Lately, amazake (sweet non-alcoholic sake) has been on our minds. It all started on March 1, when we celebrated Girl's Day at Umami Mart and Den Sake was kind enough to make us a batch of amazake for the second year in a row. Then COVID-19 hit. And amazake was in the news for helping your immune system. Kayoko, a die-hard amazake lover, brought it to our attention that even the BBC was now giving it the moniker "drinkable IV." Luckily, we had some Hakkaisan Amazake in stock so our customers could get their hands on some.
Last weekend, I was stuck at home (as we all are these days) with a big bag of haigamai (germ rice) and a lot of time to kill, so I needed a project. My partner has been making delicious amazake in his Instant Pot with all types of rice - black, green, and white. But I wanted to give it a go with haigamai in my rice cooker. It took several trials and phone calls with my mom, but ultimately it was a success and I plan to make more into the summer.
They say that people don't change, and it's true when I look back on the Japanify archives - as seven years ago, I was doing pretty much the same thing. It looks like I had a yogurt maker back then (which I don't have now), but the method is similar.
6 oz (180ml) of dry haigamai
1 cup dry koji
1. In a rice cooker, add rice and wash.
2. Fill water up to the porridge marker. If you don't have the porridge marker, add 3 cups of water). Start the rice cooker by setting it to the "haigamai porridge" setting if you have it. If you don't have those setting, turn the switch on.
3. When the rice is done, remove the bowl out of the cooker. Take the temperature of the rice - it should measure around 170°F.
4. Add room temperature water to the rice little by little to get it right under 140°F.
Put the bowl back into the rice cooker and put on the "warm" setting.
5. Add the koji to the porridge and mix well.
6. It's very important to keep the temperature between 125°F and 140°F at all times. If it measures over 140°F the koji cultures will die.
7. Do not close the lid of the rice cooker and keep on the warm setting for 8-9 hours, measuring the mixture every hour to make sure the temperature stays between 125°F and 140°F. I put a layer of kitchen cloth on it to keep some of the heat in.
8. After the 8th hour, the amazake will start smelling sweet. Taste it – it should be mildly sweet, and a little nutty with a soft, chunky texture. If you want it sweeter, you can let it go for another hour or two. I liked mine at nine hours.
You can enjoy amazake warm or cold, but my favorite way is having it chilled after a hike in the woods (it's 10 minutes away - don't give me a citation!).
The shelter-in-place is very sad for celebrating friends and family. As Kayoko's birthday approaches, I've been dreaming about picnics, gathering, and museums. But, alas, those dreams will have to wait - and for now I hope to give her a big batch of immune-boosting amazake (one of her favorite drinks), as a placeholder for a future birthday picnic bonanza on a Hawaiian beach with a personal masseuse.