Food,  Korean Food

Alcohol in Rice Cake

I have been shot by a few curious readers whether rice cake or tteokbokki is permissible for Muslim.

“Hey, just wanna ask if tteok are generally permissible for muslim to eat? Always thought that they contain soju/alcohol…Thanks” – on Crazy Tteok in Hongdae  ~by anonymous

Under my investigator mode and some lurking over here and there on Naver and Google search engine, I found some answers:

  • what kind of alcohol was put in rice cake
  • the term used in Korean for alcohol in food
  • how much is the alcohol content in rice cake (in this case: SOGA brand)
  • is rice cake permissible for Muslim?
Rice Cake, brand: Soga from Pulmuone
Image from E-Mart
Picture 1: Alcohol put in rice cake is called as 주정

Picture 2: 발효 알콜 – alcoholic fermentation process

Research 1
Alcohol put in rice cake is called as:
  • 주정 (Picture 1) – Ethanol
  • 알콜 (Picture 2) – Alcohol

Based on this question,  on Naver; the question was answered in detail.

주정(酒精): 알코올의 한 가지. 술의 주성분으로서 주로 녹말로 만드는 무색투명한 액체.

Ethanol (酒精): one kind of alcohol. Of alcohol as a main component to make mostly colorless and transparent liquid starch.

Research 2

A detail research on alcohol: Alcohol – The Myth and The Realities by Dr. Mian N. Riaz (He has a Ph.D. and presently working as food scientist with Texas A&M University in Texas.)

Dr. Mian N. Riaz said:

“Alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol) is usually made from starch, sugar and other carbohydrates by fermentation with yeast; also, synthetically from acetylene or ethylene. It is clear, colorless, very mobile, flammable liquid; a pleasant odor; burning taste; and miscible with water and with many organic liquids. It is hygroscopic and relatively nonionic. Ethanol has a slightly sweet taste and a characteristic aroma.”

 “ethyl is the best-known alcohol and the one that concern us most, as it is the principal alcohol to be found in all alcoholic beverages.”

” There is no any difference between ethyl alcohol and ethanol. Both are the same thing except two different names.”

“Muslims don’t have to worry, if they find a food label statement which says “sugar alcohol.”

” The non- alcoholic drinks may not be entirely free from alcohol, as there is no known process that will extract all the alcohol from an alcoholic drink.(2) The small traces of alcohol make the labeling of the beverages an issue.”

“From the above discussion, it is clear all alcohols and liquors are not same. Some are intoxicants and some are not. Often, alcohol and liquor are used simply as a description. Therefore, Muslims should not be confused or worried with terminology. However, if any intoxicant liquor or alcohol is used in any product then we should avoid that product. In Islam, all intoxicants are Haram whether they are in liquid, solid or in any other form and in any quantity.”

Research 3

Yahoo Questions: What foods contain ethanol?

“Ethanol CAN be obtained in foods through fermentation. Many fruits and/or other foods with sugars can ferment in the presence of yeast. However, this process normally doesn’t happen because the food would need to be in a container that allows CO2 to be released, yet keep oxygen out. Oxygen effectively stops the process. A good example of this is bread. Many leavened breads produce a small amount of ethanol through the yeast reactions.”

Research 4

You may read more about Ethanol here.

Research 5

I have personally sent an email to Pulmuone for the rice cake’s brand SOGA.

Please ignore my bad Korean.

This is the reply from Pulmuone‘s representative.

“안녕하세요.

풀무원이샵 담당자입니다.

풀무원에서는 유통기한을 연장하기 위한 합성첨가물을 사용하지 않기 때문에…

저희 떡, 면 등의 제품에는 유통기한 확보를 위해 주정을 사용합니다.

말씀하신 떡제품에는 떡중량의 0.4%정도의 주정이 사용되며,

이는 대부분 조리과정에서 휘발/ 제거됩니다.

대부분 알콜알레르기가 있으신 분들도 제품에 사용된 주정이 문제되지 않는 수준이므로

제품 이용에 문제는 없으실 듯 합니다만….

안내드린 내용을 참고하셔서 제품이용을 부탁드립니다.

감사합니다.”

Translation (I tried to translate it as best as I could):

“Hello,

I am Pulmuone’s representative.

In order not to use synthetic additives to prolong the shelf-life of Pulmuone’s product, we use alcohol instead to prolong the shelf-life of the products for example rice cake, noodles and etc.

As the referred rice cake products (SOGA – in my email), from the total weight of the rice cake (which is 600gm of rice cake) 0.4% is the alcohol perused (about 2.4 gm). Most of it (volatile alcohol) will be removed (evaporated) after the cooking process (for example: after making the tteokbokki)

Most people who have alcohol allergy; in other words will not have any problem using the products (from Pulmuone) because of  the alcohol level perused in the products.

We would be glad that you could use our products after the information given as reference.

Thank you”

Research 6

There is no one answer for all of our queries or our curiosities but the best way is to ask those who are knowledgeable in the area.

You may check out the National Fatwa site by Malaysian government here for alcohol in food issue and alcohol from Islamic perspective here.

0 Comments

  • sungrin

    I learned this before in fiqh halal haram during my university time. Even doughnut when it ferment,will release alcohol, its about chemical reaction. In fact in Islam, alcohol is not forbidable when use in appropriate amount. People always confuse with liquor and alcohol. All liquor contains alcohol in high amount which will later destroy our body system. Alcohol is just like other chemicals as if its used excessively will make one body sick

  • Lily

    Assalamualaikum Zarina. K.Lily ni…ingat lagi kita jumpa end March 2012? So sekarang dah balik Malaysia? Akak baru ingat nak 2nd round n meet you again..

  • Anonymous

    Salam to all.i was called to share some of my knowledge on alcohol and liquor issue here.btw, for your information, pulmuone is one of the food manufacturer in korea who does concern and look into halal.i am working in a halal science lab in malaysia, and we hv received quite a number of pulmuine sampke for halal testing all the wsy from korea sent by the company themselves.a few of their product were recognized by jakim halal.

    back to alcohol and liquor, what sungrin mentioned earlier is true. Alcohol is unavoidable in food manufacturing but excessive use will prone to make the product haram.even alcohol will form through fermentation.but, things tht really haram is when you used liquor in the process, or khamr we call it, or arak in malay.in example, if they use liquor or wine in preserving the rice cake, then it is totally haram.however if they use food grade ethanol, then the product should be ok.provided that, the content of alcohol does not exceeded the cut off limit of the alcohol by different country. As jn malaysia, the accepted limit of alcohol content must not be more than 1%, if im not mistaken.(as of info
    of2013). So wheteher the rice cake is haram or not, as claimed by pulmuone, they used alcohol at 0.4%, not the wine or liquor, then insya allah it should be ok.since I knew how this company try their best to meet to halal food, I hv more confident.i hope this help.

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