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Home-made Chinese rice wine: I'd like instructions

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I adore the sweet wine made from glutinous rice in south China and have begun to study how to make it myself. When I was in mountainous southern Fujian, every household had a vat of the stuff, and it was often pink. If you've made sweet rice wine and know how I can get ahold of the ferment ("qu" in Mandarin: a "mai" grain radical and a chrysanthymum "ju") necessary here in San Francisco, please respond.

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  1. I have been trying to figure out how to make a Chinese rice wine, but most of the information I have been able to find has been either historical or industrial- very little homebrewing how-to.

    The yeast balls are available in Seattle at a Chinese place called Vegetarian Grocery, and at a (Vietnamese?) place called Hop Than. They come two for fifty cents in a clear plastic bag with red chinese characters (the only Latin letters were "tel. ###-####"). My Chinese is very weak, and at least two of the characters I couldn't find in the Xinhua dictionary. The translation I came up with was something like "Shanghai Brewing Pellet Cakes".

    These saccharified steamed glutinous rice very well, and gave off a somewhat overwhelming shaohsing wine-like smell. I think they have plenty of koji-like mold culture, but not much alcohol-producing yeast - the liquid I got stayed very sweet and never did show appreciable alcohol.

    If you have info on Chinese homebrewing techniques, please share it! I could certainly mail you some qu if you can't find it in San Francisco- I just can't find good info. Feel free to email me - I believe this discussion could easily become too voluminous for the boards.

    1. Sam - when you're done be sure to save the red rice wine lees for the Hong Zao dishes that Fujian is famous for.