Thursday, September 13, 2018

[Food] Misutgaru (미숫가루, Multigrain powder drink)


[Food] Misutgaru (미숫가루, Multigrain powder drink)

Korea, 1400 years ago. There were 3 kingdoms in the Korean peninsula

Once upon a time, about 1400 years ago (760 A.D.) in Korea, there was a famous monk called 'Jinpyo'. He had decided to travel all the mountains in Korea, so he wanted to bring light food for his journey, but he only had some rice. To cook it, he needed a stone (or iron) cauldron, fire and lots of water. But how could he carry these heavy and dangerous things on his journey? Hmm.....he agonized for several hours. 'Aha!' - he then figured out a solution. He steamed, dried and stir-fried all the rice he had for some days and ground it with a millstone to make them into powder. He mixed it with water and then drank it. 


Wow, what a beautiful taste of white grain! Whenever he was hungry on his journey, Jinpyo gladly took a bag of rice powder and made a rice drink. 

Misutgaru with rice barley powder only

However, we've actually never known who first started drinking grain-powder drinks because it had been written in a Chinese document 100 B.C., implying that numerous Asian ancestors could have drunk grain-powder drinks a long time ago - even before Jinpyo the monk did.

".....Anyway, this is what Google told me about how Misutgaru (미숫가루, Multigrain powder drink) started in Korea."

"Hah, no wonder you know so much about Korean foods. Do you google everyday to impress me?"

"Yes, I do. Likewise - you like to show off your big guns (biceps) and bumps. So what? It's always better to know something than nothing."

"It's always better to know something than nothing~duh~" Vance mocked me.

"Be quiet, yankee" I snapped.

Vance laughed: "Mhahaha! not really, because I'm-" 

"Ok, half-German yank", I snapped again.

"You little...."

"Calm down, easy tiger..easy...let me buy you one more bottle of Misutgaru."

"Oh, I love you buddy. Where is the cafeteria?"

My old friend Vance (don't know who he is? Click to read 'Budae Jjigae') and I are now in Jjimjilbang (It means 'Steam Room' in Korean and is a modern Korean-style sauna complex with a public bath, sauna rooms, cafeteria, gym, Internet café, karaoke etc. You can have a bath, sauna and more.)

These are the sauna rooms. Each sauna has its own unique health benefits

People often go to Jjimjilbang instead of a hotel or motel for rest or enjoying their leisure time with family and friends

Jjimjilbang: A steam/sauna room

Today had been a very happy and quiet Friday till Vance's sudden 'ambush' over my space. Vance is a very athletic guy. He doesn't like to be a homey like I am. Obviously he (forcefully) kidnapped me out of my house and made me walk (a bit fast) with him round the park not far from my place. Then we are now here in Jjimjilbang to take a bath, eat and stay the night here because Vance didn't want to go home tonight. He said he was bored to death.

A cafeteria in a Korean Jjimjilbang sells a variety of traditional Korean drinks like Sikhye (Fermented rice drink), Soojeongkwa (Korean cinnamon drink) etc.

Misutgaru (미숫가루, Multigrain powder drink) - which we have been drinking (2nd order now) - is also a traditional Korean drink that the cafeteria sells. It often used to be made of rice or barley powder and water as a quick, instant meal for Koreans in the past; but nowadays, Misutgaru is made of more than 25 grains (multigrain including rice, barley, bean, adlai, stick rice, corn, black rice, and a lot more) and milk or water. Koreans put sugar or honey to add a sweet flavor to it and drink it with ice cubes in the summer. Personally I think Misutgaru tastes better when it is mixed with milk than with water.

'Misut' means 'a rice drink' and 'Garu' means 'powder'. So it means 'Rice drink powder', but Koreans call this drink 'Misutgaru' - not just 'Misut'.

Yes, Koreans use multigrain to make Misutgaru.


"Uhm, Jerry, is it okay to taste powder-like stick things on my gums after drinking Misutgaru?"

"Yeah, it is okay, it's made of grain powde r. When I was young, my mom used to tell me 'Oh! I didn't tell you tiny bugs are in Misutgaru! Go - clean your mouth quickly!' then I almost vomited."

"Ahahahahahaha!!!! You idiot!"

"Be quiet, I'm sure you would do the same if you were me. I was totally freaked out, man."


I remember my mom giving me a cup of cold Misutgaru with milk, ice and honey in it when I got back home from school in summer. It tasted so smooth and sweet, and it also filled my belly. I'm sure other Koreans have similar memories about Misutgaru.

Misutgaru had been drunk by Koreans for long time, as I told you above. It was easy to carry, very nutritious instant food for anyone - even for people who couldn't chew or digest. So it was welcomed by most Koreans. The Korean peninsula was a land of invasion and conflict so Misutgaru - with its lightness and nourishment - helped save many Koreans lives in many wars including the Japanese Invasion and even the Korean War.

Typical Misutgaru mixed with milk

Thick traditional Misutgaru with a variety of nut

Misutgaru with sweet rice cakes, sunflower seeds and sweet red bean stew

"Jerry, can I have one more bottle of Misutgaru please?"

"Nah, next time Vance. Actually this cafeteria's Misutgaru is too expensive. I don't think it's worth 5.5 bucks. If you want to eat Misutgaru at home, I will help you buy much better Misutgaru in a market later. Deal?"

"Yeah, deal. Thanks."

Furthermore, it is now loved by many foreigners like Vance, too. I'm sure Jinpyo the monk never imagined that his Misutgaru would be loved by foreigners, but he must be happy that it has benefited so many people in Korean history :)

Bon appétit!

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