Sake, a fermented rice wine, is the national beverage of Japan, and is very popular and important in Japanese culture. In recent years, Sake has become popular outside of Japan, with many foreigners taking a liking to it’s famously smooth taste. It’s alcoholic content is
higher than beer and wine at around 15% to 20%. The process of making sake, or Nihonshu as it is also known, starts with adding yeast and a mold called Koji to steamed rice and water.
The sake mixture is then filtered and heat treated to remove any impurities. The mixture is then left to ferment for about 2 – 3 weeks followed by another 5 – 7 months to allow the sake to mature. Lastly, the matured sake is then bottled and ready for consumption. There are many variants of sake such as Seishu which is the standard clear variety of the wine, or Nigorizake which has a cloudy appearance due to a lot of rice sediment in the bottle and is among the sweetest sakes.
Pairing sake with food is similar to how wine is paired with food in that the many flavor profiles of sake help accentuate the flavour of certain food. The price of the sake does not affect the quality of the dishes it’s used in, whether it is cheap or expensive, the most vital thing is that it is capable of bringing out the best characteristics of a dish. By experimenting and pairing different sakes with food, you will be surprised by the unpredictable flavours you can taste. Each sake is unique in terms of it’s sweetness, texture, aroma, dryness etc.
These characteristics are key as with a wide variety of food such as sashimi, sushi, tempura and grilled fish. Sweeter sake like nigorizake is great with spicy food and desserts, especially fruits, berries and chocolate. While delicious to sip with a meal, sake is also often used as an ingredient in marinades, sauces and soups to add a delicate flavor and depth to the dish. It can also be used to tenderize and mask the odour of strong smelling meat. Sake truly is a special beverage with many qualities and a rich history, held in the highest regard by the people of Japan.