Sikhye (식혜), a sweet rice drink, is one of Korea’s most cherished non-alcoholic beverages. It is usually made from rice, malt water and sugar, and often flavored with ginger and pine nuts. It tastes a bit like cereal-flavored water with a bit of syrup and a few grains of rice floating around. The malty character of sikhye comes from day-long fermentation, so it’s best sipped slowly. Usually It’s served chilled, but you’ll occasionally encounter sikhye variations that are served hot, or flavored with pumpkin or yuzu(citrus fruit). Some regional variations even contain dried fish, radish, carrots, or spicy seasonings!
The enzymes generated from fermentation are said to help with digestion. Historically it was served to kings as an aperitif and dessert after meals. Nowadays, it’s basically a summer drink to help cool down during Korea’s hot and humid summer months. Mass produced and canned sikhyes are sold in many Korean stores, but to taste “really awesome” sikhye, you should go for the homemade version.
Café Suyoil (까페 수요일)
This café makes their own sikhye daily on the premises. They’re known for a pumpkin version which can be enjoyed hot or cold (W7,500 – W8,000). You’ll find it on the second floor overlooking Insadong Street near exit 6 of Anguk Station, line 3. 02 – 723 – 0191.
This café is famous for their picturesque and delicate rice cakes, which pair very nicely with a cup of sikhye. The popular chain has many locations throughout the peninsula: www.bizeun.co.kr