Makgeolli; the modern tradition.
Koreans are proud that their food is healthy, kim chi for example is advanced as good for you because it’s low in calories, helps boost metabolism, and contains immune and digestion-boosting probiotics. But it’s not just the food, trendy again is a milky alcoholic beverage that was once popular with the farmers of centuries years ago. Makgeolli (pronounced mak-a-lee) is a sweet, cloudy tipple that’s often called a wine, but is actually made by fermenting rice. The Arriang video below explains how makgeolli is made.
In the past decade the government has been behind a nostalgic push to re-acquaint urbanites with traditional Korean drinks and makgeolli, a nongju (farmer’s liquor) soon stood out from the pack. And soon it became a mild export success, Japan is now the humble brew’s largest export market and sales are rising in Europe and the US.
But what are the health benefits you say?
Apparently it’s high in fibre and lactobacilli. Fact or marketing spin, it’s selling more than ever. Though there might be other reasons to explain their popularity, it’s cheap, you can get a bottle for a few thousand Korean won. It’s an easy drop to swallow too, at around 6% alcohol it won’t result in a head-pounding payback the day after.
Makgeolli bars are popping up all over town, one of them is a group of makgeolli restaurant bars, Wol Hyang. Noodlies, Sydney food blog checks out Wol Hyang on a rainy afternoon, after all, the Koreans reckon rainy days are a perfect time for makgeolli.
We try the restaurant’s own makgeolli which comes chilled in a flute glass jar. Pour into an elegant ceramic bowl and it’s a light and accessible drink, inoffensive and ideal for newbies.
But hey, I’m on holidays – noodlies, Sydney food blog can’t just have one jar! There’s a bewildering range of other flavours to choose from; walnut (hodu) wheat (jipyeong), chestnut, corn (oksusu) and Bongha rice. I opt for So Baek San Daegang, a mass produced makgeolli that was famously served by former president Ro at banquets held in the Blue House (presidential palace). Sweet and medium creamy, it’s a perfect complement to spicy and sharp Korean food.
In addition to standard kim chi sides, I pick a couple dishes to snack with my drink. Black tofu has a denser and very slight bitter taste compared to standard tofu. Those spring roll-esp delights, called sweet and sour pork stuffed with ripened kim chi, are delightful – the kim chi is rolled in pork and covered corn starch before frying. Very, very more-ish. I ask for half servings and the lovely folks at Wol Hyang obliges, standard sizes are double, which explains the real reason for having makgeolli, it’s a meant to be shared with a group of friends.
335-5, 2F, Seokyo-Dong, Mapo-Gu, Seoul, Korea (마포구 335-5 서교동).
This delightful makgeolli experience was courtesy of the lovely folks as Korean Tourism Organization.
Makgeolli is not a health food. It’s an alcoholic drink. To consume enough makgeolli to benefit from the lactobacilli you’d also develop cirrhosis. This angle is so wrong it’s embarrassing. Drink makgeolli because it tastes good, it’s fun to share, and (if natural, which 99% is not, check the label for ‘aspartame) it can be a way to reach back into a nearly extinguished past. At least Wolhyang makes their own, but always check if it’s free from artificial sweeteners.
Sharing makgeolli with Korean food sounds like a great recipe! 😀
Love this series on Korean food!