Dried yeast cake6pieces (10g / ⅓oz each), pounded to a fine powder and sieved
Cooled boiled water250ml (8fl oz / 1cup)
White rice wine2litres (64fl oz / 8cups)
Wash rice well and drain. Place in a clean container, cover with water to at least 2-cm (¾-in) above rice level, and let soak for 4 hours.
Drain rice and place in a wide, shallow tray. Add fresh water just to the same level as the rice. Steam over high heat for for 25–30 minutes, or until rice is soft and tender throughout. Remove lid of steamer carefully to avoid any condensation dripping into the rice. Leave rice to cool completely; cover with a mesh cover if necessary.
Prepare a large glass jar of at least 15-litre (480-fl oz / 60-cup) capacity: clean it thoroughly with hot soapy water and let it air-dry. Sprinkle a little yeast powder over the bottom of the jar. Place enough rice in the jar to form a very loosely-packed layer about 3-cm (1¼-in) thick. Sprinkle generously with more yeast powder and a pinch of red yeast rice. Continue alternating rice, yeast and red yeast rice layers until all ingredients are used up. Ensure that the top layers are yeast and red yeast rice.
Pour cooled boiled water over the rice. Cover the jar or pot either with a loosely-fastened plastic cover, or with a clean dry towel, tied tightly around the jar rim to secure it. Place it in a cool, dark spot in your kitchen.
Within 3–6 days, fermentation should be under way and some wine should have accumulated. With a very clean metal spoon, remove some of the wine and smell and taste it: it should be sweet, floral and aromatic. If it is sour or musty-tasting, discard everything and start over. If it is fine, add the white rice wine and with a clean, dry ladle, push the ingredients down to make sure all the rice is thoroughly soaked. Cover again with the towel. Set aside for 21 days. Uncover the jar briefly every 2 days to let some fresh air in.
As the wine ferments, the rice grains will slowly lose their shape and semi-dissolve into a paste. After 21–25 days, the mixture should look like cloudy liquid with a thick layer of floating lees. Pour the mixture into a fine mesh metal sieve lined with two layers of damp muslin cloth, and let the wine filter through naturally without pressing on it; this should take a few hours. If the wine is still cloudy after straining, strain it a second time through a paper coffee filter.
To lengthen the shelf life of the strained rice wine, pour it into a pot and bring to a full boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. This process kills residual yeast and halts further fermentation. Pour into a sterilised glass bottle or jar, leave to cool, then seal and store in the refrigerator.
The moist, pasty residue left from straining the wine is rice wine lees. It can be discarded, as it does not have many culinary purposes. If you wish, it can be diluted with water to a thin congee consistency, brought to a boil, sweetened with sugar to taste, and simmered gently for 10 minutes to make a sweet, mildly alcoholic dessert soup, best served warm.