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Why Korean Rice Syrup (Ssal-Jocheong) Is So Expensive

Unveiling the Traditional Craftsmanship Behind Premium Rice Syrup

By Ally AllanyPublished 10 months ago 3 min read
Why Korean Rice Syrup (Ssal-Jocheong) Is So Expensive
Photo by Kobby Mendez on Unsplash

Korean rice syrup, known as Ssal-Jocheong, is not just a simple sweetener; it is a prized delicacy renowned for its incomparable sweetness and rich, complex flavors. However, its premium quality comes at a cost, making it one of the most expensive syrups globally. In this article, we will delve deep into the art and science of producing artisanal rice syrup, explore the expertise of the 21st Grand Master Young, and understand the factors that contribute to its high price.

The Traditional Craft of Ssal-Jocheong

Nestled in Hampyeong, South Jeolla Province, South Korea, Young and his daughter Sujin run a workshop dedicated to the age-old art of making rice syrup. The process commences with extracting the main ingredient, shiko, a harmonious blend of steamed rice, hot water, and carefully cultivated barley malt. While quicker fermentation methods using artificial enzymes exist, Young's steadfast commitment to the traditional longer fermentation technique sets his rice syrup apart from mass-produced alternatives, giving it those rich and coveted flavors.

Meticulous Preparation

To separate the Chika from the rice, Young and Sujin carefully bundle the steamed rice in a durable hemp bag and allow the liquid to flow through a purposefully designed bamboo plank. This process demands relentless see-sawing, and they work tirelessly through the night to ensure that the rice syrup is ready to greet the morning sun. However, the preparation doesn't end here; cooking the rice properly is a sacred ritual, and they steam the rice in an iron pot for one and a half to two hours, coaxing out the very essence of flavor.

The Importance of Rice Selection

In South Jeolla Province, rice is revered as a valuable resource and the preferred choice for crafting syrup. The rice used must undergo a meticulous fermentation and sprouting process to attain the desired length of one to one and a half centimeters, a journey that can take up to 10 days to complete. Young's dedication to cultivating barley sprouts to the perfect length sets his rice syrup apart from less premium versions made with shorter sprouts.

The Role of Traditional Equipment

Young's unwavering commitment to preserving the traditional craftsmanship of rice syrup is palpable through his use of special equipment. The iron pot, affectionately known as okomosu, and the storage container, the revered ongi, play pivotal roles in the cooking and preservation process, respectively. These time-honored vessels are not just functional but also imbue the syrup with a distinct character, making it worth its weight in gold.

The Growing Demand for Ssal-Jocheong

Despite the labor-intensive and time-consuming process of making rice syrup, the demand for premium Ssal-Jocheong is on the rise, both locally and internationally. Beyond the borders of South Korea, companies have recognized its allure and begun producing their own versions of this exquisite syrup, contributing to the expected growth of the global rice syrup industry, which is projected to exceed one billion dollars by 2032.

Nutritional Aspects and Culinary Use

Beyond its unparalleled taste, rice syrup has unique nutritional attributes that set it apart from conventional sweeteners. Although less sweet than table sugar, its higher glycemic index necessitates thoughtful consideration when using it as a substitute. Nevertheless, the distinctive taste and texture of rice syrup have made it a cherished ingredient in Korean confectionaries, particularly for making Yeot, a type of rice taffy that is in high demand locally.


The production of Korean rice syrup is a labor of love, passed down through generations and held dear by artisans like Young and Sujin. The exceptional quality of artisanal Ssal-Jocheong justifies its higher price point, attracting both local connoisseurs and international enthusiasts alike. As the demand for premium rice syrup continues to grow, the tradition and skill of these artisans remain vital in preserving the authenticity and value of this revered Korean delicacy. So, the next time you savor a drop of this liquid gold, remember the passion and dedication woven into every ounce, making it a truly remarkable and expensive delight.

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About the Creator

Ally Allany

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