During oshogatsu (New Year), people in Japan huddle outside of temples and shrines to pray for an auspicious year, hands warmed by steaming cups of amazake (fermented rice drink).
Incorporating the cheery holiday drink, this amazake purin recipe below riffs on the classic flan-like Japanese purin (custard pudding). Amazake acts as a natural sweetener, so the only added sugar here is in the caramel—a dark, fragrant sauce with just enough bitterness and depth to counterbalance the amazake’s sweetness.
Amazake: The “drinkable IV”
Photo: Rika Hoffman
Amazake has been around for over a thousand years. According to the Nihon Shoki, the second-oldest book of Japanese historical records, the sweet beverage can be traced back to the Kofun period (approximately 250-538 AD); renowned for its health benefits, even back then.
Although it literally translates to “sweet sake,” amazake is actually a low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beverage that can be enjoyed by all ages. Its nickname is “drinkable IV” as it’s packed with nutrients. Amazake is said to have numerous health benefits, from combatting fatigue and strengthening the immune system to anti-aging properties.
There are two types of amazake. The alcoholic version is made with sake kasu (sake lees), which is a byproduct of sake production created when the moromi (fermentation mash) is compressed and the sake is extracted, leaving behind the nutritious lees. Meanwhile, the non-alcoholic type is made with rice koji, steamed rice that’s been inoculated with the mold culture Aspergillus oryzae. Its alcohol content is below one percent, making it suitable for children.
What does amazake taste like?
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