Let’s Learn How to Pair Japanese Sake with Food
Did you enjoy Simple Guide for Sake Tasting and Pairing｜For Beginners in our last article?
Now that you know a specific class name of each sake, the next thing you should be wondering is what food goes well with it!
This time, I would like to tell you about the pairing of sake and food.
As I mentioned in this article, there is a category of sake called “Tokutei Meisho,” which means “sake with a specific name.
Each sake has its own character and characteristics depending on the ingredients, production method, rice polishing ratio, and so on.
By choosing a dish that matches each of these characteristics, you will be able to enjoy both the sake and the dish even more.
Discover What Kind of Food is Good to Pair with Sake.
There are many ideas and theories on how to pair sake with food.
Since it is not as simple to understand them all at once, we will again divide sake into four types, as in the previous article. This time, I’d like to focus on simply “balancing the flavors”.
1 Pure Rice (Junmai) Type
- Pure rice sake is characterized by the rich aroma and flavor of the rice.
- It is recommended to pair it with dishes that have a thick flavor that goes well with white rice.
For example, meat and potatoes, teriyaki yellowtail, hamburger steak, grilled meat, pork cutlet, and fried chicken. Just the thought of these dishes makes you crave for white rice!( Probably only if you have well understanding of Japanese food culture!)
2 Ordinary and Honjozo type
- The characteristics of ordinary and honjozo sake are a moderate aroma and a cool, refreshing taste.
- This type of sake goes well with a wide range of dishes, whether they are light or heavy.
For example, sushi, chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), pickled vegetables, hot pots.
It has a good balance of flavors in light and simple dishes, while it refreshes the palate in rich dishes, which gives a refreshing cool feeling to the mouth.
3 Ginjo type
- Ginjo-type sake has a fruity aroma that spreads to the nose and a light, refreshing taste.
- In order to enjoy the characteristics of the Ginjo type, it is recommended to pair with lightly seasoned dishes that fully take advantage of the ingredients.
For example, sashimi, carpaccio, yudofu(tofu in a hotpot), edamame, or caprese.
You may not be able to enjoy the fruity aroma and refreshing taste of the Ginjo type with rich flavored dishes.
The Ginjo type goes well with dishes such as appetizers, so I recommend having it as an aperitif.
4 Old sake
- Old sake is characterized by a complex and rich taste due to its aging process.
- It is recommended to pair this type of sake with similarly well matured dishes or dishes with a sweet flavor.
- It is also good to enjoy it with dessert after a meal with spices such as curry.
For example, broiled eel, aged steak, mabo tofu, cream cheese, chocolate, ice cream, etc.
Don’t Afraid of Pairing Sake with Any Foods!
It is certainly fun to think about what to pair with what type of food.
Basically, however, all types of sake have a wide variety of flavors.
If you find that the pairing is a little off, you can try adding seasonings to bring the flavors closer together.
For example, if you think that the flavor of the food is too strong to pair with the Ginjo sake, you can try adding lemon or sudachi (citrus fruit) to bring the fruity flavor of the Ginjo sake closer to the food.
There is no “right” answer for pairing Japanese sake and food, though I have written about various recommended dishes above.
Everyone has different tastes and preferences, and each person has their own best pairing and way of enjoying sake.
So, no matter how many people around you suggest it, if you don’t like it, don’t pair it. So no matter how many people around you recommend it, if you don’t like it, it’s probably not the right pairing.
However, if you try it and feel “I like it! Then, no matter what the people around you say, that pairing is the right one for you.
That pairing is the right one. That’s it.
I’ve been enjoying the combination of French fries and junmai sake, and yakitori and old sake, no matter what people say.
Join Our Sake & Food Pairing Tour in Kyoto!
How was the introduction to sake and food pairings?
One of the fun ways to try sake is to pair it with a variety of dishes. We hope you will try to find your own favorite pairing.
If you are ever in Kyoto or Fushimi, please join the Kyoto Insider Sake Experience tour!
You may find a new way to taste sake and discover your own perfect pairing!