food 4 tots

Barley drink (薏米水)



Singapore has been hit by a dry spell since April.  High temperature got many people sick, including members of my family.  The flu bug has been going around town. It started with my hubby, followed by my son, then my mother-in-law (who was here for a short vacation) and finally me (who had not fallen sick for the past 2 years!). During this period, I was drained and in no mood to cook or bake. That goes for photo shooting and writing my post too.


The Chinese believed that fever is caused by the heatiness in our body system. (Too much “yang”!!!) One remedy, besides taking bitter medicine, is to gulp down lots of cooling-effect drinks. One of them is the super-duper barley drink. It is a popular remedy for fever in most Chinese household, one that has been handed down through generations.  Besides its cooling and soothing properties, barley drink has many other medicinal uses as well. It is a good diuretic利尿, and remedy for cough, lack of appetite and recurrent diarrhea in children. However, it is not recommended for nursing mothers as it will suppress lactation. (please refer to this link for futher reading).


When my son was small, he rejected barley drinks. I believe the cause lies in the “slimy” texture of the drink. No matter how hard I tried to “camourflage” it (like diluting the drink or mix it with his milk), he was smart enough to figure out the “trick” and spit it out. I almost gave up until I found this finest pearl barley (see photo). After my son tasted it, he started to fall in love with my barley drink. To my surprise, he even requested for the cooked barleys. If your child is picky with barley drink, give this recipe a try!


p/s:  Stay tuned for another cooling-effect drink in my upcoming post. 😉




Serve: 5-6 cupsp4055579


100g uncooked barley (cleaned) – preferably pearl barley (see photo)
4-5 pandan leaves/ screwpine leaves (washed and tied in a knot)
1200 – 1500ml water
Rock sugar to taste  (I used yellow rock sugar 黄晶冰糖)


  1. Wash and rinse the barleys. Drain and set aside.
  2. Bring water to boil. Add in barleys and bring the water to boil again. Simmer until the barleys become semi-soft and the water turns slightly milky. It will take about 40 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Add in pandan leaves to continue simmering for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  4. Drain and discard both the barleys & pandan leaves.
  5. Add rock sugar to taste. Serve warm or chilled.


  1. Cooked barley will make the drink become “slimy” if you didn’t discard them immediately after the simmering. Just retain a small amount if you want to eat them later.
  2. You can substitute rock sugar with honey or preserved winter melon (糖冬瓜). Although preserved winter melon can’t be dissolved, it is edible.
  3. Pandan leaves will give more flavour to the drink. It can be added at the beginning but overcooking will cause the drink to taste bitter. Thus, it is recommended to add it towards the last 10 minutes.
  4. Tying pandan leaves in a knot is to facilitate the removal during cooking.
  5. When using pearl barley, it must be rinsed thoroughly with cold water as the fine white dust that adheres to it is most unwholesome. (ref source)
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  1. mycookinghut says:

    This is one of my favourite drinks! Like your son, I didn’t like it at first. But, I love it after! 🙂

  2. Little Inbox says:

    I like barley drink, cuz it’s simple to make and yet delicious.

  3. orinskitchen says:

    I like barley drink. My mom told me to add a bit rice cooked for balancing. Till now I don’t what it means…

    • food-4tots says:

      Orinskitchen: Can it be to balance the ying (barley) and yang (rice) element in the drink? But if it is used as fever remedy, the addition of rice may not be suitable. Just my personal opinion. 😉

  4. Dora says:

    I prefer 冬糖瓜 to rock sugar! 😀

    • food-4tots says:

      Dora: I personally find that 糖冬瓜 is slightly sweet as compared to yellow crystal rock sugar (it is diff than the normal rock sugar). 😉

  5. noobcook says:

    The drink looks really refreshing. Nice styling with the thick straw and pandan leaf! ^_^

  6. I’ve never tried this, but I’ll remember next time I’m not feeling well.

  7. We love barley drink too! Love your picture. 🙂

  8. Alice says:

    Barley drink is great and I love it too. Great way to cool down our body temperature!

