Amazake is a sweet, ever-so-slightly sour, traditional Japanese drink classically made from fermented rice. Enjoyed hot or cold, in the summer or in the depths of winter, amazake is generally alcohol-free and, in terms of texture, can vary from thin and smooth to thick and chunky.
Lauded for its health benefits, amazake is a source of gut health-fortifying probiotics and metabolism-boosting digestive enzymes. It's also high in nutrients such as vitamin B and essential amino acids, and delivers around 80 calories per 100g.
The reason why we're talking about amazake, aside from it being highlighted as part of the National Restaurant Association's 'What's Hot' US culinary forecast for 2023
, is that it's part of the small but exciting list of Japanese foods made using the koji mould (Aspergillus oryzae).
Used for years in high-end restaurants (and now being creatively harnessed by nostalgia-driven comfort food innovators
); koji has taken the wider food development world by storm the past couple of years, with the versatile fungus able to impart bold, umami flavours, deliver textural benefits as a meat tenderizer, and even act as a salt replacer.
The list of koji-made foods also includes miso and soy sauce, with chefs and innovators now exploring a range of culinary applications for amazake (which translates to 'sweet sake'), particularly when it comes to desserts and baked goods.