Sake, An Integral Part of Japanese Cuisine

  • FOOD
  • Sake is a well known Japanese alcoholic beverage that is made of fermented rice, koji, and water. It normally uses the process of fermentation and filtration process. It is truly an integral part of the Japanese cuisine. Sake is the national beverage in Japan and it is even served with a special ceremony. It is put in a warm porcelain called the tokkuri and is sipped from a small cup called guinomi. Sake is also referred to as Nihonshu or Seishu.

    To make sake, the rice is first ground, washed and then steamed. Some of the steamed rice is used to make koji. The koji and the remaining steamed rice and water are mixed and then fermented. Finally, the mixture will be filtered and bottled.

    Some popular brands of sake that are known worldwide are Hakkaisan, Kubota, Dassai and Dewazakura. Two premium brands of sake that you can also find abroad are Kakunko Junmai Daiginjo and Dassai Junmai Daiginjyo “23Ni-wari San-bu”. There is also Kokuryu Ishidaya which is a premium vintage sake and is made available only in November each year.

    There are five basic types of Sake.

    1. Junmai-shu

    It is a sake made from only rice, water, yeast, and koji. It is also called as “pure rice sake”. It is naturally brewed, yielding a wide variety of sake from light and mild to full-body.

    2. Honjozo-shu

    This is light, aromatic, and easy to drink. It is highly pure rice brew with 30% of the rice polished away. It is one of the lighter basic sake brews. A small amount of brewer’s alcohol is added to the fermenting sake mash.

    3. Daiginjo-shu

    This is an ultra-premium sake with delicate aroma and mild flavor. It is slowly fermented at low temperature. Its aroma is fruity and tastes clear and well-balanced.

    4. Ginjo-shu

    This is a premium sake. It is better than 90% of all sake out there. It is brewed using rice with a seimaibuai of at least 60% and a small amount of pure distilled alcohol is added. Traditional tools and methods are used added with a longer fermentation at colder temperatures. It is light, refined, and aromatic with a fruity aroma.

    5. Namazake

    It means unpasteurized sake. The sake is heated to about 65 degrees celsius or so to kill off enzymes and to stabilize the sake. It contains a variety of active enzymes which gives it a fresher and fruitier flavor and aroma.

    Always bear in mind that it is always good manners to pour servings for another person. When someone’s pouring sake for you, it is polite to hold your sake cup up with one hand and put your other hand under the cup. Have a sip before putting the cup back on the table.

    Drinking sake is relaxing and you don’t have to worry about having a hangover the following morning due to the low alcohol content. It is an enjoyable drink and will definitely give you a good taste of Japan’s rich culture.

    Related Articles:

    Nihonshu, or “Sake”, The Iconic Japanese Rice Wine
    Bottoms Up! All You Need to Know About Drinking in Japan