How to make Chinese food Laozao-Fermented Rice? So, this week we wanted to show you how to make Laozao – lightly fermented sticky rice ‘wine’.
Depending on the region, Laozao is also called Jiuniang.
It’s a widely used ingredient in Chinese cooking – it has a very delicate sweetness, and an almost undetectable alcohol hint.
You can see it in Chinese desserts, it can also be used in savory and spicy dishes for it’s umami and balancing effect.
But before getting started, let’s talk about rice leaven.
How To Make Chinese Food Laozao-fermented Rice?
Rice leaven is a type of focus that’s used to make rice wine.
In the early stages of fermentation, it will facilitate saccharification – that means breaking starch down into sugar, and the sweetness we taste in Laozao comes from that process.
Here in China, the rice leaven is called tianjiuqu, sweet rice wine koji – the fungus in it is ‘Rhizopus’ (genmeijun).
Traditionally it comes in little balls mixed with dried herbs, but nowadays you can get these little packets from supermarkets. we saw it on Amazon, and I think your local Chinese supermarket may also carry it.
So there’s another kind of rice leaven, which is the Japanese rice koji.
The fungus in it is called ‘Aspergillus oryzae’,which is a different species than the Chinese type.
We got this bag from an online koji workshop, and we’ll also show you how to use it to make some sweetened rice wine.
So let’s get started, Laozao first. In order to make Laozao, you’ll need sticky rice.
Here’s 500 grams of sticky rice, rinse it til the water runs clear, and soak it for 3 to 4 hours in summer and overnight in winter.
A couple hours later, our rice is done soaking.
Now strain it, place it on a bamboo steamer with a cloth on it, poke some holes in your rice to let the steam come through, and now we can steam it. We need to steam the rice for 45 minutes.
And remember to come back every fifteen minutes to check on the water level in your wok and add some water if needed.
Also, pour some water [~1/2 cup or so] onto your sticky rice to make sure it steams evenly.
So after 45 minutes, our rice is done steaming.
Now take it out, uncover, and flip it occasionally.
We need to cool the rice down, and our target temperature will be 35 degrees centigrade.
Now the rice has come down to 35 degrees,so we can add it our rice leaven.
Take two grams of the rice leaven powder, add 150 grams of bottled water to it, and now mix this mixture with your sticky rice.
Mix well, gently press the sticky rice down, make a little hole in the middle of it, and this hole will be our observation window to see if our rice wine is done. And now cover it with seran wrap, and let it ferment at 30 degrees Celsius for 36 hours.
So now, let’s move on to Japanese rice koji.
This recipe will give you the Japanese amazake, which’s sweeter, doesn’t have alcohol, and’s a little bit different than Laozao.
But after comparing and contrasting, we think you can still in a place of Laozao in a pinch, so in case rice koji is the only thing you
can get, we figured that we might as well also show you how to make the rice ‘wine’ using this one.
So, making amazake is much easier. All you need is 500 grams of sticky rice, rinse it, add 1.8 liters of water to it, cook it into
a very thick congee in your rice cooker.
Then take it out, let it cool down to 50 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile, take 200 grams of the rice koji, break the clumps into individual rice grains and once your congee is down to 50 degrees, add the rice koji to your congee.
Mix it well and cover it. We’ll need to ferment it at 60 degrees for 12 hours.
Come back, stir it every 3-4 hours.
So now that we talked about how to make rice wine, let’s look at our final products.
First, laozao. You can see that your Laozao is done once you can see liquid coming out from this little hole in the middle.
And now that your laozao is done, you need to transfer this into the fridge to stop the fermentation and it’ll stay good in the fridge for about a week.
Next, let’s look at our amazake. 12 hours later, the really thick congee becomes something that’s very liquid-y.
Usually, this will be blended into a very creamy drink and drank directly.
But here we’re saving saving some grains for seasoning [to use in Chinese dishes].
Again, you need to put this in the fridge, and it’ll stay good in the fridge for about twelve days.
Laozao has a lighter taste and a little bit more delicate flavor, while amazake is sweeter and richer. Both are pretty easy and straightforward, so if you are into fermentation, I do think you can give them a try. And, of course, buy this at your local Asian supermarket if you are feeling lazy.
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