The first time you taste Amazake (pronounced ah-mah-zah-kay), you will not believe that the sweet ambrosial flavor of this pudding-y substance comes entirely from grain. Amazake is a naturally sweet rice preparation used in Japan for centuries as the base of a delicious, warming drink. In the past, it was sold by street vendors wherever people gathered, and it is still popular at inns and teahouses. Japanese prepare the drink by combining equal parts of amazake and water and heating it just to a simmer. They always serve it hot, often topping it with a pinch of finely grated ginger.
Throughout its long history as an important, enjoyable part of traditional Japanese cuisine, amazake has been prepared and served almost exclusively in this simple way. Amazake's brief history in the West is quite a different story. Westerners quickly discovered many ways to use this sweet, creamy food: as a dairy substitute; for puddings, frozen pops, and "ice cream"; in breads, cakes, and cookies; and as the basis of delicious salad dressings and quick pickles.