Updated: April 17, 2018
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Amazake (甘酒) An Ancient Sweet Sake Is Making A Comeback

Amazake is a type of non-alcoholic sake (or with a very low alcoholic content) that has been around for ages in Japan. It's been recently gaining in popularity because we now know it has good health benefits on top of being very comforting!

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Amazake 甘酒

"Amazake" literally means sweet sake. However, this is probably not the sake you are used to, as it contains no, or virtually no, alcohol.

It is made from the leftover substance of alcoholic sake production. This is called "sake kasu" (酒粕) in Japanese, or sake lees in English.
sake lees (酒粕)
The alcoholic content cannot be extracted completely from the sake kasu, so amazake made with this will have a low alcoholic content. The amazake is made by simply mixing some of this kasu with rice and water. It can be filtered or processed to get a smooth texture.
There is a non-alcoholic version that can be made by using "kome koji" (米麹) which means rice yeast. Simply add this yeast to hot rice and water and fermentation will occur, turning the sugars into easily digestible forms that help maintain a healthy intestinal flora. What is more, the amazake contains lots of vitamins, folic acid, and dietary fibers. You can give it to babies and toddlers, it's used as a hangover remedy, and it contains no gluten. It can be used as a substitute for milk in some vegan recipes. In Japan, it's often consumed as a warm winter comfort drink.

Whether it is made from sake lees or from rice yeast, the amazake has the same health benefits.
Amazake has a long history. It has been present in Japan for over 1,000 years, although it was not always very popular. Today you can find it in supermarkets during the end of the year period. It's a kind of drink some people really like to have to celebrate the new year. It is also a traditional drink to have for the Hinamatrusri (girls festival) on March 3rd, and you'll also find it served by kids inside kamakuras (igloo-like shelters pictured above) during some snow festivals such as the Yokote Kamakura Festival pictured above.
Although nowadays it is seen as a staple winter drink. It was for some time very popular during the summer period. Its properties are believed to be good to help recover from summer heat fatigue called "natsubate" (夏バテ). Merchants, during the Edo period, were selling a lot of it during the summer as well.
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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