Cooking with Alison

How to Make Chinese Rice Wine

In Drinks, How To, Other Asian Foods on April 14, 2011 at am

Cooking with Alison’s Grandma (Part 1 of 4)

We had a family reunion in NYC to celebrate my grandma’s 80th birthday in March, 2011.  While I was there, I asked her to show me how she makes some of the family’s favourite dishes.  This is how she makes Chinese rice wine.  It is surprisingly easy to make!

Chinese Rice Wine Recipe

adapted from Grandma Chow; this recipe makes approximately 1 bottle of rice wine.  If you want to make a larger batch, use 5 pounds of rice, 6 balls of “alcohol” powder, and adjust the remaining ingredients accordingly.

1 1/2 lbs glutinous rice (also known as sweet rice; use a medium sized grain if you have a choice)

2 balls of “alcohol” powder, crushed or ground into a very fine powder (see the photo below for the preferred brand)

3 ounces (approximately) of fine Champagne Cognac (preferred brand Remy Martin)

Soak the rice in water in the pot that you’re going to cook it in for 2 hours at room temperature.  Make sure that the water level is between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch above the rice.  Then cook it on the stove top or use a rice cooker until it is cooked through and still has a slightly chewy texture.  The rice should be translucent and soft but not mushy.  You could also steam cook the rice.  The cooking time will depend on the cooking method.  By rice cooker, it will take approximately 23 to 25 minutes from start to finish.  If you’re using a pot, bring to a boil over high heat.  Then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the rice has reached the appropriate texture and the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.  It will take longer by steaming.  Uncover the rice and set aside until cool enough to handle, about 45 minutes.  Then transfer it to a larger bowl and soak it in cool running water while using your hands to break up any clumps of rice.  Transfer the rice to a colander, rinse with cool water and drain the rice well.  By hand, gradually mix in 3/4 of the “alcohol” powder.  Then transfer the rice to a large, sterilized glass jar gently patting the rice down as you fill it.  Ensure that there is approximately 1 inch of space between the rice and the lid.  (I estimate that the jar that my grandma used holds approximately 2 litres, but I should warn you that I’m not good at estimating volumes ;).)  Gently pat the top of the rice down.  Then using the handle of a long wooden spoon, poke a hole down the middle of the jar through to the bottom.  Jiggle the spoon a bit to enlarge the tube shaped hole that you’ve made.  Sprinkle the remaining “alcohol” powder into the hole and over the top surface of the rice.  Pour approximately 2 shots of Remy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac over the rice.  Ensure that there is still 1 inch of space between the rice and the top of the jar as the rice will expand over time.  Screw on the lid and ensure that the jar is airtight and completely sealed.  Label the jar with the date.  Let the jar sit at room temperature in a cool, dark place for at least 45 days and up to 2 years.  Then strain out and discard the rice, retaining the liquid which is your rice wine.  Transfer the rice wine to a sterilized, airtight bottle and store in a cool, dark place.  Chill through in the refrigerator and enjoy cold.

Photo above:  The balls of “alcohol” powder used.  Note that the first three Chinese words indicate the preferred brand.  (Photo source here.)

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  1. great post! I may have to go on a treasure hunt in Chinatown the next time I`m in Vancouver…gotta hunt down some alcohol powder! Theresa

  2. Excellent post thanks for sharing. Food is something I can enjoy all around. If I’m not eating it. I’m reading and looking at pictures about it.

  3. You are heaven sent for putting measurements/increments to all these great family recipes… “a bowl of this and a pinch of this, and a little of that” sometimes just doesn’t cut it. You take the mystery out of my mom’s cooking directions. I thank you.
    BTW, I know your Aunt Sue in NY.

    • Hi Eileen! Thank you so much for posting a comment! The “measurements” that I provided are estimates too, haha, but I’m glad to hear that they’re helpful :) Please say hi to Aunt Sue for me! Thanks again for following my blog! I Really appreciate it :)

  4. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.Actually, hope you will visit my blog

  5. Really interesting. I will recommend it.

  6. Really well written. I will recommend it.

  7. Container should not be sealed air tight during fermentation. Just loosely put in lid and cover with cloth. Carbon dioxide gas is produced while fermenting and can cause a sealed container to explode. After fermentation is completely done sealing air tight for storage is recommended. Great tutorial. Happy wine making!

    • Hi Jihn, Thank you for your comment! That is not something I considered and I’m really glad you brought it up. My grandma has been making rice wine for years and has never had a problem with explosions, but it is definitely something I will keep in mind in the future, just in case. I won’t screw the lid on too tight! Thanks again!

  8. Hi Allison. Did you mention making the jars air tight because many others state let it breath yet to keep out flies thats all really. Please can you respond fast as I want to start it and leave some for 2 years in the warm attic. Craig from England

    • Hi there, I recommend sealing the jars completely to prevent evaporation but don’t seal them too tightly In case of a build up Of pressure. Also I would not leave the jars in the attic as it will be too warm . A cool basement is preferable . Thanks for writing and hope you like the rice wine

  9. where will i get alcohol balls in philippines?

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