In Japan, amazake (hot sweet sake) is sometimes served during the New Year’s visit to a shrine or the Girls’ Festival in March.
Sweet Hot Drink, Amazake
Many of Japanese remember drinking a cup of hot amazake on a cold day around a bonfire, and feeling energy welling up inside us. Surprisingly, however, amazake is a seasonal word for summer. During the Edo era there were merchants who hawked amazake as a nutritional supplement during summer to people who were prone to exhaustion or lost their appetite due to the intense heat.
Amazake contains 20% or more of glucose and is a rich source of the vitamins so essential to a healthy life. When Aspergillus oryzae grows, vitamin B1, B2, B6, pantothenic acid, inositol, biotin and many other forms of naturally absorbed vitamins are produced and stored in the malted rice, and these vitamins are eluted into the amazake. Aspergillus oryzae also produces many varieties of enzymes such as proteolytic enzymes (protease) and lipolytic enzymes (lipase) and is therefore called the “treasure chest of enzymes.” The dietary fiber and oligosaccharide contained in the malt regulate the functions of the intestines to prevent or improve various unwanted conditions caused by irregular bowel movements such as constipation and rough skin. Additionally, they help rid the body of harmful substances.
By the way, did you know there are two types of amazake? One type is made from malt, and the other type is made from diluted sake lees. Many of you may believe that amazake is made from sake lees, but actually the true recipe uses malt. Amazake made from sake lees does not become sweet unless sugar is added, but the sweetness of amazake made from malted rice is not derived from added sugar. It comes from reducing the sugars (such as maltose and glucose) produced through the saccharification of starch in rice or glutinous rice by amylase, an enzyme contained in malted rice.
How to cook Amazake?
Ingredients (Serves 5 cups)
3 3/4 cups water
10-1/2 oz. kome koji
- Wash rice in a net and set aside for 20 minutes.
- Put the rice and water into a rice cooker and make porridge.
- Mix the cooked rice well. Turn off the heat and wait until the porridge cools to 140°F.
- Add the kome koji to the rice and mix well. Using the keep warm mode on the rice cooker, heat for 6-8 hours with the lid slightly open to ferment. Mix every 2 hours.
- Transfer the mixture into a pot. Bring to a boil to stop fermentation.
- Transfer to a clean container. Allow it to cool; then store in the refrigerator for about one week.
- Koji mold is killed at 140°F, because it does not ferment.
- Because the finished product has a rough texture, blend it down for a smoother product.
- You may finish without boiling at the end (Step 5). It is possible to eat the amazake without stopping fermentation, but the acidity will be stronger so you should consume it quickly.