Amazake: Everything You Need to Know About This Japanese Super Drink
What is amazake?
Amazake, also known as Japanese yogurt, is a traditional Japanese drink that has been consumed for more than 1,000 years. It is a fermented beverage made of koji malt (also known as malted rice), a mixture of steamed rice and mold which is used as a starter for fermentation. Koji is also a core ingredient of other famous Japanese fermented foodstuffs including miso (fermented soy paste), soy sauce, vinegar, sake (Japanese rice wine), and more. Although amazake is currently a winter staple among Japanese people, it was originally consumed often in summer during the Edo period (between the beginning of the 17th century and the late 19th century) to prevent summer heat fatigue. Nowadays, amazake attracts many health-oriented consumers because of its health benefits; we will mention this further in the following section.
There are two types of amazake: kome koji amazake and sake kasu amazake. Kome-koji amazake means “rice malt amazake”, and is made with rice and koji while sake-kasu amazake is literally translated as “sake lees” amazake, and its ingredients are sake lees (a by-product of sake fermentation), water, and sugar. The most noticeable difference between kome-koji amazake and sake-lees amazake is whether or not they contain alcohol: the former is an alcohol-free beverage while the latter is alcoholic. For this reason, although its alcohol content is normally below 1%, it is safer for children, pregnant, lactating women, Muslims, and those intolerant to alcohol not to choose sake-lees amazake.
What health benefits can you expect from amazake?
Recently, amazake has been synonymized with a drinkable IV-drip because of its benefits to your health when drunk on a regular basis. Nutrients common in kome-koji amazake and sake-kasu amazake are dietary fiber, vitamins in the B group, pantothenic acid, and folic acid. In this section, we will explore other nutrition rich in rice malt amazake and sake lees amazake in further detail.
Kome Koji Amazake
Kome koji amazake is rich in components called glucosylceramide, N-acetylglucosamine, and biotin. Constant consumption of food with glucosylceramide is expected to keep your skin moist and supple. Meanwhile, N-acetylglucosamine also plays a critical role for your skin by promoting collagen generation. It is a great idea to add powdered collagen supplement to a cup of amazake to enhance the effects of these nutrients. Last but not least, the benefits biotin brings are energy generation, prevention of skin inflammation, and improvements in your hair and nails.
Sake Kasu Amazake
Amazake made from sake lees has some unique health advantages that you should not miss. First, studies show that one of sake lee’s formulas called α-EG accelerates collagen production in skin cells and this leads to your skin having a finer condition. Further, sake kasu amazake can improve your body from the inside: rich in peptide, it increases the antioxidant effects of the liver, preventing an accumulation of active oxygen inside. Another nutrient worth mentioning here is adenosine: it helps expand the blood vessels so it is effective in alleviating stiff shoulders, headaches, and cold constitution.
Overall, no matter what type of amazake you drink, it brings many advantages to your health and beauty. However, you should bear in mind that both kome koji and sake kasu amazakes are high-sugar beverages: in fact, 125ml (≒4.2 us fl oz.) of amazake contains approximately 21g of sugar, while the sugar content in 100ml (≒3.4 us fl oz.) of Coca-Cola has roughly 11g! This means overconsumption of amazake may cause the risk of obesity and elevation of blood-sugar levels, so avoid over-drinking it. It is said that a moderate amount of amazake is one cup a day or up to 200ml (≒6.8 us fl oz.).
Brown Rice Amazake – What makes it special?
There is one variation of kome koji amazake called genmai amazake. This is amazake made from rice malt and genmai (brown rice), unpolished rice with the bran and germ unremoved. It features a rich yet natural sweet taste, thick texture, and has a robust feel in the mouth. Like normal kome koji amazake, it is an alcohol-free fermented drink, making it universally friendly to any kind of person.
Made from genmai, this wonder drink has more nutrition than ordinary kome koji amazake. For instance, the quantity of fiber in genmai is about six times greater than that of white rice while the magnesium content is five times greater and vitamin E 12 times. By drinking genmai amazake, you can expect a better intestinal environment and a greater antioxidant effect.
Due to its rich sweetness and viscosity, genmai amazake offers you a wide range of uses beyond beverages. You can create a healthier sweet by replacing sugar with this amazake, resulting in less sugar intake. Likewise, you can use genmai amazake as a thickener to make robust, thick-textured dishes. Our favorite genmai amazake includes the one from Japanese miso expert Yamato because this drink is authentically brewed with genmai and rice malt only. In short, genmai amazake is perfect for health-oriented consumers.
How to make a lovely cup of amazake at home
In this section, you will learn how to make homemade amazake. In general, you can cook amazake with either a rice cooker, pot, or yogurt maker.
Rice Cooker Amazake
We will begin with an approach using a rice cooker. With this method, you will need a rice cooker, spatula, kitchen thermometer, and kitchen cloth for successful incubation.
- Place 1 rice cooker cup (150ml) of washed white rice in a rice cooker and add water to the 3-cup mark. If you prefer a lighter texture, add it to the 4-cup mark.
- Cook the rice on the okayu (porridge) setting. Once cooked, stop the heat, and let it cool to 60℃.
