Thursday, December 5, 2013

A "Chinese Soju"

There is no question of soju's popularity in South Korea. Jinro soju sold 61.38 million cases in 2011. It is the most consumed liquor brand in the world followed by Smirnoff vodka in a distant second place of 24.7 million cases sold. For those seeking more variety in their clear liquor consumption, however, there is an alternative to Korea's ubiquitous, green bottle: China's little, green bottle.

Goryangju (고량주), as it is called in Korea, is 125mL of apple scented throat cancer. Easily found in grocery stories and Chinese restaurants around Korea, at 56 percent alcohol, it is used by Korean magicians for flame effects, chefs for flambé, and senior university students for hazing noobs with "soju shots" at their favorite Chinese restaurant. Having been victimized by this last use while he was in school, my friend Junsik Park (26) decided to introduce me to one of his collegiate sufferings while we were eating at a Chinese style, barbecued, lamb-bits-on-a-stick restaurant in my home district of Yongi-dong in the city of Pyeongtaek.

One bottle of Chamisul Original soju was already empty on the table and a second bottle of the 20 percent alcohol liquor had already been started when Junsik related his goryangju story from his university days in Seoul.  Before long the petit, red-labeled bottle was sitting on our table among empty lamb skewers and a pit of hot coals, while Junsik lit a spoonful of the stuff on fire with his cigarette lighter. This led to yet another novel use of the liquor to add to the list: lighting up. 

Junsik, an amateur chef by hobby, (and a pretty good one in my experience) also claims that Goryangju is useful for eliminating fishy smells from fish dishes. So far, though, goryangju only seems useful for adolescent-minded pyromaniacs. 

But can you drink it? 

You can try.

There is a reason why the third most consumed brand of liquor in the world is Chum-Churum soju and not Goryangju. Excuse me while I go light something on fire.

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