    • food-4tots says:

      Alice: I still remember the millet water you taught me before. I had made it recently as I had runned out of barley. It tasted quite similar to barley too. 😉

  9. talking about nursing mother, my mother told me she drank a lot of barley when she was conceiving me…

    • food-4tots says:

      NKOTB: For pregnant ladies, barley is more suitable during the last semester of their pregnancy when the average body temperature is quite high. 😉

      • pixen says:

        yep… I had to drink fresh coconut water at ice and no sugar. So, I attacked Pandan Coconut plus lots of okra…

  10. pixen says:

    First… Congratulation with your new home 🙂 I love the new header too. Really suits your aims!

    This pearly barley… is it the usual oval shape barley? My family said this is very ‘yin’ and advised me to go for the Chinese barley which is larger in size, rounder and used in TCM.

    When you’re coming to my area ? 🙂 Please post some picts ok… I’ll be home only towards the year end.

    • food-4tots says:

      Pixen: Tks for your kind comments. Although the shape of this pearl barley is oval, its size is pretty tiny. Yes, it is very “ying” (“leong” in Cantonese) so I only boil it occasionally or when my family members’ body system are heaty. My son didn’t like the Chinese barley, so I need to use this pearl barley to make him the barley drink esp when he is having fever.

      I will be in PEN this coming Jun. Sure, it will try to do that. Hope we can meet this year end. 😉

  11. pixen says:

    ooops… you mean you will be in PEN or BRU for holidays? LOL

  12. Cindy says:

    Mix this with lemon and ice and you have a drink famous in Great Britain.

  13. juhuacha says:

    Thanks. Looking forward to more cooling drinks as the weather is so hot.

  14. shobaday says:

    I loved this drink coz it’s light and yes, cools me down with its “yin” when I was visiting Singapore. Yay now I can make my own (although probably not drink it cold coz it’s freezing where I am now…southern hemisphere.)

    Btw, I’m on firefox 3.0.10, but I can’t seem to be able to subscribe onto your RSS/Atom feeds. This is the error I get:
    HTTP Error (Code) and Message: (404) Feed not found error: FeedBurner cannot locate this feed URI.
    I can get the NextGen feed which shows all the pretty pictures but nothing else. Hmmph.
    I’m guessing it will take some time to smooth out these problems and settle into this new site. Congratulations on moving to a new site! Look forward to more awesome recipes!

    • food-4tots says:

      Shobaday: Tks for your kind comments and feedback on my RSS/Atom feeds. I had forgotten to update the link after changing my feed address. Hope that all these transition problems will be resolved soon. 😉

  15. KrisBelucci says:

    da best. Keep it going! Thank you

  16. wow! I love special brewed barley water, it real does the effect!
    We are gearing up to singapore! :0

  17. juhuacha says:

    I tried making barley drink using the slow cooker. At the end of the day, I am left with only big fat barley as all water is absorbed by the barley. So sad… Is it wrong to use the slow cooker?

    • food-4tots says:

      Juhuacha: How long did you boil your barley in the slow cooker? Are you using the same ratio for water and barley as per my recipe? Which level did you select? Low, med, high or auto? Did you discard the barley immediately after cooking? It should be alright to use the slow cooker but you have to make some adjustments to my recipe so that you won’t get big fat barley at the end. 😉

      • juhuacha says:


        I cooked the barley for at least 6 hrs at high heat. I added 1/3 of a packet of barley and 1500ml of water (3/4 of my slow cooker). There is little water left at the end of the day. Shld I shorten the cooking time? or reduce the portion of barley? Was worried that it will be diluted if I add too little barley.


