This blog may contain not-so-strong languages and slightly strong ecchi pictures. Please proceed with caution.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Get Buzzed, Get Drunk, Get Crunked, Get Effed Up with Andong Soju

RAEP is imminent. This is the side effect of Andong Soju.

Andong Soju (Hangul/Hanja: 안동소주/安東燒酎) has a rich history dating back hundreds of years. The history and culture of Andong soju in Northern Gyeongsang Province led to its designation of intangible treasure No.12. Residents continue working to preserve the history of soju in the area and to pass on its rich traditions to future generations. Andong soju is 45% ABV. The pureness of the alcohol means that there are few negative side effects the following day. 

Andong soju is manufactured right at the Andong Soju Museum - located at Susang-dong 280-beonji, Andong City, making the building's appearance seem a bit like a factory. Once inside, one can view the process of making Andong soju as well as other unique foods from the region. Queen Elizabeth's memorable birthday visit to the Andong area included a visit to the Andong Soju Museum. Visitors can view a special area that was used to celebrate the queen’s birthday; the room has been kept in the same condition as it was when the queen visited. If large groups make reservations in advance, group members may participate in the process of making Andong soju. Soju is sold at wholesale prices at the museum and is very popular with foreign tourists.

Andong Soju: The Origins
It is presumed that the development of soju in Andong is related to the Yuan Dynasty's influx into the Korean Peninsula in the 13th century, because the Yuan Dynasty's supply base that was aiming for an expedition to Japan was in Andong.

Andong soju's origin dates to the Silla period. The distillation skill developed by alchemists in Arab regions, people of the Silla were engaging in entrepot trade actively with Arab nations at that time. Warrior statues with exotic features and Persian glass found at Gwaereung (hangul: 괘릉; an ancient royal tomb of Silla in Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang Province is regarded as proof of this relation between Silla and Arab regions. From that time, the brewing of hard liquor was passed down with Persian glass. Also, China had been drinking hard liquor from the period of the Tang Dynasty. Through the close relationship between Silla and the Tang Dynasty, it can be presumed that hard liquor was drunken in Korea since the Silla period.

Andong Soju Brewing Process
The process of making the nuruk (fermentation starter) of Andong soju is: wash and dry wheat, crush it, and mix it with water by hand. Then spread out a bojagi (a cloth made of ramie), play a circular frame on top of the bojagi, pour in the mixed nuruk, add one more bojagi on top of this and turn it over by foot, flattening the mix. Then remove the nuruk from its frame and ferment it for 20 days. Next, after crushing it, dry it for a day, and to get rid of the smell of the gokja (hangul: 곡자; another word for nuruk), let it accumulate dew for one night.

When making the hard-boiled rice, wash and soak rice in water and steam it in a rice steamer. Finished hard-steamed rice is smooth and has a polish. Put it on a straw mat in the shade and cool it.

When both the nuruk and hard-steamed rice are completed, mix them by hand and put them in a liquor jug with water for more than about 15 days. When it has aged, its color is yellowish, and it should have a savory taste.

Boil the aged liquor in a sot (hangul: 솥; a traditional Korean pot) and put a sojugeori (hangul: 소주걸이; a traditional Korean tool used for filtering liquor) and a cooling device on the sot, and spread sirutbun (hangul: 시룻번; dough used to make an air-tight seal) on the gap between the sojugeori and cooling device so that no steam escapes. When the aged liquor is heated, it then vaporizes, and the vaporized steam is cooled by the cold water in the cooling device. Then soju flows out via the pipe in the sojugeori, and you have Andong soju.

Who are the Andong Soju Brewers?
The artisans of Andong soju are Cho Ok-wha (hangul: 조옥화; hanja: 趙玉花) and Park Jae-seo(hangul: 박재서). These artisans keep alive the traditional ways of making Andong soju alive through the Korean government's support for discovering traditional liquors since the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Summer Olympics.

After the Silla period, the skills of making Andong soju were passed down in Andong. Cho Ok-wha makes and preserves this Andong soju, so she was designated as "Gyeongsangbuk-do intangible cultural property No.12" on May 13, 1987, and she was also designated as "Korean food grand master No.20" on September 18, 2000. Now her daughter-in-law Bae Kyong-hwa (hangul: 배경화) and son Kim Yeon-park (hangul: 김연박) continue the tradition.

Park Jae-seo is Park Ban-nam's descendant in the 25th generation of carrying on the legacy of Andong soju that has been passed down in his family for 500 years. For preserving this tradition, Park Jae-seo was designated as "Korean food grand master No.6" in July, 1995.

Andong soju is the only specialty to have two Korean food grand masters, because Cho Ok-wha and Park Jae-seo's way of making it and materials are different from each other.