It is produced by first soaking the rice in plain water until the grains have completely absorbed the water.
The soaked rice can be either sterilized or cooked before inoculation or it can be inoculated directly using a mixture of the Monascus purpureus spores or the powdered red yeast rice.
Next, the mixture goes through an incubation period of 3 to 6 days during which time the rice undergoes complete fermentation by the action of the yeast strain M.
It is during this period that the rice obtains its red color, the outer cover of the rice grains turning reddish purple and the inner core, a bright red color.
When fully cultured, the rice is cooked to be sold as wet paste or it is dried and pulverized to be sold as red yeast rice powder.
It can also be sold as plain, unprocessed dried grain.
But the most important use of red grain is that it can be eaten in the same way white rice is eaten by Asians.
It can also be used as coloring to a wide array of Chinese food products including Peking duck, rice vinegar, pickled tofu, char siu, and a variety of Chinese pastries that need the red coloring.
Red yeast rice is also used in the manufacture of various types of wine, primarily to impart a reddish tinge to these wines, such as the Japanese sake, Chinese wine and Korean rice wine.
It also gives a distinctive subtle taste to food prepared in the Fujian region of China.
Aside from its culinary uses, it is also used in traditional Chinese medicine which dates back to the Tang dynasty in China in 800 AD.
It was believed to provide digestive health, improve blood circulation and invigorate the body.
In an experiment conducted among US adults, the lipid-lowering effects of this red grain was evaluated and it was concluded that red yeast rice reduces LDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentration providing a new and affordable food based approach to reducing cholesterol level among the population.
Another study was undertaken to analyze the natural components of red yeast rice and the results show that moist and sterile rice contained metabolites that belong to the monacolin family of polyketides, trace elements and fatty acids.
It is believed that these compounds are responsible for the cholesterol reducing capacity of red yeast rice.