The rice wine you make at home doesn't differ much from traditional Shaoxing. Granted, you need a large quantity of rice to produce a 1-liter bottle of wine -- 6 cups of uncooked rice yields about 1 cup of rice wine -- and homemade rice wine is a bit cloudy, but it's essentially the same product. You need a few special ingredients too: short-grain glutinous rice and dried yeast, both available in exotic food stores and Asian markets.
Rice wine requires a specific type of yeast known as qu, jiuyao or jiuqu, depending on the purveyor. Qu comes in a dried sphere about 1 inch wide and contains a strain of yeast cultivated for rice-wine fermentation.
Things You'll Need
2 cups glutinous rice
3 cups water
1 dried yeast ball
Rinse the rice in a bowl of cold water, draining and refilling it until the water is clear. Add the rice to a saucepan.
Bring the water to a boil, and then set the heat to low. Cover the rice and steam it until tender, about 20 minutes.
Spread the rice onto a sheet pan or cutting board. Let the rice cool until you can handle it. In the meantime, crush the yeast ball to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. You can also place the yeast ball in a sealable food bag and pulverize it with a knife handle.
Transfer the rice to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the ground yeast over the warm rice. Using a spatula, turn and fold the rice to distribute the yeast throughout.
Transfer the rice to a sterilized jar. Lay a piece of cheesecloth over the top of the jar and screw the lid down about halfway. Don't seal the jar completely, because the carbon dioxide must have an outlet during fermentation.
Set the jar in the oven with the light turned on; you want the temperature between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which is possible with an oven light. Better yet, if you have a gas oven, you can forgo turning on the light --the heat from the pilot will provide enough warmth.
Alternatively, wrap the jar in a heated blanket.
Let the rice ferment for 4 to 5 days. Next, open the jar and place the cheesecloth in a mixing bowl. Empty the contents of the jar -- the rice wine and the rice -- into the bowl on the cheesecloth.
Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together, and gently wring the wine from the rice. Store the rice wine in an airtight container in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation.
Mix the leftover fermented rice with soy sauce and gai choy (Chinese hot mustard) for a pungent, piquant side dish you won't find in American Chinese restaurants.