Amazake – The Super Healthy Japanese Fermented Rice Drink

You may have heard the term amazake if you have attended any of the festivals that are so prevalent in Japan to mark certain customs and observances. Many mistakenly think this is sake or rice wine. It does start out its journey on the same road as sake, but takes a different direction at the end of the processes to assure that it has no or very low alcohol levels. It turns out there are some incredible health benefits of this nutritious and delicious Japanese fermented rice drink. So in our endeavor to keep you healthy let’s uncover some facts about amazake.

Translated the word means ‘sweet sake’ and there are two types, either a low-alcohol or alcohol-free version, depending on the starting base used and the fermentation time.  Today we are going to examine the non-alcohol version.

Amazake has a rich history in Japan and is reported to date back to the Kofun period (250-538 AD).  In Edo times (1603-1868) it was price-controlled by the government and determined to be an essential energy source for the country. Known as a hot drink to warm the body in winter it was also consumed cool in the unbearably hot summer months.  Even during the early days it was known to have certain health benefits but lately it has experienced a genuine growth in popularity as a health food because of its fermented food attributes.

Non-alcohol amazake is made using koji, which is cooked rice that has been injected with spores of the aspergillus oryzae fungus. That same fungus is used to ferment well known products such as miso, natto, shoyu and other fermented foods. The koji is added to plain steamed rice and allowed to ferment, a process that takes approximately 10-14 hours in a sufficiently warm, sterile and controlled environment.

Amazake is rich in enzymes and probiotics that we know aid in digestion and help to maintain the good flora in our intestines keeping us regular.  A modern day probiotic with deep roots in Japanese culture!   It also contains essential amino acids and antioxidants also known to be good for us. It is also believed to aid in cell regeneration so it has a firm footing in the beauty industry as well. In addition, some also believe it to be the perfect hangover cure and a drinkable IV shot because of its high value of B vitamins.  You may want to remember that little tip!

Although sometimes hard to come by, you may see amazake in the refrigerator section with other traditional Japanese foods in a variety of packaging, flavors and consistencies.

HealthyTOKYO has procured a wonderfully pure and natural amazake know as “Genmai ga yume mita” – Dream of Brown Rice. This is created in Ishikawa prefecture from rice grown organically and is characterized by a gentle sweetness and creamy texture. Absolutely delicious!

For those of you ambitious in your kitchen there are many recipes and methods for making your own amazake with koji, but as always practice safe kitchen policy by ensuring sterile and accurate temperature control and timing.  However you come by your amazake do explore the many ways to use it aside from drinking.  It appears in recipes for dressings and marinades, frozen desserts, baked goods and similar.

Amazake is also gluten free and vegetarian as it comes only from rice so if either are a concern for you, check!  The digestive and nutritional value makes it a good choice for children as well.

As mentioned earlier, there is also a version of amazake which is relatively low in alcohol but we don’t encourage you start adding that to your morning breakfast routine! It is made with a different starter, kasu or the lees (solids left after the sake has been pressed) and as a result of the longer fermentation process has alcohol present even though relatively low.

So next time you are shopping in the HealthyTOKYO shop, check out the amazake and add another healthy benefit to your day.

Related Links: 

Amazake – Dream of Brown Rice

Pure organic sweet non-alcohol sake, a nutritious fermented drink made only from natural brown rice and rice enzymes (koji) with no added sugar.

Koshihikari Amore Organic Brown Rice from Japan

Koshihikari Amore Organic Brown Rice is raised in the rice fields of Ishikawa Prefecture taking advantage of the rich soil and refreshing water of the Noto Peninsula.

Koshihikari Amore Organic White Rice from Japan

White rice grown in the traditional organic method without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Only mature compost and naturally occurring organisms are utilized.