        • food-4tots says:

          Hmmmm….I think 6 hours of high heat can be the cause of your failure. How much is 1/3 pkt of barley? Maybe you can use boiling water and start with high heat. When the water starts boiling (after 1-1.5 hours), turn to medium heat and continue for another 1 hour or until the barleys turn soft. Hope it helps. Anyway, I strongly suggest that you use cooking pot to make this drink as it is faster and easier. If you still have further queries, feel free to write directly to me at 😉

  18. tigerfish says:

    Ya, so hot in Singapore!

    Which comes to my point? You live in Singapore? I did not know this all this while! Eastern side?

  19. ck lam says:

    I like barley drink especially those boil with fu chuk (bean curd sheet).

  20. Iva says:

    I love barley drink! Reminds me of the hawker stalls in malaysia. so refreshing and a healthy drink too.

  21. Barley Grass says:

    It looks good. I have not heard of barley drink. I would like to try and taste it. Also barley is good for health. It helps in various ways like for skin purifier, cures pimples, it is rich in nutrients and has many other benefits.

  22. food-4tots says:

    Barley Grass: Tks for sharing all the useful info. Hope you will give it a try. 😉

  23. KY says:

    I’m enjoying my bowl of hot barley drink now. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this recipe. I made it a few times but always ‘agak’ the portions so my barley water was either too thin or too thick.

    Thanks too for the tip on not overcooking the pandan leaves. No wonder my red bean soup had a bitter taste. I thought it was due to the orange peel!

    • food-4tots says:

      KY: Thanks for sharing your feedback. Another version you can try is barley lemonade. No pandan leave is required. Just add a few drops of lemon juice.

      As for the red bean soup, the orange peel can create the bitter taste too. Did you scrap off the pith? 😉

      • KY says:

        Barley lemonade or barley lime with ice is delicious! 🙂

        I didn’t know I have to scrap off the pith until I read your red bean soup post. I buy the peel in a pack and just rinse and use.

        I bought lotus seeds today and will try the red bean with lotus seeds. I never cooked lotus seeds with red bean before. 🙂

        • food-4tots says:

          KY: Yeah, both are great thirst quenchers! I just learnt that there are many grades for orange peels. I bought mine from Hock Hua. It is more expensive and the cost is measured based on its weight. But the smell is very fragrant. Hope to hear your feedback on trying my red bean with lotus seeds. If your budget allows, try to buy Azuki beans (Japanese red beans). It tastes superb! 😉

  24. nazatul says:

    I’m at wits end to bring down my temp. This is the 3rd day where my temp remains at 37.1. It’s not fever and yet not the normal body temp. It’s making me uneasy, restless and lethargic. I hope barley will really help.
    What is the usual dosage and frequency to help lose the heatiness?

  25. Kelly says:

    my son is beginning to reject barley drink too and likes this so much when i made this for him =) he kept pestering me to add more barley into his drink because they are smaller and chewy.. I’m so glad to have come across this post. thanks so much!

  26. Shirley says:

    Hi,thanks for sharing how to cook the barley. Got fews type of barley? How come Tcm ask my girl eat ANG mo barley,is it more suitable for kids? Normally I didn’t wait for water to boil, barley and water cook together is it wrong?

    • food-4tots says:

      Shirley: As what I know, there are Chinese and Western barley. I’m sure there must be a reason why your TCM gave this suggestion. It’s better to clarify with him. I normally bring water to boil before adding barley. Not very sure about the effect of your method. But it sounds alright to me as this method is also used when cooking barley with rice. Perhaps you want to consult your TCM about it and share with me the finding. 😉

  27. Camie says:

    Hi, may I know where I can buy the pagoda brand barley?
    Is yellow sugar the same as cane rock sugar?

    • food-4tots says:

      Camie: I bought the pagoda brand barley from NTUC. The cane rock sugar is made from sugar cane and yellowish in colour. Please read the packaging to confirm this before buying. 🙂

  28. Shirley says:

    Thank you for this recipe, I like the notes section on explaining the reasons e.g discarding the barley so it will not turn slimy etc, very good knowledge for new cook like me 🙂

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