The terms rice wine and sake are used interchangeably at times. Rice wine and sake are both grain alcohols derived from rice. Rice wines can be distilled or fermented, but sake is only fermented. They share some similarities on a fundamental level, but the processes involved in creating rice wine and sake are different. The different ways they are made results in two beverages with different-tasting flavors and aromas.
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Sweet rice is cooked in water until it is soft. It is then spread out in a thin layer on a flat surface and cooled to room temperature. This also partially dries it. Yeast is ground into powder and distributed over the rice. The rice and yeast are mixed together.
The mixture is placed in a vacuum-sealed container at 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven or other heat source. The mixture ferments for two days. It is then placed in cold storage. The rice wine will separate from the rice solids with the liquid moving to the top of the container and the rice solids resting on the bottom of the container.
- There are many kinds of rice wines but two popular ones from China are Huangjui and Baijui. Huangjiu is fermented and Baijui is distilled.
- Rice wine can be used for cooking, because it is fragrant. Cooking rice wine will evaporate the alcohol content. Sake is generally not used for cooking because it is sweeter and can change the flavor of dishes.