Japanese Black Sesame Ice

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Amazaké (literally ‘sweet sake’) is the liquid and sweetener used to make this popular Japanese okashi (Kuro Goma Aisu). In her book, Washoku, Ms. Andoh notes, “ama-zaké (her spelling) is sipped on ceremonial occasions in Japan such as Oshogastu (New Year’s holidays) and Hina Matsuri (Dolls’ Day, celebrated on March 3).”

I received the slickest gift for my birthday; it’s a cute red-capped sesame seed grinder. Don’t you love the brand name: “Slicker-t?” Now it’s easy to sprinkle a few crushed sesame seeds on top of rice, salads, noodles, soups, sushi, deserts, food in general…
For gomasio use 2 tablespoons toasted sesame to ½ teaspoon salt—don’t mix too much, or store the little mill in the fridge. Sesame seeds have a lot of oil which can become rancid.
It stands on the table like a salt shaker with a hole on the top, and so to use it, turn it upside down and crank the wheel. This model has a plastic cover to use when you store it in the fridge.
Ain’t technology amazing?

Now back to my surfing the net research about amazaké:
I’ve seen references to street vendors selling a hot amazké drink with a pinch of grated ginger on top. It’s used as a sweetener in desserts (puddings, smoothies, ices), and for making a rich moist texture in breads, scones pancakes, cookies, salad dressings. Amazaké is high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, as well as the B vitamins niacin and thiamin, iron, and is low in fat.

Amazaké is made by fermenting steamed sweet rice with koji.

  • Sweet rice, a variety of short grained rice which is high in gluten, is sometimes called ‘sticky rice.’
  • Koji in used to make saké, miso, rice vinegar, mirin, and some traditional pickles. It is steamed rice inoculated with spores of Aspergillus oryzae.
Aspergillus Oryzae, creates several enzymes as it propagates, and these are what break the starches in rice into sugars that can be fermented by the yeast cells, which then give off carbon dioxide and alcohol. Without koji, there is no sake. … Sake is brewed from white rice stripped of its husk. There can be no malting, so the starch-chopping enzymes must come from somewhere else. Enter the cooperative koji. The dark-green spores, sprinkled onto steamed rice, graciously provide the necessary enzymes for saccharification. —quote from sake world
Koji (a Japanese term for cultured grain) is made by inoculating steamed grain with the spores of Aspergillus oryzae, a mold that transforms the grain into sweet, fragrant koji, or cultured grain, during a two-day fermentation process. Making koji is the first step towards making miso. In Japan, rice koji is used for a number of other fermented foods beside miso, including sake, amasaké, rice vinegar, and mirin. —quote from south river miso

Ms. Andoh uses amazaké in this recipe to replace Japanese sugar, which dissolves easily when stirred into room temperature liquids, but is not usually available outside of Japan.

Black Sesame Ice
Kuro Goma Aisu
from Washodu by Elizabeth Andoh
p.299

  • 1 cup ama-zaké (add water: it won’t be a full cup)
  • ¼ cup black sesame paste
  • ¼ teaspoon soy sauce

Put the amazaké into the bowl of a food processor (this will fit into the bowl of my immersion blender), and pulse until creamy and smooth. Add the sesame past and continue to pulse until fully blended. Drizzle in the soy sauce, and pulse until the consistency is thick and creamy. Pour into a freezer-safe container (with secure cover), and freeze about 4 hours.
I’ve never found black sesame paste, so I used Ms. Andoh’s “kitchen harmony” version, using ⅓ cup of dry roasted black sesame seeds. While they are still warm, pulse in a food processor until it’s the consistency of moist sand. Add the amazaké and pulse until well blended. Drizzle in the soy sauce, and pulse to mix well. Freeze as above.
My notes: See that blurry looking picture above? Tell me: why would anyone design a freezer with the light in the back???
The texture of this was “sandy” and a bit odd. Could be that my little immersion blender didn’t mix in enough air, but this froze so solidly that I had to let it melt a bit to serve it. May have been better to freeze it in serving sized molds. Loved the flavor, so if I ever see black sesame paste, I’ll snap up a couple of packages!

Mr. Tess says, it’s better than “black ice.”

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2 thoughts on “Japanese Black Sesame Ice

  1. I’ve made ice cream in a tupperware in the freezer before, but instead of letting it just sit in there, you stir it every few hours to break up the ice crystals to keep it creamy. Something like that might help the solidity of this. You may want to look for some info online about making ice cream without an ice cream maker (which is how I learned the technique). Though ~ the consistency may still probably be a little sandy. I’ve had the same problem with cinnamon ice cream before & will probably use a flavored oil next time instead the ground spice.

    • Hi Tiffany,

      Yup, I did wonder about the recipe not mentioning stirring as it freezes—know better next time. I do have a hand-cranked ice cream maker, but I can’t remember where I put it. lol The same author has a set of recipes for making fruit ices and the banana ginger one sounds good.

      Wonder with your cinnamon, could you steep cinnamon sticks in warm cream or milk? My husband make hot toddies like that: might work with dairy.

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