Recipe: Homemade Sweet Wine Rice(酒酿/醪糟)

Chinese sweet wine rice is a unique Chinese ingredient. It is made from fermenting cooked glutinous rice with yeast until very sweet. If you know, yeast eats the starch in the rice and converts it to sweet sugars. If you let it go longer, the sugar will be converted into alcohol later. But at this point, the alcohol level is very, very low, like the amount found in ripe fruits. I can tell it’s so low since mh face is not red after eating it. Especially as it is served heated, the tiny amount of alcohol inside is evaporated anyways. Anyways, the resulting product is rice with a unique texture due to the starch being eaten and a very sweet taste. This rice is used in some delicious Chinese foods, including my favorite dessert, black sesame filled tang yuan in sweet rice wine soup. It’s SO GOOD. However, I have heard that some non-Chinese don’t like the flavor of it. But many do really like it too. So I recommend you to buy this wine rice from the Chinese grocery store in the open refrigerated section like where the pressed tofu, etc. are kept, and it should be nearby. The storebought one does cost a lot! And so if you like it, it is quite simple to make it yourself at home! I just recommend buying first in case you don’t like the large batch you made at home.

To make this wine rice, you need glutinous rice, also called sweet rice, sticky rice, mochi rice, and other names. These names are all extremely problematic and confusing. First, sweet rice is confusing since it ISN’T sweet (until it’s fermented). Second, sticky rice, that’s fine right? Cause the texture is stickier than normal rice… but wait! Ugh, Americans HAVE to call Japanese rice (used in every Japanese meal and in sushi) sticky rice too! And these two are TOTALLY different. So don’t EVER confuse them! Or else the rice in this recipe will not cook nor become sweet. Third, mochi rice is fine, a literal translation of the Japanese term, もち米… but that only describes the Japanese version used in mochi (short grain). There’s also a Thai version (long grain)! Fourth, glutinous rice, great! No other rice is called glutinous rice, and glutinous means “sticky”! But wait… it sounds like “gluten” that protein that all these health food fads are blaming right now and causing Americans to have wheat-phobia even without Celiac disease! Oh no! Because NO RICE contains this gluten! It’s just called glutinous cause it’s sticky. So honestly there isn’t a good English name for this rice! The only thing that works is the Chinese name 糯米, hehe.

PS. Of these four names, different country cuisines tend to use different names. Glutinous rice is most often used name by Chinese. Sticky rice is common name in Thailand but glutinous is also used. Sweet rice and mochi rice are both used in Japan. Sweet rice is used in Korea. But there are also exceptions.

Anyways, there are two varieties of the glutinous rice. The short grain Japanese version and the long-grain Thai version. The Thai version is cooked by steaming, while the Japanese version is cooked like regular white rice but with less water. I’m not really sure about the one used in China. My mom says that they always used the short version. But traditionally, the rice is steamed. Either variety works in this recipe. I currently use Thai glutinous rice so I’m not sure if the steaming cooks Japanese rice in the same time. Or you can boil it. To buy the different kinds, for Thai rice look for “Product of Thailand”. Japanese glutinous rice is often labeled sweet rice and is grown in the USA, in California. Japan doesn’t export very much rice.

Regular rice is translucent when raw (light can pass through, somewhat clear) while opaque when cooked (totally white). Glutinous rice is opaque when raw (totally white) and translucent when cooked (light can pass through, somewhat clear). That’s one way to see the difference!

If wondering, glutinous rice is also used to make the flour used to make Tang Yuan. The version we use is the Thai one because it is soaked in water, ground very finely, then dried. It says in Chinese on the package that it is soaked but not in English, hehe. The Japanese rice made into mochiko is not soaked. You should use soaked for tang yuan, but mochiko works too. Anyways, see the tang yuan post for how to make them. 🙂

Okay, so any more confusions about rice varieties and such can be asked in the comments. I’m glad to help!

The next ingredient we need is Chinese yeast balls for making rice wines. They are shaped like balls, and made of yeast grown on rice, then dried and powdered. Unfortunately, they come in packs of TONS of yeast balls! I can make hundreds of liters of wine rice with one package! Anyways these are super hard to find. After scanning the aisle like crazy I found it. It’s labeled “RICE CAKE”! XD

And no, the baking yeast does not work in this recipe, you have to use the Chinese yeast ball 😦

That’s actually all the ingredients you need. For equipment, you need a steamer and a cheesecloth. I use a stainless steel steamer set, with a pot on bottom, 2 baskets on top, and a lid. You can also use bamboo steamers with a stainless steel wok or a rack in a pot. But the stainless steel steamer is much easier to use! Just buy one set for $30 or less and you can make steamed buns, and much more. Remember the cheesecloth for steaming the rice! You can also cook Japanese glutinous rice in a rice cooker. If you use Zojirushi or other similar brand, the inside of the pot has the amount of water to add.

