Name: Paldo Shikhye
Found at: Freshia, Tustin
Cost: $3.99 for a six pack
Water, Glutinous Rice, Sugar, Malt, Ginger.
Why I Bought It:
I'm ashamed to say this, but it was because my friend saw it on the supermarket shelf and said to me, “I know that's rice in the picture of that drink, but it looks like maggots,” to which I laughed and decided I had to buy a six pack for this feature simply because.
Of course, this drink is shikhye, a Korean rice punch usually served as dessert — a cold, sweet chaser for your tongue after it has been throughly scorched by kimchi. Usually, it's homemade (like at Jang Mo Gip in Garden Grove), but for Koreans who don't want to bother, this brand seems to be the Coca Cola of shikhye…or at least I'm told.
But look at the ingredients! So wholesome! Have you ever seen anything in a soda can without any HFCS, preservatives or unpronounceable chemicals?
Think of horchata, but take out the milkiness and the cinnamon. This clear liquid has a mild sweetness that tastes simply of sugar water, but with the silky finish of starch. There's also a faint but detectable flavor of smoke.
And at the end, once you get closer to the bottom of the can, you encounter the rice, which doesn't float so much as it sinks like grit. The texture of the cooked grains will immediately register in your mouth as damp tissue paper — which is not at all unpleasant once you know that it's supposed to be like that.
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.