Amazake is a traditional sweet drink made from fermented rice. According to Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), the second oldest history book of classical Japan. amazake dates from the Kofun period – about 300 to 538 CE.
The name “Amazake” is written with the characters for “sweet” (甘) and “sake” (酒). Despite being called “sweet sake,”, it contains little to no alcohol. One version of amazake is made by adding water and sugar to the Sake-Kasu (lees leftover from the fermentation process of making sake. ) Since Sake-Kasu contains alcohol, this version contains some alcohol.
The other is made by fermenting rice porridge with Koji. This is the non-alcoholic version of Amazake, you just need three simple ingredients to make: water, brown rice, and Koji. You don't need to add any sugar to make it sweet. During the fermentation process, the concentrated sweetness develops as the abundant digestive enzymes in koji break down the complex starches in the rice, making it easily digestible. Once you make Amazake, you can keep it in the refrigerator for about 3-4 weeks. I am happy to share the recipe of this non-alcoholic Amazake with you.
Here's my Amazake recipe.
3 cups of brown rice, 6-7 cups of purified water, 1-3 cups of KOJI (more Koji, sweeter Amazake - For beginners, I recommend the same ratio with rice)
1. Rinse brown rice, drain.soak in the purified water in your pot overnight.
2. Soak rice in 6-7 cups of purified water in your pot with a lid overnight.
3. Turn flame to medium flame, & let cook gently until rice boiling without the lid.
4. Turn heat to low flame and cook for 30 minutes with lid.
5. Turn off heat and let the rice sit covered for 15 min.
6. Let is cool down to 130- 140 ºF and add 3 cups of KOJI and stir well for 3 -5 minutes and put the lid.
7. Leave it in a warm place of 130-140 ºF for 8 -10 hours
☆ It is essential to keep the temperature as it is. If the temperature is higher than 140 ºF, the KOJI will die, or if the temperature is lower than 130 ºF, the KOJI cannot activate fully to ferment the rice.
There are many options for fermentation. I often use a big pot that fits my small clay pot (please see the photo that I attached as below.) You can also use the oven to keep the temperature warm. If you have a rice cooker, you can always use it. After completing step 6, you can simply put it in the rice cooker and set “KEEP WARM” mode, leave the cover open but cover with cloth instead, and leave it for 6-8 hours. Once Amazake Is done, you can keep it in the refrigerator. I usually use the blender to make it creamy texture so it can be used as a sweetener easily.
Why do Japanese people love Amazake so much?
Once you mix brown rice porridge with Koji, the fermentation process starts immediately. While the brown rice and Koji are collaborating in the bowl, they produce amazing nutrients such as vitamins B1, B2, B6, pantothenic acid, inositol, and biotin.
Also, the nine essential amino acids are miraculously produced in the process of proteolytic enzymes as Koji is breaking down the proteins contained in the brown rice. Our human body requires 20 amino acids in various combinations to form the proteins our cells need to function. However, our body can create only 11 of the 20 amino acids. The rest of the essential amino acids can't be made on their own. Hence we need to resource from the outside, which means it derrives from our diet. In Amazake, you can find these 9 essential amino acids in it.
Amazake is rich in enzymes and probiotics to aid in digestion and help to maintain the good flora so that our intestines keep us regular. In Japan, Amazake is now called "a drinkable vitamin IV shot" since it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet - almost the same content with the expensive intravenous therapy which is so popular in Japan nowadays.
Nowadays, Amazake is gaining huge popularity among many Japanese women of all ages as "beauty serum to drink" because of its high content of B vitamins, and Kojic acid to suppress the formation of melanin to glow and moisturize your skin. Not to mention it's biotin to aid healthy skin and glossy hair. In German, biotin was called "vitamin H". The H stands for "Haar und Haut" which is for hair and skin.
As for myself, I use Amazake in my cooking in so many ways such as deserts, Japanese vegetable stews, or for dressings. Whenever I want to add some sweetness or umami into my dishes, I use the Amazake that I made myself. Especially when I make desserts, I use it in place of refined sugar.
White sugar contains no vitamins or minerals. It is a simple carbohydrate that has a simple chemical structure that is easily and quickly utilized for energy by the body, leading to a faster rise in blood sugar. Then, your pancreas secretes insulin to control your sugar level like a security alarm which leads to a stagnated pancreas in the long run. Amazake with brown rice porridge, on the other hand, is made up of complex carbohydrates and contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals that take longer to digest, meaning that it has a low glycemic index. It is slowly absorbed by the body to be used as a constant and steady source of fuel, leading to a steady blood-sugar level.
Brown rice - Japanese staple food
Among cereal grains, brown rice is the most balanced. Its size, shape, color, texture, and proportion of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and minerals fall in the middle of the spectrum of the seven principal grains. Rice is particularly soothing to the brain and nervous system, and our species most developed organs.
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