Fortify Steamed Bread and Sesame Sauce with Nutrient-Rich, Sweet Koji Amazake

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Amazake steamed bread

Chef Misa Enomoto likes to add koji amazake to dishes because the malted rice drink, dubbed as a “drinkable intravenous drip,” contains various nutrients. I recommend using it particularly at this time of year, when the temperature drops and people are prone to becoming ill.

I’ve recently been feeling tired, probably because my body can’t adjust to the seasonal change. There’s a fatigue I’m unable to shrug off. Then I remembered that Enomoto, who is a certified fermentation-meister, had recommended drinking koji amazake, a sweet nonalcoholic sake made from fermented rice with malted rice added to it, saying that drinking it in the morning would keep me energized throughout the day. I immediately bought some, drank it, and straightaway I could feel a gentle sweetness permeate my body and soothe me. Now I know why it is called an intravenous drip.

Koji amazake is produced by fermenting malted rice and other ingredients. It is different from ordinary amazake, which is made by dissolving sake lees in water and adding sugar. Koji amazake contains no sugar, but enzymes derived from the koji mold dissolve rice starch and protein, giving it a unique sweetness and flavor.

The drink is rich in nutrients such as vitamin B, which helps relieve fatigue, dietary fiber and oligosaccharides, which are good for the intestines. In recent years, the drink has been attracting attention as a health food and can be found in supermarkets and convenience stores. Enomoto recommends using koji amazake when cooking, as doing so makes it easy to incorporate it into your diet.

She showed me how to make steamed bread using koji amazake.

Using koji amazake reduces the amount of sugar in the recipe and gives the bread a gentle sweetness. By tweaking the recipe, Enomoto said she made a cake for her son’s 1st birthday.

“The steamed bread has a simple taste and can be enjoyed with a sense of relief,” she said.

Recently, my 13-year-old son’s appetite has increased dramatically, and I was concerned because a lot of baked sweets I had stocked were quickly running out. I thought the koji amazake bread seemed healthier than the sugar-laden sweets found on store shelves. I put the bread I had made on the table instead of the snacks, and when I returned from work, it was all gone.

I asked my son, “Did it taste good?” He replied, “Yes. By the way, what’s for dinner?” I was surprised how big an appetite a teenage boy has, so I will make the bread again because he liked it so much.

Enomoto also gave me a recipe for koji amazake sesame sauce. It calls for no sugar as the sauce makes use of the koji amazake’s sweetness.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Amazake sesame sauce

All that is required to simply mix half a cup of koji amazake, 3 tablespoon of white sesame seed paste, and 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce and black vinegar in a bowl. It tastes like a sesame dressing but, without the sugar and oil, it is refreshing. The sauce goes well with salads, steamed vegetables, pork shabu-shabu, steamed chicken and many other dishes.

Why not make shabu-shabu hot pot for tonight’s dinner? The ponzu that we usually use and the amazake sesame sauce will surely give us even bigger appetites.

Amazake steamed bread

Ingredients (for five pudding cups measuring 7 cm in diameter)

  • 100 g cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 130cc koji amazake
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar (or sugar)
  • 1 tbsp untoasted sesame oil (or salad oil, rapeseed oil)

  • Direction

    1. Mix the koji amazake and light brown sugar in a bowl. When the sugar dissolves, add the untoasted sesame oil and mix.

    2. Mix the cake flour and baking powder, sift them together and mix everything gently with a whisk until there are no lumps.

    3. Put paper cups into the pudding cups and fill them with the dough until they are 7/10 to 8/10 full. Place in a steamer with steam rising and steam them on high heat for about 15 minutes. Steam until the dough does not stick to a bamboo skewer.