You’ll also need a really large bowl, or the traditional wine fermentation jars! A large colander that can fit all the rice is very helpful. And a bowl + rolling pin, or a real mortar and pestle, or just use a coffee grinder.

This recipe is adapted from use real butter. Their wonderful recipe method is the exact same as how it is made in China! It has been made this way for centuries, and my mom told me how my grandma made it in China. So I hope you enjoy 😀

First, use 500 grams of glutinous rice. You can also double it but I halved the original because I am just testing it this time, and making too large a batch isn’t good. Rinse the rice 3 times, and use the water to feed your plants. Rinsing too much gets rid of too much starch and it’s a waste, and it’ll never become clear water since it’s glutinous rice. You can just rinse once if you like! After rinsing, cover with water and soak overnight. If making in the evening, it’s fine to soak in the morning. You can even soak 24 hours too.

After soaking, drain. (BTW if using 1 kg of rice, you can do 2 batches.) Take the steamer basket and line with a cheesecloth. Spread the soaked rice flat on top. Then meanwhile bring water to a boil over high heat in the steamer pot. After boiling, put the basket containing rice on top. Cover and cook for 20 minutes on high.

While steaming, crush one yeast ball in a bowl until a powder. It shouldn’t be too coarse, but it doesn’t have to be way too fine  like flour either. Fine is better than coarse though. By the way, I’m using twice the normal amount of yeast, which is 1 ball to 1 kg rice. But you can’t really use 1/2 ball, and I bought so many yeast balls anyways. Also, using more yeast doesn’t hurt, so it’s fine.

Open (be careful not to burn yourself with steam) and taste the rice to see if it is cooked. It’s cooked when soft to eat, translucent. If cooked, proceed to next step. Otherwise, keep cooking for 5 minutes or longer until cooked.

Now put in a colander that can fit it. Rinse under cold running water until it cools down. It shouldn’t be cold, but not hot either. If hot, the yeast will die! Basically a little warm or just room temperature is fine. The rinsing step is the cool down the rice. It also absorbs more water, which is important. Remember to use clean water. In the USA and UK, etc. tap water is fine. But in other countries, like China, you should boil the water first then cool down. Then drain in the colander. Transfer to the fermentation container, which is the large bowl that can fit the rice. Or the traditional jar.

Tip! No rinsing, no wasting water? It’s more challenging, but okay. Transfer just cooked rice to the fermentation container. Then add 1 cup cold water. Mix with rice spatula until abosorbed. When it’s a little warm. You can see if is dry now. You can add like 1/2 cup more water or so. This is pretty hard to judge. It also heats up the bowl. So I just recommend rinsing.

Once rice is a little warm or room temperature, sprinkle yeast on top. In China you mix with your hands, clean, or in a clean food glove. I prefer to use a rice paddle though. Mix very thoroughly. Then press down on the rice. Lastly make a hole in the middle. (Sorry, I didn’t take pictures! You can check the recipe with pictures on use real butter). Then cover with plastic wrap (or the lid). Make a few small slits in it (if using wrap of course!). Then put in a safe place. I use the oven, turned off. Leave for 3 days. You can check on it every day. If your climate is cold, you can leave the oven light on.

The rice, as fermenting, will release liquid in a day or so. By 3 days, it should be the same level as the rice. When it should be ready, taste a little rice. It should be sweet. It should taste similar to the wine rice you get at the store. For some people, it can be ready in 2 days! For others (colder probably) it may be ready in a week.

I call it wine rice instead of rice wine. Because it is mostly rice, not wine. Only a little liquid.

If it gets mold, throw it away 😦

But you can prevent mold! Make sure you use clean utensils and water. And get NO OIL OR GREASE AT ALL in the rice. This totally ruins the whole process. Remember that!

Okay, when ready, I transfer to a clean jar and refrigerate it. In the fridge, it ferments much slower. But it will still become sour after too long. So use in a week or so. When sour it is not as tasty.

To enjoy! Put a heaping tbsp in a cup or bowl. Add boiling water. About 1/2 cup. Mix and stir. Enjoy!

You can also make my favorite, delicious, amazing, wonderful dessert, 酒酿汤圆 or tang yuan (with black sesame filling!) in sweet rice wine. I will post this recipe next. REALLY look forward to it. Since it’s SO GOOD!! 😀

Note: In Chinese, this wine rice is called 酒酿 and also 醪糟, they mean the same thing.

Picture! This is the rice yeast ball 🙂


A preview of the wonderful dessert recipe coming next 🙂

And you may think it looks not pretty. But don’t worry it’s good!