- Add 200g dried rice koji and 600~900ml of water and mix well with a spatula. Adjust the amount of water according to your preference. If you prefer a thick texture, 600~700ml is enough, while if you wish to make light amazake, add 800~900ml of water.
- Cook the mixture again by using the keep-warm function of the rice cooker. Keep the lid of the rice cooker slightly open and place a clean kitchen cloth on the top of the bowl.
- Keep warming it to let the mixture incubate. This requires around 8 hours. Make sure to keep its temperature between 55 and 60℃. If necessary, stir the mixture occasionally.
- When the mixture reaches your desired sweetness, transfer it to a well-sterilized container and let it cool down before refrigerating. The amazake lasts for a week if stored in the fridge or a month if frozen.
The next method is using a pot, which is suitable for those who do not have a rice cooker. You need to prepare a pot with a lid, spatula, kitchen thermometer, and kitchen cloth for this approach.
- Put 200g of the cooked rice and 500ml of hot water (70℃) into the pot, and stir them well.
- Add 100g of dried rice koji to the pot and stir the mixture well while heating the pot at low heat. Make sure to keep the temperature at around 60℃.
- Cover the pot, wrap it with a kitchen towel, and let the mixture incubate for 5~10 hours.
- Check the temperature every hour and if it goes below 50℃, heat it using a gentle heat. Do not forget to stir it occasionally. Please also note that if the mixture gets too cold, this may result in the propagation of bacteria.
- When the mixture gets to the desired sweetness, transfer it to a clean container, and store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
Sake Kasu Amazake
The following is step-by-step guidance on cooking sake kasu amazake. Creating homemade sake lees amazake is much simpler than that of its rice malt counterpart. For two servings of sake kasu amazake, prepare 80g of sake kasu (sake lees), 400ml of water, 2.5 tbsp of sugar, and a pinch of salt.
- Tear sake kasu into bite-size pieces, and put it into a pot or pan with water and sugar.
- Cook them at middle heat while mashing the sake lees with a spatula. Keep heating until all the sake kasu blocks are melted and the mixture gets slightly bubbled.
- Add a pinch of salt, lightly stir the amazake, and it is ready to serve.
Yogurt Maker Amazake
You can even make amazake with a yogurt maker, though this approach is exclusively for those who own one. By using this machine, you do not have to check the temperature manually or as often. However, make sure to check whether your yogurt maker can keep warm at 60℃. For more details on how to make amazake with a yogurt maker, please check out the comprehensive guide from Chef JA Cooks.
How to drink amazake?
Although amazake can be served both hot or cold, it is better to heat or microwave it because this allows you to enjoy its umami to the fullest extent. However, when you serve hot amazake, make sure not to heat it too much because if its temperature goes beyond 60℃, its koji mold may die, which deteriorates its total nutrition.
In terms of the timing in which you drink it, it is recommended to have rice malt-based amazake in the morning: its glucose makes your brain more active, and this can lead to better performance in your academic activities or business tasks. For best results in the afternoon, it is also a good idea to drink amazake during lunch break.
Amazake is also famous for its distinctive flavor. If you are a beginner in terms of drinking amazake you might also find it difficult to get used to its unique scent. To reduce its flavor, simply add something to make it easier to consume. Here are some examples we would like to introduce:
Amazake Banana Smoothie
Mixing amazake with smoothies is a convenient way to consume amazake with pleasure, and this easy recipe is friendly to beginners of amazake. For the ingredients, prepare one banana, 100g of amazake, and 200ml of soy milk; it is okay to use cow’s milk instead. Cut the banana into smaller pieces, put all ingredients into an electric blender, mix them and pour into a cup. This smoothie will be tastier if you add some ice cubes in the cup and if you use a frozen banana.
Amazake Matcha Latte
One of the drawbacks of amazake in terms of nutrition is that it lacks vitamin C. In contrast, matcha is very rich in this vitamin, so it is a great solution to mix these together. For a serving of this recipe, dissolve two teaspoonfuls of matcha with 100ml of hot water. Then add 150ml of microwaved amazake to the mixture and stir it well. Instead of creating an original matcha drink, it is okay to use prepared matcha latte.
It is said that when you consume the peptide in amazake and bifidus in yogurt together, you can significantly improve your intestinal environment. Blend 100g of yogurt with 100g of amazake, and transfer it to a dish. You can add fruits like strawberry or orange to enrich the flavor, and adding some condensed milk will make this yogurt unbeatable.
Amazake Ice Cream
Another easy-to-make sweet made from amazake is tasty and wholesome ice cream. Prepare two bananas, 100ml of amazake and soy milk, and 2 teaspoonfuls of coconut cream or fresh cream, then blend them all with the electric blender. Place this mixture into a freezer for several hours. You can add other ingredients including nuts, herbs, and the like according to your preference.
Create your own amazake dressing to enjoy a fully nutritious salad. Ingredients for this condiment are 1.5 tbsp amazake, 4 tsp ume vinegar, 1.5 tbsp olive oil or rice oil, 0.25 tsp soy sauce, and 10g of onion. Like other recipes above, put these ingredients in the mixer and a dressing with an exquisite balance of saltiness and sourness is ready to be served. You can use this dressing as a dipping sauce. You can also add Japanese mayonnaise for more robustness or umeboshi paste for a tangier aftertaste.