)
- pine nuts, tips removed
- jujube, pit removed, rolled, and sliced
You will need a 10 cup rice cooker with a “warming” setting.
- Combine the barley malt powder and 14 cups cold water in a large bowl. Stir well with a whisk or a wooden spoon.
- Let it sit for 2 to 3 hours until the powder settles on the bottom.
Make rice with a rice cooker:
- Wash the rice, changing the water a couple of times and finally draining as much water as you can.
- Add ¾ cup water to the rice, put it in the rice cooker, turn it on and start cooking.
Add the barley malt water to the rice & let it ferment:
- When the rice is done, add the clear malt water from the bowl by gently pouring it in. Be careful in moving the bowl and pouring, so you don’t disturb the dregs on the bottom.
- Stir the rice with a wooden spoon and break it up a bit.
- Set the rice cooker to warm. Let it sit and ferment.
- Stir the rest of the 4 cups of water into the leftover barley malt sediment. Leave it to sit and settle while the rice ferments in the rice cooker.
Check the rice:
- Open the rice cooker after 4 hours and check to see if some of the rice grains are floating.
- About dozens grains should be floating. If not floating yet, let it ferment for another hour.
- Pour the hot sikhye out of the rice cooker into a large pot.
- Gently pour in the clear malt water that has been separating while the sikhye ferments and discard the sediment. You will get about 3 cups of clear malty water.
- Cover the pot and bring it to a boil for 10 minutes. Add 1 cup sugar (if used) and mix well.
- Ladle about 1½ cup of sikhye into a small bowl or cup and serve it with a spoon. You can drink it like tea or just drink the liquid and eat the rice with a spoon.
- Pour the hot sikhye though a strainer over a large bowl to gather all the rice. Rinse the rice under cold running water and transfer it to an airtight container with some cold water. Cover and refrigerate.
- Cool the hot sikhye water and transfer to a glass jar. Refrigerate it.
- When you want to serve, ladle about 1½ cup cold sikhye water to a small bowl and gently stir in about 2 tablespoons rice.
- Garnish with pine nuts and jujube pieces if you use. Serve with a spoon.
How to make slush:
- Freeze the rice punch until it’s half frozen (8 cups of sikhye usually takes 5 to 6 hours).
- Or make granita by adding some clear sikhye water into an airtight container and freezing it solid.
- To serve, ladle out icy cold sikhye slushy and/or scrape frozen sikhye with a fork, and stir in about 2 tablespoons rice. Add garnish (if you use) and serve with a spoon.