Monday, September 12, 2011

Amazake - Sweet Japanese Pudding

Koji Spores

Amazake is a sweet fermented rice pudding made by converting the carbohydrates in rice to simple sugars. The process is carried out by a mold called Aspergillus orysae, bought in the form of koji (rice inoculated with Aspergillus spores), the same culture used to make miso. Amazake literally translates as ‘sweet sake’, although it contains no alcohol, if left to ferment it becomes alcoholic and the first step in the process of making Sake.

Traditionally Amazake was made into a warming tonic by heating amazake with water, and topping with grated ginger. It is still served today in Japan during Shinto festivals and in the new year. It can also be used as a sweetener for baking. Because of the fermentation process, amazake is literally pre-digested, making it an easily assimilated source of nourishment for the earth element.

How to make

2 cups rice or any other grain (traditionally sweet white rice is used but I use brown)
200 grams Koji

1. Cook 2 cups of rice (or other grain) in 6 cups of water. Using more water lends to a softer grain.

2. While cooking your rice prepare an area you can keep at a warm temperature for when you are fermenting your amazake. I'm lucky enough to have a dehydrator that I can keep at a constant temperature of 60 degrees C. Don't worry if you don't have this luxury however, you can fill a small insulated esky with boiling hot water and add other jars of hot water to maintain the heat. Put on the lid and keep in a warm place.

3. When the grain is cooked and all the water absorbed, uncover and allow to cool until you can hold your finger in the rice but it is still hot. If you let it get too cool the koji will not ferment effectively.

4. Now add the Koji into the cooked rice and stir well. The koji I have found is bought pressed into a cake-like shape, but crumbles easily between your fingers. I bought mine in Melbourne from 'Fuji Mart' at the Prahan markets, which is an incredibly exciting and nostalgic place if you've ever been to Japan. Otherwise try to order some online.

5. Pack the koji into sterilised pre-heated glass jars. I find this recipe fits into one 4 litre jar. Screw on the lid and place in either your pre-prepared warm esky or dehydrator. If using a dehydrator place a bowl of water in the bottom to keep some moisture circulating. Set to 60 degrees Celsius.

6. Check on your amazake after 8-12 hours. Taste to check for sweetness. If it tastes very sweet, then it is ready. If is isn't very sweet you may need to leave it for up to 24 hours. If you are using an esky replace the hot water and leave to ferment for longer until very sweet. If you leave it for too long however it will become alcoholic (the first stage of making sake)

7. Bring 2 cups of water to the boil and slowly add the amazake, stirring frequently. The boiling process stops the sugars fermenting into alcohol. Bring the amazake to a gentle boil and turn off the heat.

8. You can now serve the amazake like this as a pudding, or blend it with extra water (or almond or soy milk) into a liquid consistency and serve warm or cold as a drink. Season with whatever you please - Grated ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, black sesame, green tea... I will be posting some more recipes for amazake soon!

Amazake made from black glutinous rice with Adzuki bean paste

*Adapted from Wild Fermantation, Sandor Ellix Katz, 2003 (see resources)