Until I tried the Green Cuisine amazake, I had never drank amazake before. I was quickly tantalized by the creamy texture and sweet taste. Amazake is very interesting, I learned, not only because it has quite a history of cultivation, but like tempeh, it is another fermented food.

What is Amazake?

amazakecupAmazake has a long history in Japan. It has been around there for more than a thousand years. It was used as an offering to the gods of the temples. The word amazake literally translates to “sweet sake”. However, there are two types of amazake. The first type is the kind available at Green Cuisine, and is made by combining steamed rice and water with a starter of rice that has been exposed to koji, a culture of the Aspergillus oryzae variety. You may be interested to know that Aspergillus oryzae is also used for making miso, natto, soy sauce, and sake. Anyway, for this amazake, the culture and rice mixture is left to ferment until the starches in the rice convert to simple sugars. Hence the sweetness.

The second type of amazake (not available at Green Cuisine) is made by mixing left over sake lees with steamed rice and water. This version does contain low amounts of alcohol. Sugar is added to this version to make it sweet.

The nonalcoholic variety of amazake is featured in Japanese traditional celebrations such as the Doll Festival/Girl’s Day, and during New Year’s when it is served at temples and shrines. Because it is sweet and nonalcoholic, it can be given to children. Vending machines and grocery stores in Japan will also stock amazake.

Amazake is Considered a Healthful Drink

The Japanese cherish their amazake for its nutritional properties. In Japan, it is used to relieve hangovers, and to sooth an upset stomach. Nutritionally, brown rice amazake is high in selenium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and a good source of thiamine, niacin, B2, B6, folic acid, dietary fibre, oligosaccharide, cysteine, arginine and glutamine. As it is a fermented food, live (unpasteurized) amazake also contains probiotics that is good for the digestive system. Green Cuisine makes their amazake by mixing brown rice and rice koji, and waiting to allow for fermentation to take place. Then the fermentation process is stopped once the rice starches have converted to simple sugars so no alcohol is produced. Unlike most commercial rice drinks and desserts available, Green Cuisine’s amazake is made by the traditional culturing process, no short cuts or commercial enzymes. They believe that their process yields a richer, more nutritious drink. There are a variety of delicious flavours you can choose from.20161115_193753

How to Serve Amazake

You can drink it straight out of the container, serve it as a pudding, use it as a topping for cereal, or mix it in the blender with your smoothies. You can drink it hot or cold. If you don’t use sugar in your recipes, you may even be able to substitute amazake as a sweetener. Try making hot chocolate with it, custards, or muffins.  You can combine amazake with chai and ice cream. Or pick up your own rice koji starter and make your own amazake!  

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