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Last month I stayed in a homestay in Sichuan Province that was owned and run by a Tibetan family. At dinner they served an amazing barley wine made from Tibetan barley that they called "qingke" barley. Though it wasn't as syrupy, it tasted a lot like port or sherry, owing to how sweet it was, but the taste was slightly more earthy than fruity. Anyway, we were thrilled to learn that they made this themselves and also sold dehydrated packets of the Barley Wine in their restaurant that would be easy to make at home. At the restaurant we bought three packets. Each one weighs about 350 g and is vacuum sealed. The barley inside is wet and I assume it is already fermented. The shelf life, according to the owner, is three months, and we bought it only a month ago.

There were no written directions, but the owner explained quickly how to reconstitute the wine. She said that 5 minutes in 1 kilogram of water (1 liter), hot or cold, would do the trick. She didn't mention sugar, but I assumed that if it was not sweet that I could add it to taste.

We came back home and opened a packet and dumped it into 1 liter of cold water and waited five minutes. We tasted it and it tasted like... nothing. Like water with a hint of something glutinous and vaguely fermented added in. Couldn't taste alcohol and it was not sweet, either. We decided to drain the water and pour a liter of boiling water over the mixture, but after five minutes the result was nearly the same. We tried sweetening at the end but all it tasted like was sugar water, nowhere close to what we had at the restaurant.

I've looked online and I can't find any resources on how to make this work. Can anyone tell me how to reconstitute vacuum sealed packets of Tibetan Barley Wine? Related information and tips would be more than welcome.

  • Ah, perhaps this may be obvious, but did you try mixing thoroughly? or even blending the mix to the water? Even if it is re-hydrated in five minutes, the flavor might stay settled on the bottom if it isn't well mixed. Also, did you use fresh water or the same partially steeped water when you were trying the second time with boiling water? – Megha Sep 26 '16 at 4:37
  • @Megha we did try mixing, can't speak to thoroughness right now because it was a few weeks ago. But we certainly used the partially steeped water when we tried boiling and pouring over. – borrascador Sep 26 '16 at 6:10
  • I'd bet that what you have is simply a variety of malt extract - I'd be very surprised if it was "fermented, then dried" - perhaps a translation issue. also - Do you really mean milligrams, or grams? – Ecnerwal Sep 26 '16 at 15:28
  • Yes, it is grams. Edited. – borrascador Sep 27 '16 at 2:37
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I wonder whether something was lost in translation, as @Echerwal points out and also suggests that your packet may be yeast.

From a Tibetan friend in the US, here's how he makes dru-chhaang, the barley wine.

Briefly wash the barley before putting it in a large pot and adding twice the volume of water as you have barley. Simmer until the water is absorbed, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool for 30-45 minutes.

Using a clean dish cloth (or plastic wrap)a, spread out the barley in a layer, and sprinkle evenly with distiller's yeast (also called wine yeast or phap). Mix gently with your hands. Put the mixture into a container with a lid. Wrap with a towel or cloth, and put in a warm, dark place. The barley will begin to ferment in several days, although it could take as long as 4-5 days. You'll know from the smell when fermentation has begun to take place, and the longer it goes, the stronger the wine.

When ready to use, make a well in the center of the mash, scoop out the liquid the settles into the well and strain it through a cloth into a clean container. Add enough water to the mash to cover, let sit for another day, and repeat the process of scooping out the liquid and straining (add to the first batch). You might be able to get a third round. Store in the frig, but remember that it's alive and will continue to ferment and can erupt in some containers (like plastic).

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    Thanks for the detailed answer. Just to clarify, the packet definitely contains cooked barley and I strongly suspect the yeast has already been added. I think that what I have is the mixture that you describe halfway through the fourth paragraph. If this is the case, then I am confused about how to go about making wine from this dehydrated mixture. Would I add a liter of water to a lidded container and then cover it, wrap with a cloth and wait for a few days, then strain it in the way you described? – borrascador Sep 27 '16 at 3:03
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    @borrascador no idea, without direct experience with the packet. However, you might add very little water, like 8-12 ounces in a glass container, cover as you suggest (no lid), tuck in a dark, warm spot, and see what happens... and then let us all know, before and after drinking! My Tibetan friend's recipe comes from his mother, and how she does it here in the US. – Giorgio Sep 28 '16 at 19:47

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