It’s the third day of the Lunar New Year (though I haven’t celebrated for the past 9 years since I came to Japan), and I’m writing in bed recovering from a very bad case of indigestion from yesterday. I’d come back from lunch with my friends at a trendy, health oriented cafe with acute stomach pains that made me double over (something I often suffered from when I was still eating gluten) after eating the egg pudding. I’d thought it might have contained gluten, but Kai called the cafe to check for me and it wasn’t the case. I spent quite a bit of time in the toilet and most of my time in bed moaning in pain, or sleeping. I suspect my stomach problems to have something to do with my pollen allergy. It’s only the beginning of February, and I can’t believe the pollen season started so early this year!
Needless to say, I have zero appetite and very little energy. Even drinking warm water yesterday would cause my stomach to rumble and grumble. The only food I can stomach so far is amazake - sweet sake - (picture above) and miso soup. Both are fermented Japanese foods made of koji, rice inoculated with fermentation culture, that are healing.
Despite its name, amazake doesn’t have any alcohol content. Not the one that I make at home, though it could turn into alcohol if I fermented it longer. I’d learn to make amazake from Kai, who made it a few months ago. I was inspired to make it myself when my massage therapist friend advised me to drink amazake when I’m suffering from poor digestion. It’s really easy to make and before I got sick, I was drinking this every morning and after returning from work. It made my bowel movements more regular and a lot smoother. It’s naturally sweet and warming (if you drink it warm). I’d even think about it at work, like it was an addiction!
Amazake is produced by combining cooked rice with koji, a fermented product made by mixing rice with aspergillus oryzae and incubating at a warm temperature for several hours. Fermented foods like amazake might benefit your stomach if you don’t digest food well. The enzymes in amazake help break down fats, complex carbohydrates and proteins for your body to use.
Rice fermented with aspergillus oryzae might help your body eliminate toxins such as polyvinyl chloride, according to a Japanese study published in the October 2004 “Chemosphere.” The study compared blood levels of PVCs and other toxins in Japanese women who consumed the mixture with those who did not over a two-year period. Women who consumed the mixture eliminated more of the toxins than those who did not. This was a very small study of just nine women, but it did show a possible benefit of the mixture.
Here’s a blog post by a Japanese woman living in LA on how to make amazake.