You’re already familiar with sauerkraut and kimchee and kombucha, I’m sure. But have you heard about this ferment that will add a gorgeously sweet tone wherever you need it?
Ama-koji is the most wonderful sweetener. It looks like a nut milk, but It’s actually almost painfully sweet to eat or drink alone (although plenty of people do, and it can easily be diluted to suit your palate). In winter, it’s best to drink warm, and I recommend chilling it in the summer for a lovely, nourishing sweet fix. Like all fermented food, ama-koji has distinct probiotics that help to populate and soothe your gut.
It's also used regularly as a sweetener. The sweetness comes purely from the starch in the rice and the reaction to the koji converting those starches to glucose. Koji is Japan’s national fungus, responsible for converting soybeans to miso, tamari, soy sauce, and rice into sake and rice vinegar. In the case of ama-koji, it creates a digestive enzyme that converts the starch to glucose. Let it sit longer and that glucose will attract yeasts that will create some alcohol. Leave that even longer and you’ll have some rice vinegar. Fermentation is great like that (I go into depth about many different types and ways of fermenting things in my new book, Ferment For Good). When using it in chai tea, you essentially use the ama-koji as the milk and sweetener. This is great for the dairy-free person in our home. You can also try it as a kind of ice cream—blend the ama-koji with 200 mL (7 fluid ounces) of extra water until smooth, add cocoa powder or cacao powder to taste, then freeze or put into your ice-cream maker.