The moment one thinks of Soju, you are instantly elated to Korea. Soju is understandable a part of Korean Culture and when you think of fun with friends, you think of Soju. Soju is a clear and colourless alcoholic drink (some people compare it with Vodka) which comes in 20 distinctive flavours. Just like other Korean things, Soju is also gaining popularity and spreading towards the west.
Origin of Soju
Can you believe Soju did not start with Koreans. Unbelievable right? This drink was firstly made in Arab and was known as Arak. During the early Goryeo Dynasty, Mongol invaders brought Arak to the war and after that it got spread all over Korea. According to some historians, Arak was known to Mongols because of Genghis Khan. He bought arak to Mongol and then he gave it to his grandson, Kublai Khan, and for those who are not aware of the fact that, Kublai Khan was the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty and was one of the very first leaders of Korea.
How is Soju made?
Traditionally Soju is made with rice, but it also can be made from sweet potato, barley, tapioca and wheat. Making Soju is a lengthy process. The rice has to be mashed and pulverize into small pieces. These small pieces are then mixed with water and made into a flat disk putting pressure on it just like Tofu. Now these disks will be kept for fermentation for 3 weeks. It is ready when it turns rock hard. Now these disks will be further pulverised using a mortar. This will turn into grains, now these grains will be mixed with white steam-rice. This mixture will be kept in big earthen pots for another 2 weeks for further fermentation. Finally after good 2 month’s process, the mixture can be put into a Sojugori for boiling.
Soju is between liquor and wine on its alcohol level. It can be a little off-beat for the beginners as the taste doesn’t not match the alcohol level, which means it tastes rather mild than the percentage of alcohol present in it. The lowest ABV (alcohol per volume) of Soju stands at about 13% and 45% is the highest for the standard green bottle Soju. The bottles with fancy colour label and fruit flavour has the lowest percentage and the bottles with highest percentage is for the rich strong flavoured bottles that tastes like vodka.
Why Koreans love Soju
Soju is somewhat like Japanese Sake and Russian Vodka but is a bit different at the same time. The taste can be clean and neutral or semi-sweet. But it does not burn or hurt the throat like vodka also it is not weak like Sake.
Meats and salty se food tastes best with Soju, Samgyupsal, grill pork belly tastes pairs well with Soju. The greasy meat slows down the absorption of the alcohol.
To cleanse the palette, shredded dried squid is very good. This snack not only cleans it best but also give Soju another flavour.
Bestselling Brands of Soju
In Korean, one brand that you will find in every store, restaurant and other places is, Chamisul by Hite Jinro.
Another brand is Chumrum. Known for being soft and best for drinkers, this is well advertised by Korean Celebrities. The alcohol range is from 18% to 19%. The most expensive brand is Andong, starting from dollar 40 to 50 per bottle.
Drink it right.
Right way is to drink in small-shot glasses. People love drinking their Soju but there are few rules of drinking this most loved drink:
- When in group, never pour for yourself. Eldest will get their glasses poured first.
- Pouring or receiving the drink, hold the glass with both the hands.
- When you poring, hide the label with your hand.
- While drinking always turn side wise to show respect to elders on the table.
Soju is a part of Korean culture. Even business discussions happen over alcohol and in the office. And above all if you do not drink, you can face penalisation for this. Seriously?!