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Barley Water

This Chinese-style barley water (薏米水) drink is the traditional, old-fashioned way of boiling barley until the barley pearls are soft and the water partly milky. It is the barley water my mum make since I was a child.  During my schooldays, my mum will make this for me every day when the weather gets too hot. According to her, unlike some Chinese cooling teas, this is mild enough to be drank daily. During #CircuitBreakerSG (Singapore’s partial lockdown), I stock up on the dry ingredients and make such nourishing drinks everyday to keep ourselves healthy. Check out the ingredients and step-by-step photos in this post.

See Also:

Barley Water with Candied Winter Melon Recipe
Even though the ingredients are inexpensive, this drink has many benefits. Barley water is said to reduce body “heatiness” (降火), keeping one hydrated which is very important in our hot tropical weather.


Two Types Barley (Barley Water Recipe)
Two types of barley. On the left of the plate is Holland barley (洋薏米). I always use this variety of barley as they cook faster to become fluffy soft. The other type is bigger Chinese barley (中国薏米). It takes longer to cook, unless they are pre-soaked or kept warm in a thermal pot.

Two Types Sugar (Barley Water Recipe)

Two types of sugar. On the left of the plate is rock sugar which is the most common sweetener for Chinese sweet soup (糖水). For barley drink, I will definitely use winter melon sugar, which is candied strips of preserved winter melon.

Barley Water with Candied Winter Melon Recipe
When using candied winter melon, only the outer layer of sugar coating the winter melon strips dissolves, leaving behind the winter melon stick to snack on (pictured above). I love munching on them. Only home-made barley drink comes with candied winter melon, so it is worthwhile to make your own at home.

Pandan Leaves (for making Barley Water)

Pandan leaves are widely available in South East Asia. It is a must-have for any Chinese drink, as it imparts an aromatic fragrance to the drink. The kitchen also smells nice when cooking with pandan. Wash and tie the leaves into a knot before use.


Barley Water Recipe (Step 1)
Place washed barley, pandan leaves and candied winter melon into the pot.

Note: Many people add the candied winter melon during the last 5 minutes, but I don’t really see the merit of doing that after some time, so nowadays I dump them everything in the pot together.

Barley Water Recipe (Step 2)
Add water.

Barley Water Recipe (Step 3)
When water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and keep the lid open with a small vent opening. Simmer until the barley pearls are tender and the water turns partly milky. I topped up more water and simmered for another 5 minutes after this photo was taken.


Barley Water Recipe
You can eat the cooked barley pearls or discard them by straining the barley water through a sieve. We love to eat the barley so we never throw them away. You can also bottle the barley water which keeps chilled in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Chinese Soup with Barley
You can also add leftover cooked barley pearls to soups and stews for added texture.

6 comments on “Barley Water”

  1. I like barley..Chinese or western. I remember the barley water I had in hot humid summer at home. That barley soup looks terrific too.

  2. Hi! What is that pot you’re using to boil the barley in? Thanks!

  3. Hi there, thank you for sharing. May I check roughly how long do you simmer till the water turn milky? 
    Thanks ahead! 

  4. Pingback: December 2022 – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand – H&A

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