Discover the Difference: Jiu Niang vs Amazake
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding jiu niang and amazake. Both are rice drinks, but are they the same?
Jiu niang is a Chinese fermented rice beverage, while amazake is a Japanese non-alcoholic fermented rice drink. Although they’re both rice drinks, they’re very different.
Let’s look at the differences and similarities between jiu niang and amazake.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Jiu Niang vs Amazake: A Comparison of Two Sweet Rice Drinks
- 2 What is Amazake?
- 3 What is Jiu Niang?
- 4 The Evolution of Amazake: From Ancient Times to Modern Day Japan
- 5 The History of Jiu Niang
- 6 How to Serve Amazake
- 7 How to Serve Jiu Niang
- 8 Conclusion
Jiu Niang vs Amazake: A Comparison of Two Sweet Rice Drinks
Both jiu niang and amazake are sweet rice drinks that are popular in Japan and China, respectively. While they have some similarities, there are also some key differences in their ingredients and preparation methods:
- Jiu niang is made by fermenting cooked glutinous rice with water and a natural enzyme called amylase. The mixture is then left to sit in a warm place for several days until it turns slightly sour and alcoholic.
- Amazake, on the other hand, is made by cooking rice with water and koji (a type of mold) at a low temperature for several hours. The mixture is then cooled and sugar is added to sweeten it.
Taste and Consistency
The taste and consistency of jiu niang and amazake are also quite different:
- Jiu niang has a slightly sour and alcoholic taste, with a thin and watery consistency.
- Amazake, on the other hand, is sweet and creamy, with a thicker consistency that is similar to porridge.
Serving and Enjoyment
When it comes to serving and enjoying jiu niang and amazake, there are some important differences to keep in mind:
- Jiu niang is traditionally served in a small bowl, often as a dessert or snack. It can also be used as a cooking ingredient in some recipes.
- Amazake is often served warm during the winter months, and is a popular drink during the Hina Matsuri festival in Japan. It can also be used as a sweetener or substitute for sugar in cooking and baking.
Which One Should You Try?
If you’re familiar with sake or other Japanese rice drinks, you’ll likely enjoy the sweet and creamy taste of amazake. On the other hand, if you love fermented foods and want to try something new, jiu niang might be the perfect drink for you.
Either way, both jiu niang and amazake are delicious and unique sweet rice drinks that are worth trying at least once. So why not click on a recipe and give them a chance?
What is Amazake?
Amazake is a traditional Japanese sweet rice drink that is commonly consumed as a beverage or used as a core ingredient in various foodstuffs. The name “amazake” literally means “sweet sake,” but it is a non-alcoholic drink. It is made by fermenting rice with koji, a type of malted rice, which breaks down the rice starches into simple sugars.
The Ingredients in Amazake
The ingredients commonly used in amazake are rice, koji, and water. Some modern versions may also contain miso, soy, or other flavorings. The drink is typically low in alcohol content, making it a safer option for those who choose not to consume alcohol.
Amazake in Japanese Culture
Amazake has been mentioned in various classical Japanese texts, including the Nihon Shoki Chronicles and the Kojiki book. It was a popular drink during the Kofun period and was also consumed by Korean and Chinese people. Today, amazake is a popular drink enjoyed by many and is often served as a complimentary drink with meals.
Other Fermented Rice Beverages
Amazake is not the only fermented rice beverage in Japan. Other popular drinks include sake, sikhye (a Korean barley drink), and lightly fermented rice drinks. These beverages are growing in popularity as people enjoy their unique flavors and health benefits.
What is Jiu Niang?
Jiu Niang is a traditional Chinese sweet rice wine that has been enjoyed for centuries. It is made by fermenting cooked glutinous rice with water and yeast, and is commonly served as a dessert or snack. Here are some key points to know about jiu niang:
- Jiu niang is made by mixing cooked glutinous rice with water and yeast, then letting it sit for a period of time to ferment.
- The fermentation process creates a sweet, slightly alcoholic beverage that is often served as a dessert or snack.
- Jiu niang is commonly found in China, but is also popular in other parts of Asia, including Japan.
- There are different types of jiu niang, including sweet and savory varieties.
- Jiu niang is said to have a number of health benefits, including increasing energy and aiding in digestion.
How to Make Jiu Niang
Making jiu niang at home is a relatively simple process, but it does require some time and patience. Here are some key steps to follow when making jiu niang:
- Clean and rinse the glutinous rice, then soak it in water for several hours.
- Steam the rice until it is cooked, then let it cool to room temperature.
- Mix the cooked rice with water and yeast, then let it sit for several days to ferment.
- Check the jiu niang regularly to make sure it is fermenting properly. It should start to smell slightly sweet and alcoholic.
- Once the jiu niang is ready, remove any coarse grains or cuts and store it in a cool, dark place.
The Evolution of Amazake: From Ancient Times to Modern Day Japan
The preparation of amazake is a delicate art that requires careful control of temperature and timing. The process starts by cooking short-grain white rice in a large bowl of hot water until it is fully cooked. Then, the rice is mashed and mixed with water, sugar, and a natural enzyme called “koji,” which helps to break down the starch in the rice and turn it into sugar. The mixture is covered and left to set at a warm temperature for several hours, allowing the koji to work its magic.
The Remarkable Function of Amazake
Amazake is a remarkable food that is rich in nutrients and fiber. It is also a great substitute for regular sugar and can be used in a variety of recipes. Amazake is often served as a hot drink during the winter months, but it can also be served cold in the summer. It is a popular food in Japan and is widely familiar to those who love traditional Japanese cuisine.
