Amasake

Amasake is a traditional Japanese fermented sweet rice drink or pudding, which is incredibly easy to make – provided you have access to some Koji (rice grains, inoculated with the fungus Aspergillus oryzae). We in Amsterdam are incredibly fortunate to have Deshima Freshop on Weeteringschaanscircuit, which sells biodynamic quality Koji. That is where I buy my Koji starter.

Amasake makes a sweet ferment, so I see this as an occasional treat, not a healthy food. The fungus simply breaks down cooked rice into sugar. Amasake smells interesting of Aspergillus which is a type of food mould. This ferment keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days but I rarely manage to leave it that long – it just tastes so good!

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Valerian on my roof terrace

Valerian Amasake Hot Chocolate
You may know that I love the taste of chocolate and that I grow Valerian on my roof terrace. Valerian is in flower at midsummer, so when I need a good night’s sleep and I wanted to use some Amasake, I make the sweet, tasty, soporific Valerian Amasake Hot Chocolate. Yum!

How to make Amasake
1. Cook 2 cups of rinsed basmati rice (or similar) in 4 cups of water (lid on pan), until the rice is well cooked, fluffy and has absorbed all of the water (adjust water proportion if using different rice). Remove from heat.

2. Set the rice aside (lid on) until it cools to a temperature that is easily tolerated by your finger (60°C is optimal).

3. Now gently stir 1/2 cup of dried Koji (innoculated rice) into the warm cooked rice.

4. Put the lid on again and wrap the pan in a couple of clean tea towels or simply place it in your oven (cool and turned off). This is to maintain some of the warmth so that the Aspergillus can grow at a reasonable rate. Less heat = less fermentation. Too much heat = dead Aspergillus so no fermentation.

Koji rice - Full of Aspergilus oryzae and ready to grow when mixed with warm cooked rice!

5. Leave it to ferment for 12-24 hours. Stir the rice and Koji mixture very occasionally. It will become progressively more runny and sweet to taste as the fermentation proceeds and the Aspergillusbeaks down the rice starches into sugar.

6. When the sweetness of the Amasake is to your liking (max 24 hours) boil it to stop the Aspergillus from growing further. This is an important step to avoid fermentation turning the rice starch into alcohol (even in the fridge this fermentation will slowly occur).

7. I like to blend my Amasake at this point, or just before boiling. I use my little electric hand blender. You may prefer the natural consistency. Both taste as good. Allow to cool before refrigerating or eat warm as soon as prepared.

8. Use as a pudding, sprinkle in ground ginger, cardamon, cinnamon or drizzle with honey. Eat hot or cold. Thin with water to your preferred drink consistency or spoon it to eat. Use in place of yoghurt or buttermilk in muffin recipes and similar. Uses for Amasake as a natural sweetener are almost endless.

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Thick, sweet, Chocolate Amasake!

Valerian Amasake Hot Chocolate
1. Pour just less than a mug full of Amasake into a small saucepan.

2. Add a splash of water, a sprinkling of tiny fresh Valerian flowers (about 10) and 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of cacao powder.

3. Stir gently as you bring the mixture to the boil.

4. Simmer for a minute or two and then allow to cool to a comfortable temperature before pouring into the mug.

5. Enjoy!

The king of fermentation is Sandor Ellix Katz. He has done a great job in teaching people how different fermented foods can be made. Please visit his website and buy or borrow his wonderful books if you have even a passing interest in fermented foods!

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