08: The Marriage Of Sake And Food

Writer: Tamaki Kashiwagi

In this column, I have been writing that the world of sake is like the otaku world (there are many brands just like there are characters in anime or games. Also sake can have different tastes according to the drinking temperature like the transforming of a character). There is one more reason why I think sake is like the otaku world. Sake has great chemistry with food. Yes, it’s like the fusion of the two highly powerful characters Goku and Vegeta, who fuse together to become the super powerful character “Gogeta” in “Dragonball”!!  We call great chemistry like this “marriage” in wine terms. It’s a great pleasure to find the “marriage” of sake and food for sake lovers. Nowadays it seems like otaku sake lovers enjoy the “marriage” of sake and food besides Japanese cuisine. For example, an event named “The marriage of French cuisine and sake” has been organized often in Tokyo. I think there are some rules that produce this “marriage”, such as the following:

1. You should know there are some foods that do not go well with sake!

Sake goes well with many foods, not only Japanese foods. However, sake doesn’t go well with greasy foods at all. For example, fried chicken, potatoes, burgers and pizza etc….

2.Sake goes well with simple dishes like Japanese cuisine

Japanese cuisine makes the most of the original taste of local ingredients as represented by sushi and sashimi. There is not a lot of seasoning used in these dishes so their tastes are very simple. Even if it is not a Japanese dish, it goes well with sake if it has a simple taste. For example, carpaccio (thinly sliced raw fish with salt, olive oil and herbs) in Italian cuisine or marinated seafood go well with sake. Grilled fish seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon is also good.

3. It is better with fish than meat

I have written that sake doesn’t go well with greasy food but there is an exception. It’s Tempura (fritter of fish, prawn or vegetables), one of the representative Japanese foods.
We, the Japanese have been eating fish from a very long time ago because Japanese land is surrounded by the sea. Sake might have been created to go well with fish. Therefore sake goes well with most fish dishes in the world even if it’s a little bit greasy. Fried fish or sautéed fish with butter are also fine.


4. It goes well with seasoned meat

Soy sauce and sake are always a good combination. Teriyaki sauce is also good with sake since it is made from soy sauce, sugar and mirin (a kind of sake). Thus, meat seasoned with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce goes well with sake.
Chinese black bean sauce is also good with sake because it is made from fermented beans, the same as soy sauce.

5. Foods with a fresh taste are good with Ginjo or Daiginjo!

Previously I wrote about types of sake. Ginjo and Daiginjo are made from well-polished rice and their taste is clear and fresh. They are good with food with that has a fresh taste such as Carpaccio, marinated fish, grilled seafood etc. In addition, when you eat chilled dishes, you’d better make the sake is also chilled. It will be more delicious!!

6. Foods with a strong taste are good with Junmai or Honjozo!

Junmai and Honjozo are types of sake with a sweet taste. They go well with foods with a strong taste like teriyaki sauce, Chinese food or seafood sautéed with butter.

7. Cheese and sake have a surprisingly great chemistry!!

Many sake lovers say “Cheese goes well with sake”. We, the Japanese have many fermented foods like soy sauce, miso, pickles and sake itself. Cheese is also a fermented food. That’s why cheese is good with sake.
However, cheese with a strong peculiar taste such as washed-rind cheese is not recommended. This is because its strong peculiar taste is heightened with sake.
I recommend cream cheese, mozzarella, hard types of cheese like mimolette and parmigiano reggiano. Ginjo, Daiginjo and Junmai…any combinations of these three and cheese will be tasty!!
Won’t you try to find your original “marriage” of sake and food?