The Ultra-Healthy Version of Amazake
There is also an ultra-healthy version of amazake called “Takakibi Amazake,” which is made from a type of rice called “takakibi.” This rice contains more fiber than regular rice and is therefore a healthier option. Takakibi amazake is prepared in a similar way to regular amazake, but it is slightly darker in color and has a nickname of “pin.”
The Modern-Day Amazake
Today, amazake is widely available in Japan and can be found in many different forms, including powder, liquid, and mold. It is often used as a natural sweetener in cooking and baking and is a popular ingredient in miso soup. The preparation of amazake has become easier with the use of modern technology, but the traditional methods are still used by those who want to achieve the best flavor and texture.
The History of Jiu Niang
Jiu niang is a staple food in many parts of China and is widely available in local markets. It is also commonly used as an energy booster and is said to be good for people who are sick. In Japan, jiu niang is called “amazake” and is a popular drink during the winter months. It is often served hot, depending on the desired taste.
The Different Types of Jiu Niang
There are many different types of jiu niang, depending on the type of rice used and the particular sweetener added. Some common types of jiu niang include:
- Coarse jiu niang: This type of jiu niang is made with rice that has been cut into small pieces and is commonly used in Chinese cooking.
- Fine jiu niang: This type of jiu niang is made with rice that has been ground into a fine powder and is commonly used in Japanese cooking.
- Meat jiu niang: This type of jiu niang is made by adding meat to the fermentation process, resulting in a savory and slightly sweet flavor.
The Present and Future of Jiu Niang
Today, jiu niang is still a popular drink and food ingredient in both China and Japan. It is widely available in local markets and can also be purchased from makers directly. With its excellent natural fermentation properties and plenty of health benefits, jiu niang is a drink and food that is sure to remain a staple in Chinese and Japanese culture for centuries to come.
How to Serve Amazake
Before we dive into the instructions, let’s make sure we have everything we need to make and serve amazake:
- 1 cup of koji (rice that has been inoculated with the Aspergillus oryzae mold)
- 4 cups of water
- 1/2 cup of sugar (you can use substitutes like honey or maple syrup if you prefer)
- A large pot or rice cooker with a “keep warm” function
- A thermometer (optional but helpful to maintain temperature control)
- A cloth or mold to set the amazake in
- A pin or fork to poke holes in the mold
- A bowl to serve the amazake in
1. Rinse the koji in cold water and let it soak for 1-2 hours to soften it up.
2. Drain the koji and add it to a large pot or rice cooker with 4 cups of water.
3. Cook the mixture on low heat (around 140ºF) for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. If using a rice cooker, set it to the “porridge” function.
4. After 8-10 hours, the mixture should have thickened and turned slightly darker in color. Turn off the heat and let it cool down to around 120ºF.
5. Add the sugar and stir until fully dissolved.
6. Transfer the mixture to a cloth or mold and cover it with a lid or cloth. Poke holes in the mold to allow for air circulation.
7. Let the amazake sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours to allow for fermentation to occur. The longer you let it sit, the sweeter and more alcoholic it will become.
8. Once the fermentation process is complete, the amazake should be sufficiently sweet and thick. You can serve it hot or cold, depending on your preference.
9. To serve, measure out the desired amount into a bowl and enjoy!
Tips and Tricks
- Make sure to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the cooking and fermentation process. Too hot and the enzymes will be destroyed, too cold and the fermentation won’t progress.
- If you don’t have a rice cooker with a “keep warm” function, you can use a thermos or slow cooker to maintain the temperature.
- If you love the taste of amazake but don’t want to go through the hassle of making it from scratch, instant amazake mixes are available at many grocery stores and online retailers.
- Amazake is a popular drink during the Hina Matsuri festival in Japan, but it can be enjoyed year-round as a healthy and natural sweet treat.
How to Serve Jiu Niang
- Jiu niang is a sweet fermented rice dessert that is best served cold.
- Before consuming, make sure to check the progress of the fermentation process.
- The longer the rice sits, the stronger the aroma and taste will be.
- To consume, simply pour the jiu niang into a glass and enjoy.
Storing Jiu Niang
- If you have leftover jiu niang, store it in sterilized jars or containers with a tight-fitting lid.
- Make sure to cover the jiu niang completely with liquid to prevent any unwanted changes in the fermentation process.
- If you want to store jiu niang for a longer period of time, freeze it in smaller containers to make it easier to thaw and consume later.
- Be careful not to store jiu niang for too long, as it may turn mushy and lose its natural sweetness.
- If you don’t have the time or patience to wait for the fermentation process, you can try making instant jiu niang by mixing cooked glutinous rice with warm water and yeast.
- Another option is to pressure cook the rice with water and yeast, which can speed up the fermentation process and result in a similar taste to traditional jiu niang.
- You can also try adding other ingredients like fruit or spices to create a unique flavor profile.
- Jiu niang can be served as a dessert on its own or used as a topping for other dishes.
- It pairs well with fresh fruit, nuts, or whipped cream.
- For a warm and comforting treat, try spreading jiu niang on toast or mixing it into oatmeal.
- Jiu niang can also be used in savory dishes, such as stir-fries or marinades, to add a sweet and tangy flavor.
Which Is Better? Both are delicious, but if you’re looking for a sweet rice drink that’s non-alcoholic, then Amazake is the way to go. Jiu niang is a bit more traditional and can be enjoyed as a dessert snack. I hope you’ve found this guide helpful in deciding which one is right for you!
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.