Coconut Water, Kombucha, Aloe Drink, Ann Migo, Kovita in bottles…. the new super drink list goes on and on. I have something new for you. It is amazake. And it is home-made amazake that you can easily prepare. Amazake literally means ‘sweet sake’, but it has nothing to do with sake (rice wine). Amazake does not contain alcohol. Amazake is a naturally sweet rice drink. Amazake is a power house packed with nutrients.
Have you ever had in your life experienced an intravenous liquid drip that is administered to hospital patients? This so called IV drip can keep a patient’s life going for several days without any additional nutrition. Amazake has nutritional value similar to an IV drip. Therefore, when energy and stamina were necessary during the excruciating hot and humid summer amazake became a popular beverage enjoyed by commoners in the crowded city of Edo (present-day Tokyo) in the 18th and 19th century.
Amazake is made from koji rice; rice malted with koji spores. In my previous blog – ‘Koji is Aspergillus oryzae’ – you can learn about koji. Just as are shoyu, miso and sake, the sweet-tasting rice drink, amazake, is made from koji rice.
Factory-made and bottled amazake products are available at Japanese food stores, but I urge you to make it yourself. If you make it yourself, it is the real amazake with no added chemicals. Preparation of amazake is very easy and simple, and here is the recipe for you. All you need koji rice (rice with koji spores attached) and a rice cooker or yogurt maker.
Koji rice: I use Cold Mountain Dry Koji Rice. You can purchase this product on line or use other similar dry koji rice available at Japanese and Asian food stores or on line.
Rice cooker: I use Zojirushi IH that I have owned for more than over 10 years. This is a “Tesla” of rice cookers. It cooks rice properly and deliciously every time. Making amazake in this quality rice cooker is also super easy job. But you may instead use any rice cooker or your yogurt maker. For extra nutrition, I use brown rice in my amazake preparation.
Brown Rice Amazake
1 cup (Japanese rice cooker cup) medium- or short-grain brown rice
5 cups (Japanese rice cooker cup) water
7 ounces Dry Koji Rice, rubbed between your hands for a minute or so
Cook the brown rice in the rice cooker using the “porridge” function or setting. After cooking the rice reset the rice cooker to the start position. Cool the cooked rice porridge in the rice cooker bowl to 140F. Transfer the cooked rice porridge to a juicer of food processor; add the Dry Koji Rice and quickly process until pureed. If you are using polished white rice, omit this process. Transfer the rice and koji mixture quickly back to the cleaned rice cooker bowl. Set the rice cooker to KEEP WARM function. Cover the rice cooker bowl with a clean kitchen towel and lower the rice cooker lid until it is 80 percent shut. This will keep the temperature of the inside rice mixture at around 130F. Leave it as is for 10 hours. Adjust the rice cooker lid inclination to control the inside temperature
Choose a day when you will be at home during the 10 hours that the mold spores do their magic work. This does not mean that you must be at the rice cooker continuously. After mixing the koji rice and warm water together, and transferring it to the rice cooker, the rice cooker and koji do almost the entire job, including keeping the temperature of the koji rice and water mixture at proper temperature. You, however, need to babysit it. Every hour or so please check the temperature of the rice koji and water mixture in the rice cooker bowl and make sure that the temperature is always at around 130F. If the temperature goes too high it could kill the mold. As time goes by you will notice more of the carbohydrate in the rice turning into sugar than at the beginning, making the mixture sweeter and more fragrant. Please also stir the rice koji and water mixture. And do not forget to taste it at each stirring time. This is the most fun part of amazake making!
After you have made amazake store it in a clean glass jar or freezable container with a tight-fitting lid. I store one quarter of each batch amazake for immediate consumption – that one is kept in the refrigerator and is good for a week. When you consume amazake you may dilute it with cold water or sparkling water in 1:2 to 1:3 ratio. Squeeze some lemon juice or ginger juice before enjoying it as a cold drink.
I freeze the rest of the just-made amazake for later consumption. Frozen amazake does not get icy hard. It stays in an easy-to-scoop texture that can be removed with a large spoon. I call the frozen amazake ‘Rice Cream’. I often puree the amazake with banana, mango or other seasonal fruit before freezing, making it ‘Fruit Rice Cream’. Enjoy. I know you will.