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!