Birak Shikhye: Don’t Be Fooled by this Evil Yakult Imposter

October 2, 2018

This is Lost in Digestion, where we do a quick review of the oddest-looking mystery eats available from the many Asian groceries all over the Metro. From Chinese Pear Babies to wasabi-flavored Kit Kat from Japan, we got you covered.


As we’ve previously established, despite certain songs on my iPod that bring shame to my family, I can’t read or understand Korean. I do, however, have Dars on speed dial (no, I don’t). That’s what I call Sandara Park by the way, Dars, because we’re close personal friends (no, we’re not). Anyway, I called her up (this never happened), reminisced together for a bit (neither did this), and promised to call more (I’ve never even seen her in person) if she could help me translate the label on this drink. She agreed, of course (lies).

While the lady at the store kept insisting that the drink said Yakult in front, the Hangul letters actually romanize to Birak/Beerak Shikhye. It also tastes nothing like, and at Php 48 per can costs nothing close to, the Yakult we’re all familiar with here at home.


The can is pretty, I’ll give it that much. It’s bright yellow, with the Korean script doing double duty as both decoration and being actual words. It’s also smaller than a regular soda can; it’s short and squat. This is not a bad thing. Being Tyrion-scale just makes it cuter.


There’s also a suspicious bowl of what appears to be soup drawn on its front. All things considered, this should’ve been my first warning. The liquid itself was cloudy and unappetizing to look at. I regret pouring it into a glass.

Taste and Texture

It was terrible. And it made my tummy hurt afterwards.

You know when you buy taho and the dude skims and throws away a few ladles of dirty water from the soft tofu before putting together your order? I imagine that discarded fluid dripping on the curb tastes a lot like Birak Shikhye, only the latter is worse. It has no real taste beyond a vague sourness that makes you question whether the thing is actually meant to be food. It’s the sad leftover moisture in the pan, after you make gulaman, that they just put in a can.

Finally, after you force yourself to finish the damn thing, you’re ambushed by a mouthful of soggy rice-y bits that had collected at the bottom. They’re like the orange-pulpy goodness you get from Minute Maid, only evil and not to be trusted.

It was just an entirely unpleasant experience all around.


On one hand, no one’s going to get fat on mildly fermented rice water. On the other hand, it might drive some people into developing an ED from the trauma of being made to drink it, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on which dark corners of Tumblr you spend your time in most. (I’m kidding, okay people? Eating disorders are always, ALWAYS, a bad thing.)

Final Rating


Lost in Digestion gives Birak Shikhye one single Disgusted Kim Jong Un.

I would’ve given it only half a Disgusted Kim Jong Un, but the tummy ache I got from drinking the birak shikhye got better as I was typing this review, so I decided to be more magnanimous. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Lost in Digestion strongly suggests you give this drink a pass, especially if your stomach tends to be fussy, even during the best of times. Trust me, and go buy a bottle of Soju instead.

Lars Roxas Lars Roxas

Laurence is a twenty-something turtle pretending to be a writer. In the past, he has worked as a warehouse clerk, Apple genius, martial arts instructor, copywriter, editor, english teacher, and personal trainer. He can’t swim or ride a bike, but he's done Judo on three continents. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Occasionally, his stories appear in real actual books. He makes awesome waffles.

19 comments in this post SHOW

19 responses to “Birak Shikhye: Don’t Be Fooled by this Evil Yakult Imposter”

  1. ROFL. Oh, the things I learn from

  2. kel says:

    calpis will always be my yakult substitute

  3. Cassie says:

    It’s not that bad — then again you probably one of those folks who don’t eat at roadside turo-turos or eat fishball along dusty highways. *rolls eyes*

    • Galing maka judge. 🙂 I’m from UP Diliman and you’re saying I don’t eat isaw or fishball? Besides, it’s pretty nonsensical to lump in not liking an EXPENSIVE and IMPORTED drink with not eating at carinderias. The two don’t really jive. 🙂

      Have a nice day! 🙂

  4. ah. there’s a similar dessert/drink in Sariwon (BGC High Street Central), which is also called sikhye. See here:

    this one is really sweet and really good.

    not sure if the product above is similar.

  5. Sayang ang packaging, mehn. 🙁 what did Google say?

  6. From the photos, it looks like a mass-produced, low- (or no-) alcohol version of fermented rice wine, complete with the rice bits. Pretty traditional in most of Asia. There are really good local versions. You should try the good stuff–tapey–handmade, traditional, ladled to you out of earthen jars up in the Cordilleras.

    • That sounds amazing.

      re: the drink. Yun nga feel ko eh, parang (bad) rice milk siya sa panlasa ko. I don’t know why the place had it labeled as Yakult -______-

  7. james says:

    i think this drink is a combination of yakult, barley malt water and rice thats why its a little sour. the real sikhye is sweeter and the rice’s texture a little less soggy. you should try homemade sikhye, some korean restaurants offer those by liters.

  8. […] snacks and drinks we used to stuff our faces with are no longer available.  Instead of all the weird stuff they ply kids with nowadays, don’t you wish they would just bring back a few of these seven […]

  9. Rob Cham says:

    this thing was evil and my mom bought me a case of it and I had to finish it all and I hated everything

  10. […] snacks and drinks we used to stuff our faces with are no longer available.  Instead of all the weird stuff they ply kids with nowadays, don’t you wish they would just bring back a few of these seven […]

  11. CK says:

    It tastes like the water you rinse your rice in before putting it in the rice cooker (not that I’ve tried). But I agree, it’s not that bad. I wouldn’t buy it again though. (I only bought it because the lady at the counter told me it was Korean Yakult but still, not that bad.)

  12. […] snacks and drinks we used to stuff our faces with are no longer available.  Instead of all the weird stuff they ply kids with nowadays, don’t you wish they would just bring back a few of these seven […]

  13. bang2tang says:

    I’m confused. Birak Sikhye different to Paldo Villac?

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