Amazake has been favoured by the Japanese for a long time as it dates back from the Kofun period (around 250 to 538 AD). Amanotamuzake, an early version of amazake, is mentioned in the Nihon Shoki, the second- oldest book of classical Japanese history compiled in 720 AD. It has been known for its health benefits since back then.
There are a wide variety of traditional fermented foods made from Aspergillus Oryzae and related Koji culture in Japan, such as sake, mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, miso, and some Japanese pickles.
Japanese people frequently enjoy amazake as a hot drink on cold winter days, or a cold drink in unbearably hot summer months. It is a popular drink during New Year in Japan, and is also drunk during Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) festival held on March 3rd every year. Amazake can also be used as a sweetener's substitute in making sweets and snacks.
Amazake is written as 甘酒 in Japanese and has a literal meaning of "sweet sake" (甘 means "sweet" and 酒 means "sake", Japanese alcoholic beverage made with fermented rice). This name was given due to the very similar process in making Amazake and a regular sake. The fermentation process is generically the same at the start, except that yeast is also added to sake to increase alcohol production. Koji culture is similar to Yeast, but completely different. Both Koji and Yeast are microorganisms, however, Koji culture are filamentous fungi (or more commonly known as mould), while Yeast are single cell organisms that grow from budding.
In Amazake, Koji culture is added to rice, where the culture breaks down the starch in the rice into glucose, and protein into amino acids which act as ‘Umami’ on the taste palette. If Yeast is added into this fermented rice (special yeast designed for sake fermenting), it will start producing alcohol and carbon gases. This is when alcohol is produced and because Amazake is only fermented using Koji culture which does not produce alcohol during breaking down the starch, it is non-alcoholic but has a similar aroma to sake.
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