Enjoy! 😀


12 thoughts on “Recipe: Homemade Sweet Wine Rice(酒酿/醪糟)

  1. I’ve read, then read again this
    wine rice recipe and find this more intimidating then making Tang Wuan. (I’ve actually got a can of Red bean paste on my counter as a filling for My Korean Pumpkin pancakes loosely based by Maangchi’s recipe) not sure why since ingredients are very simple.

    1. Duh! Don’t worry! Tang yuan is REALLY easy, especially unfilled one. So definitely making WINE is much more intimidating than forming balls out of dough, as we have been doing as a child with play doh, hehe. For any wine, the ingredients are simple. A grain or fruit plus a yeast, and water… fermentation and voila! Well this isn’t really a wine but a “pre-wine” as I call it since the sugar is not converted to alcohol yet. But still same idea.
      By pumpkin pancakes of Maangchi, you mean savory squash pancake (hobakjeon)? Maangchi (and Korean cuisine) has no recipe for sweet pumpkin pancakes that I know of. And red bean paste is very sweet, and can only possibly be used as part of a dessert. So perhaps you mean something else?
      Or maybe the Chinese pumpkin pancakes made with pumpkin puree mixed with glutinous rice flour into a dough like tang yuan, then formed small pancakes and lightly pan-fried? Even though red bean paste is not used in the traditional way, you do give me a great idea to make sandwiches of these pancakes filled with red bean paste 🙂
      Anyways, please clarify what you meant, sorry I didn’t understand. But if you have red bean paste, it would be nice to make tang yuan, just no need for a soup since most of the time they are just served plain in China if they have a filling. Yummy! Just put only a tiny amount of filling inside each tang yuan, or they might leak. Only when very skilled, the filling amount can go higher, hehe.
      PS. You can also make tang yuan with pumpkin + glutinous rice flour dough, and possibly fill with red bean paste 🙂

      1. I’m using Maanchi mix as a base and tweeking it by adding a 1/2 of pumpkin for a sweet pancake
        so a hotteok? I guess made even sweeter with red bean but at least no walnut/cinnamon filling which is more common.
        what a great suggestion of adding Pumpkin to Tang Wuan.
        I’ve gotten and have modified many recipes to suit my taste or experiment with flavor a so many times my recipes are loosely based on other recipes so the name do not necessarily match with other recipes. it’s cold and just wanted to make something that will go so good with the weather 🙂

      2. That’s extremely fusion-like (not bad thing) and interesting, hehe. Hotteok are very tasty and I made once. But annoying to make at home since so time consuming. I would rather call them sweet breads, not pancakes, since that’s what they are.
        I understand. Just don’t put a country’s name before the fusion food. That’s the part that sometimes can irritate people (sometimes me but only when it’s an extreme example). Like when people say “Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken” or “Hunan General Tso’s Chicken” but it’s actually nothing at all like how it’s made in the provinces. So when I make a recipe like that I put “_____-Inspired” before instead of the country name. Like my so-called Uyghur-Inspired Kababs that are nothing like how Uyghurs make them in Xinjiang but still, they include lamb and cumin. Sorry if it sounds like criticism, but I hope it can be helpful 🙂

  2. P.S. please excuse me if I have the wrong Korean name for the sweet pancake. I’m very bad at remembering names.
    I hope your mom has a nice Mother’s Day’ 🙂

    1. Yes, please call it “Tang Yuan” if you can remember. I understand since you don’t speak the language, you don’t know that “wuan” cannot be pronounced as a syllable in Chinese. Just remember it’s pronounced like “tong” as in those tongs that Americans use to mix pasta. And “yuan” is pronounced like how foreigners pronounce the Japanese currency, the yen. But with a small w sound between the y and e. This is challenging for non-Chinese, so if you just say “tong yen” it makes enough sense. Probably some dialect leaves out the w anyways. (PS. For tones, tang is first tone, yuan is third tone. Tones are optional for people not speaking Chinese and they are too hard to describe without a voice recording. With a voice recording, it’s really, really easy though.) If you’re wondering, tang yuan means “soup round”. Tang means soup. Yuan means something that is round. Yuan quan = circle, etc. (quan rhymes with yuan, and q in Chinese is pronouced like when you say “put you” quickly and it becomes like “putchu”, then it’s the “tch” in the middle.) Sorry if I confused you in this first paragraph, lol.
      Thank you!

      1. not sure what I was thinking when I made THAT mistake. Thanks for the correction. Have a great Sunday!!

    2. PS. Hotteok is correct. It’s pronounced like hot duck, with a British accent, but a stress on hot. That means hot is pronounced more strongly. Like in Spanish when a vowel has a accent like á, it is stressed.

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