Recipe: Amazake Purin For The Japanese New Year
A Naturally Sweet Egg Custard
January 2, 2023
Japanese Culture, Recipes
The classic Japanese custard pudding gets a seasonal twist with amazake.
During oshogatsu (Japanese New Year), people in Japan huddle outside of temples and shrines to pray for an auspicious year, hands warmed by steaming cups of amazake (fermented rice drink).
Incorporating the cheery holiday drink, this amazake purin recipe below riffs on the classic flan-like Japanese purin (custard pudding). Amazake acts as a natural sweetener, so the only added sugar here is in the caramel—a dark, fragrant sauce with just enough bitterness and depth to counterbalance the amazake’s sweetness.
Amazake: The “drinkable IV”
Amazake has been around for over a thousand years. According to the Nihon Shoki, the second-oldest book of Japanese historical records, the sweet beverage can be traced back to the Kofun period (approximately 250-538 AD); renowned for its health benefits, even back then.
Although it literally translates to “sweet sake,” amazake is actually a low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beverage that can be enjoyed by all ages. Its nickname is “drinkable IV” as it’s packed with nutrients. Amazake is said to have numerous health benefits, from combatting fatigue and strengthening the immune system to anti-aging properties.
There are two types of amazake. The alcoholic version is made with sake kasu (sake lees), which is a byproduct of sake production created when the moromi (fermentation mash) is compressed and the sake is extracted, leaving behind the nutritious lees. Meanwhile, the non-alcoholic type is made with rice koji, steamed rice that’s been inoculated with the mold culture Aspergillus oryzae. Its alcohol content is below one percent, making it suitable for children.
What does amazake taste like?
Despite containing zero added sugar, amazake is quite sweet as the fermentation process allows starches from the rice to turn to glucose. With a thick consistency and visible grains of rice, amazake is a hearty drink that’s often served warm in the winter months—with a splash of additional sake for adults who want a bit of extra fire in their bellies (though a grating of ginger also does the trick). During summer, amazake can be served cold, mixed into smoothies or used as a natural sweetener in desserts.
Amazake Purin Recipe
Below we share two methods for making amazake purin from scratch: a speedy and convenient microwave method and a stovetop version for batch-cooking.
Yields one mug-sized portion.
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp water
- 80ml strained amazake
- 40ml whole milk
- 1 large egg
- Pinch of salt
- For the caramel sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of water in a mug or ramekin.
- Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes until dark brown, checking occasionally so as not to burn the caramel sauce.
- Remove mug from microwave and quickly mix in 1 teaspoon water before the caramel hardens. Be careful, as the caramel will sizzle.
- Set the mug aside to cool.
- In another vessel, strain your amazake, reserving 80 milliliters of the liquid for this recipe (the rice solids can be discarded or saved and blended into a smoothie).
- For the custard, beat one egg in a bowl with a pinch of salt.
- Add 80 milliliters of strained amazake and 40 milliliters milk. Mix well.
- Strain the custard mixture through a sieve to ensure a silky texture.
- Pour the custard gently into the mug or ramekin so as not to disturb the caramel sauce.
Microwave Purin Method
Japanese purin is a delicate dessert–overcook it and you’ll get a pockmarked surface and spongy interior; undercook it and you’ll have a saccharine soup. Every microwave is different, so it will take some trial and error to get the right cook time for yours. But once you find the sweet spot, this dessert will become an everyday indulgence.
- Microwave for 1-2 minutes or more, checking often, as it is easy to undercook or overcook. In my microwave at 600 watts, it takes about 1 minute 50 seconds.
- Stop cooking when the surface of the custard is partially set and jiggles just slightly. If it looks fully set or is bubbling vigorously, it is probably overcooked.
- Remove the mug from the microwave and cover with foil or a small dish and leave it for 15-30 minutes.
- You can enjoy it warm or, for a cold dessert, let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- To serve, run a small knife around the edge of the mug or ramekin.
- Place a plate on top of the mug and flip it over, with confidence! The purin and caramel sauce should release easily from the mug.
Stovetop Purin Method
Despite the convenient nature of the microwave, the stovetop cook method is a bit more consistent, yielding a smoother texture. It’s also much better for batch cooking if you’re making multiples.
- Bring a frying pan of water (about 1 centimeter in depth) to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and add your ramekins.
- Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your purin cups (my 8-centimeter diameter ramekins took about 10 minutes).
- Turn off the heat and, with the lid still on, leave them to cook in the residual heat for another 15 minutes.
- Remove the ramekins from the pan and enjoy them warm after 30 minutes, or let them come to room temperature before refrigerating for 1 hour or overnight.
- When ready to serve, run a small knife around the edge of the ramekin, place a plate on top and flip it over. The purin should release easily.
Whether it’s a stolen moment with a single-serving indulgence or a dramatic self-saucing purin reveal that’s shared with your family or friends, we hope you’ll try this amazake dessert during the holiday season.
Stay warm and enjoy this thousand-year-old Japanese drink throughout the New Year festivities (and after…we hear it’s a good hangover remedy!). Happy New Year!