WHAT IS IT? We first encountered amazake on a hike along a section of the old Tokaido highway. After a strenuous uphill climb, we stopped at a historic teahouse where it turned out that amazake was one of the specialities. Lo and behold, they also sell it in the health food shop around the corner.
WHY IS IT QUESTIONABLE? It is made from fermented brown rice which gives it a natural sweetness without any added sugar and a slightly gelatinous texture. It isn't questionable per se - there are no weird and wonderful ingredients - rather it is just something that we haven't really encountered before and, beyond adding water and turning it into a hot drink, weren't really sure what to do with.
SAUNDERS SAYS: "As a fan of ovaltine and horlicks, I feel I have a natural affinity with amazake as it is definitely in the same taste category. The only problem is the cost of making a good cup - you have to use a fair dollop to get the thickness and that isn't cheap."
SYMONDS SAYS: "The drink gets the thumbs up. We branched out and tried it with some roasted clementines.... okay, but not the perfect combination. Amazake does have quite a strong toasty flavour of its own which didn't work all that well with citrus. It is less of a neutral lubricant than custard and won't taste excellent with everything in the way that I think custard does. Maybe raspberries? Maybe chocolate? But it might pair best with more Japanese flavours like the dreaded anko."
THE VERDICT? Thumbs up for the hot drink. Not sure about amazake as pudding-accessory but we still have half a jar left so definitely worth continuing to experiment.