When it is cold like this in winter, all you want is a hot, comforting drink like “Amazake (甘酒)”, which means “sweet sake” in Japanese. You will see people selling it when you visit Shinto shrines during the New Year’s holiday but it is also widely available to buy in Japan throughout the year.
Believed to have been first developed back in the 3-6th century, Amazake is a traditional Japanese drink, slightly sweet and porridge-like with a cloudy white appearance. It is usually served hot in winter and cold in summer. It is made from rice and rice-koji (fermented rice) and packed full of nutrition and gut-friendly bacteria.
Despite its name, Amazake is an alcohol-free drink and can be enjoyed by all generations. It is even called “drinking drip” due to its high nutrition, just like a medical drip.
Koji plays a very important role in Japanese food culture. It is also used to make miso and Japanese sake. Koji is rich in enzymes and it helps to better absorb the nutrients in food.
While fermenting to create Amazake, Koji produces vitamins B1, B2 and B6, folic acid (vitamin B9), dietary fibre and amino acids. The fermentation also converts rice starch to glucose and oligosaccharide which gives Amazake its natural sweetness. There is another type of Amazake which is made from sake lees (a by-product of Japanese sake production). This type of Amazake contains very low levels of alcohol but it has other nutritional benefits gained during the fermentation process of sake production.
Amazake is said to be effective in preventing rough skin and spots, aging and heart-attack. It can also help to relieve constipation, aid recovery from stress and improve immunity.