Fermented Wine Rice

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

Chinese Technique

By Ken Hom

Published 1981

  • About

Homemade fermented wine rice adds an intoxicating richness to spicy foods that’s both sweet and winy at the same time. Made ahead, it keeps refrigerated for months, ready to be added to finish a dish, much as a French chef might add a splash of Cognac. We use it in the following recipe with shrimp, but it is also delicious with stir-fried crabs. It can also be served by itself as a sweet, porridgelike dessert, perhaps with poached pears.

It is made from wine balls, which are available in Chinese groceries. The balls are crushed with flour and combined with glutinous rice that has been previously soaked and steamed. Make sure the rice is not too hot, or the mixture will ferment too fast—but not too cold, or the wine balls won’t react. Allow at least 24 hours to make fermented wine rice. Add some already made fermented wine rice to a new batch to give it an extra kick. This recipe makes about 1 quart.



  1. Soak the glutinous rice overnight in enough water to cover it. Drain the rice. Line a bamboo steamer with wet cheesecloth and fill it with the drained rice. Steam it for 1 hour.

  2. While the rice is steaming, put a wine ball in a towel with a pinch of flour.

  3. Wrap them tightly and crush the ball with the base of a cleaver to make a powder. (If you use a blender, use about 1 teaspoon flour. Food processors do not work as well.)

  4. Repeat with the other wine ball.

  5. When the rice is cooked, turn it out into a bowl of warm, not hot, water. This helps keep the rice from clumping.

  6. Strain it through a colander and put it in a mixing bowl with the crushed wine balls.

  7. Mix the rice thoroughly with your hands.

  8. Make a well in the center of the rice and cover the bowl with a wet cloth. Set it in a turned-off oven or another warm place that’s between 95 and 105 degrees in temperature.

  9. After 24 hours, liquid will begin to fill the well in the center of the rice. This indicates that the rice has begun to ferment. The liquid and rice can then be transferred to a jar and stored in the refrigerator for several months.