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Brewing rice wine: A time-honored tradition for Chinese New Year in Zhoushan

Updated : 2024-02-05 (


Brewing rice wine is a tradition in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province to welcome the upcoming Chinese New Year. [Photo/WeChat account: zsqdly]

Winters in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, are characterized by its damp and cold weather, influenced by the moist sea air that seems to permeate everything. During these chilly times, there's a pressing need for nourishing food to warm the body.

It's precisely at moments like this that a bowl of steaming sweet rice balls becomes the perfect comfort. The tradition of brewing rice wine has deep roots in Zhoushan, and as the rice wine matures, the New Year draws near.

Sweet rice balls are traditionally served as a dessert towards the end of the New Year's Eve dinner, providing a convenient and soothing conclusion to the indulgent feast.

The process of brewing rice wine is a time-consuming endeavor, requiring meticulous care and patience at every step. It may seem simple, but it demands attention to detail.

First, the soaked glutinous rice is steamed until fully cooked, and then allowed to naturally cool to the optimal temperature. Once the temperature reaches 20-30 degrees Celsius, the next step can be initiated.

In every household, homemade yeast balls, deceptively ordinary in appearance, possess the magical ability to transform rice into wine.

These yeast balls are crushed and evenly sprinkled onto the glutinous rice and thoroughly mixed by hand. The mixture is then gently pressed into a large porcelain bowl, creating a shallow hollow in the middle, where clean spring water is added to dissolve the yeast balls.

Once sealed, the waiting game begins as the mixture patiently ferments, typically requiring eight to 10 days.


Eating a bowl of sweet rice balls is a perfect comfort in winter for Zhoushan residents. [Photo/WeChat account: zsqdly]