Thursday, 23 August 2012
My favourite Korean drink is a traditional rice brew called makgeolli (막걸리). It looks kind of like milk with a sediment at the bottom, tastes thick and tangy, comes in dodgy-looking plastic bottles and is often drunk by old men, but I love it.
The hands-down best place to drink makgeolli is on a mountain after a hike. It goes down particularly well with Korean pancakes (파전) and good company! It should be chilled, and the proper way to serve it is in a little bowl-shaped cup. Sometimes it comes in a larger serving bowl with a ladle, sometimes in a metal kettle, and often just in the bottle, but if you pour it directly out of the bottle remember to gently shake the sediment up from the bottom before opening!
There are many regional variations of makgeolli, and some bars offer unusual novelty flavours. The makgeolli you can see in the top picture actually tasted of pine needles, and I once had makgeolli mixed with espresso at a bar in Hongdae. I've also seen jujube makgeolli, ginseng makgeolli, and a number of fruit flavours. There are some other grain alcohols that are very similar in taste to makgeolli, such as dongdongju, but they always have that distict milky look and come in those green or white plastic bottles.
To be honest, it wasn't love at first taste when I tried makgeolli for the first time. It took a bit of getting used to. To start with, the opaque white look of it can be off-putting, and the sharp, slightly sour taste is unlike any kind of alcohol we have in the UK. But after a while it grows on you! I find it really refreshing to drink with a meal, but there are also makgeolli houses where you can drink it on its own with just a few snacks (안주) as an accompaniment. And it's always a cheap option!
Makgeolli is easy to find in Korea in any supermarket, corner store or restaurant. look for '생 막걸리'.
Explanation of post title - '막걸리나 ' is a song by the group Busker Busker, about a girl named 막걸리나 , a play on the word 막걸리 . The name sounds to me like 'Macarena' ...