March 14, 2017

Homemade Chinese Fermented Rice 自製甜酒釀

Homemade Chinese Fermented Rice 自製甜酒釀

Homemade, Chinese, Fermented Rice, jiuniang, jiu niang, 自製, 甜酒釀, shanghai wine yeast ball, rice wine starter, 酒麴, 上海酒餅丸, glutinous rice, sticky rice
By Published: 2017-03-14
One of the special traditional foods that my grandma knew how to make was Homemade Chinese Fermented Rice, also known as Jiu Niang or 甜酒釀, a fresh, sweet and slighty winey fermented rice with a porridge like texture.  She would make tons of the stuff and pass it out to all the family but no one liked to eat it as much as me.  I loooved the stuff and would eat it slowly, one delicious creamy spoonful at a time, from a huge jar in the fridge.  Now I know that my childhood fondness for Chinese fermented rice was probably due in a large part to my predilection for the tastes and flavors of alcoholic beverages as this fermented rice is slightly boozy.  (Ummm...mom, dad, what the hey?!)  But I digress from the topic at hand.  The point here is that I still love this stuff and I finally got up the gumption to try to make Chinese Fermented Rice at home.  Guess what?  It was easy peasy and it is so d*mn good when freshly fermented!  I'm over the moon...I can have all the Jiu Niang I want forever!

Besides the joys of food nostalgia, nowadays I know more about food and how important eating naturally fermented foods are to your health and body.  Naturally fermented foods are enriched during the breakdown process with all kinds of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds that your body needs and probably doesn't get enough of with all the processed foods we eat nowadays.  I think that we should all be eating a bit of fermented food everyday.  And Jiu Niang is going to be a house favorite for that spot, I'm sure.

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It's really pretty easy to make.  The only part that might require a wee bit of work is locating the special yeast, Chinese rice wine starter 酒麴, also known as shanghai wine yeast balls 上海酒餅丸.  This same type of yeast is used to make Chinese wines and spirits.  This wine yeast ball is not replaceable by regular yeast, the taste is very different.  We got our wine yeast balls easily at the dried foods vendors at our local wet market (you have to ask specifically for them though) but if you can't find these at your local asian grocer's you can get your chinese wine yeast balls here.

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Glutinous rice 糯米, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is used to make fermented rice.  It is not the same as regular rice.  There are different kinds of glutinous rice, some shorter and some longer.  What I've heard is that the shorter glutinous rice will make for a sweeter fermented rice and the longer glutinous rice will make for a more aromatic fermented rice.

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Wash the rice grains a few times to rinse away most of the starch and then steam cook the glutinous  rice until tender and cooked all the way through.  You can check doneness by biting into a grain of rice, the center of rice should be cooked through.  After this point you must make sure that all your bowls, jars and utensils are sterilized (with a bit of boiling water) before use and that your hands are very, very clean.  This is to avoid any strange contaminants that could ruin the fermentation of whole batch of rice.

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The wine yeast balls need to be crushed to powder before mixing with the cooked glutinous rice so here I'm are banging at the yeast balls with one end of my rolling pin.  If you have a mortar and pestle that would work perfectly here.  But don't worry the balls are not that hard to break apart.

Once you mix your cooked glutinous rice with your ground up yeast balls and a wee bit of clean water you can pour it all into your fermenting container.  This should be a sterilized jar of ceramic or glass with a lid that is not airtight or can be left not completely closed.  This will allow the fermenting gases a way to escape.  You can also use a proper fermenting jar with an airlock device that lets gas escape while keeping air out, an awesome and handy device in my opinion if you want to ferment stuff.  
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If using a fermenting container that is not see through, it is a good idea to poke a hole, again using very clean utensil, all the way down to the bottom of your rice, as you can see in the photo above.  This allows you to easily assess the fermentation by checking if the hole is filled with liquid.  When the hole fills up with liquid, your fermentation is very close to finished.  If your container is clear you don't need the hole as you can check the liquid level from the sides as you can see from the photo at the top of this post.  Put your fermentation jar in a warm place to work, easy enough in the summer but in the colder months you could stick it next to your space heater like I did.


Okay, enough about the making, let's get on to the eating!  Here, below is a bowl of the finished fermented rice.  See how creamy and liquid and yummilicious it looks.  And how to describe this unique taste?  Well, it's ricey with a slightly sake like flavor (alcohol content of 1.5-2%) while still really fresh and sweet tasting.  The rice grains are soft and almost dissolved in the clear sweet broth of the fermentation.  What else can I say?  Really it's like nothing else and similar to other unique tastes, at first it may be a surprise when you taste it but watch out!  This Homemade Chinese Fermented Rice 甜酒釀 will creep up on you and you will find yourself as addicted to it as I am!

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Homemade Chinese Fermented Rice Recipe  自製甜酒釀

Prep time:    Cook time: 

Ingredients:

500g  glutinous rice 糯米, around 4 cups
1 rice yeast ball 上海酒餅丸 (10-15g)
1/2 cup boiled water, cooled to room temperature

Directions:

Soak rice 4-5 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse a couple of times until the rinsed off water is pretty clear.  Drain off water and then add fresh water to just cover the rice.  Steam over high heat for 30-40 mins until rice is completely cooked.  Let cool completely.

Crush the yeast ball to powder.  Put cooked rice, yeast ball powder and around 1/2 cup cool boiled water into a sterilized mixing bowl and use a sterilised utensil to mix completely, loosening the rice grains to separate them as much as possible.  You can use your hand here too to mix, just be sure to clean and dry your hands really well before mixing.

Pour into your sterilized fermenting jar.  If using a non transparent jar, use a sterilized utensil like a chopstick to poke a finger sized hole into the center of the rice all the way to the bottom.  Cover the jar, but leave a small gap so that fermenting gases can escape.  Place in the warmest place for 2-5 days, around 86º-95ºF or 30º-35ºC.  

The fermentation is done when rice is very wet and liquidy and moves around freely when you gently shake the jar.  If you have a hole, the fermentation liquid should fill the hole up.  If you can see into the sides of your jar, there should be 1 1/2" to 2" of liquid at the bottom of the jar (see photo, very top of post).  The texture of the fermented rice should be like a thick rice congee or porridge and the taste should be very sweet and fresh, ricey and slightly alcoholic.

Stir the fermented rice with clean utensil and store in the fridge for up to a month.  To serve, use clean utensil to spoon from jar.

Some yummilicious things to make with your Homemade Chinese Fermented Rice:

-Fermented Rice Egg Drop Sweet Soup - 1/4-1/2 cup water to each cup of fermented rice,heat up in small pot, poach an egg in the sweet soup and enjoy.
-Homemade Face Mask - Because of the fermentation, this rice is chock full of enzymes and other goodies for your skin.  I've tried it and it's fabulous!



More Glutinous Rice Recipes at The Hong Kong Cookery:

daifuku, homemade, Mochi, recipe, red bean, sweet mochi, sweet rice cake, 大福, 糯米糍, 紅豆麻糬Homemade Red Bean Mochi 紅豆麻糬

2 comments:

  1. Looks great, I love Jim niang! Can you share which wet market you found the yeast balls at? I used a brand of yeast that was rectangular shaped and I wasn't too thrilled with the results, I would like to try with the round shape ball yeast. I'm living in Kowloon but work Island side so willing to travel to find it!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Harry and Dee Dee - I got my yeast balls at the wet market in Kennedy Town. You will have to ask for it, it's not on display. Best of luck on your next batch of Jiu Niang! ~ellen

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