Japanese sake and cuisine

By Yuji Matsumoto

I’m often asked by Americans, “I often use wine for cooking, but can I also use Japanese sake?” Japanese sake contains many umami flavors not found in wine, so it’s great that they can be used in anything.
Eliminating odors
Of course, sake is not only effective in eliminating odors from fish and seafood, but also from pork and lamb. Of course the odor dictates lamb meat, however, when adding Japanese flavor to your cooking, add Japanese sake to any food when the odor is too strong, then leave it for approximately two minutes for the odor to disappear.
Effective in softening proteins
Placing chicken breasts, red beef, and / or meat for stew in a zip lock bag filled with sake prior to marinating eliminates the dryness from the meat and adds flavor. Sake greatly enhances the flavor of meat for barbeque and yakiniku.

Adds umami flavor
From broiled dishes to soup dishes, Japanese sake is useful in a variety of dishes, as our readers know. Surprisingly, Japanese sake also enhances the flavors of Western soup, especially in seafood, along with pasta and various other dishes. Please give it a try. Actually, sake is also great when used even in instant ramen noodles!

Japanese sake is great for cooking
Sake for cooking or Junmai sake is great for food preparation. While Ginjo and Daiginjo are great for drinking, Junmai is better suited and more effective for cooking due to it’s higher concentration of umami flavors.







#daiginjo #ginjo #japanesecuisine #japanesefood #sake


Sake Nation “Sake Brewery and Fire: Part I”

By Kosuke Kuji

Many sake breweries produce sake in highly-valued cultural properties like old buildings and warehouses under constant operational risk.
Yuki Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. (Ibaraki prefecture), producer of “Musubiyui,” burned down on May 11, 2022. Fire ignited from the boiler room burned down the entire old brewery, designated as a cultural property.
Yuki Sake Brewery Co., LTD. is an increasingly popular sake brewery in Japan, operated by the bride who plays a major role in both production and sales. Many fans are won over by her beloved personality.
Sake in the refrigerator left miraculously untouched by the fire were recovered, while the rest including the brewery equipment were completely destroyed by the fire.
Sanyohai Shuzo Co., Ltd. (Hyogo prefecture), producer of “Banshu-Ikkon,” was also an old building greatly damaged on November 11, 2018.
Sawada Shuzo (Aichi prefecture), producer of “Hakurou,” also incurred fire damage in November 2020.
Sake breweries incur significant fire damage almost every year.
The predecessor of our brewery said repeatedly, “Thieves only steal sake, while a fire destroys everything.”
Ever since I was a child, I recall he patrolled the grounds of the old brewery day and night because fire hazards were taken seriously.
Electrical leak from electrical equipment is especially concerning, such as an old boiler in the case of Yuki Sake Brewery Co., LTD; or from an electrical replenishment device.
Although we use the latest equipment with thorough safety measures at our brewery, fires are still not preventable 100%. Over the next year, we’ll barely replace all the electrical equipment with new ones. The high repair costs posed a challenge when sales declined due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, such measures are necessary to prevent fire damage.

*The Sake Brewers Association is collecting donations for Yuki Sake Brewery Co., LTD.
To donate, please reference the information below:
Bank Name: The Joyo Bank, Ltd. Yuki Branch
Savings Account #1502819
Account Name: Shinketsu-Shuzo-Kumiai

酒豪大陸「酒蔵と火事  その1」

常陽銀行 結城支店
普通 1502819
真結酒造組合 (シンケツシュゾウクミアイ)
#Musubiyui #japanesefood #sake #sakebreweries #yukisake


Chapter 2: The Growth Period of Japanese Sake

Sake Production Techniques Imported from Mainland China

Blacksmiths, armorers, weavers, tailors, etc., first came from Mainland China to Japan between approx. 4th ~ 5th century.
In addition, highly skilled instructors came to Japan later in the 5th century.
In “Kojiki” (Records of Ancient Matters), a chapter on Emperor Oujin reads, “Hatano-miyatsuko and Ayano-atae know how to produce sake. Also, master sake brewer Susukori came to Japan.” Further, “Everyone had a good time getting drunk on sake brewed by Susukori.”
However, sake production using rice malt can be traced back to the early Yayoi Period (400 BC – 300 AD). Therefore, the Chinese who came to Japan around the 5th century are not believed to be the first to pass on sake production techniques using rice malt.
Our ancestors skillfully incorporated techniques from overseas into sake production techniques long established in Japan to improve and enhance the sake production processes unique to Japan.

第2章 日本酒の成長期

「古事記」の応神天皇の章に『秦造(ハタノミヤツコ)ノ祖、漢直(アヤノアタエ)ノ祖 酒ヲ醸(カ)ムコトヲ知レル人。名ヲ須須許理等(ススコリドモ)ガ渡リ来ツ・・』とあり、また『須須許理(ススコリ)ガ、醸(カ)ミシ御酒(ミキ)ニ 我酔イニケリ 事無酒(コトナグシ) 笑酒(エグシ)ニ我酔イニケリ。』という歌もある。
#china #history #japanesefood #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (To Niigata Prefecture after the Coronavirus Restrictions Lifted)

By Ryuji Takahashi

This report is a continuation of the previous report on my trip to Niigata prefecture. Ten minutes driving distance from Nagaoka Station, the main destination of this trip, I headed to a long-established yakiniku (Japanese-style Korean BBQ) restaurant, “Sutamina-En.” This yakiniku restaurant serves delicious, fastidiously selected Murakami Beef (Murakami-gyu), along with A5 and A4 grade domestic Japanese Black Beef, each at a reasonable price.
Even the prime Japanese Black is priced at only 1,500 JPY per person. Arriving just before the restaurant opened, I was the first to enter. Local customers quickly filled the restaurant to capacity. Galbi (grilled short ribs) and sirloin were both voluminous and delicious.
Since the side menu also came highly recommended, I ordered the gyoza, more delicious than local Chinese restaurants. Excited, I ordered meat and various side menu selections. As I started to get full, the chef originally from Nagaoka city said their ramen was a must-try, so I ordered the Char Siu Pork Ramen. The smooth beef bone broth was soy sauce flavored and easy to finish, even with a relatively full stomach from all the meat I consumed.
This Char Siu Pork Ramen ranks in as the top or second most delicious ramen out of all the ramen I tried in my past travels to Niigata prefecture. I relished the joy of discovering such delicious restaurants still operating in rural regions, where I can freely travel in search of various delicious cuisines after the coronavirus pandemic ends. After the meal, I returned to the hotel and took a bath, then commenced the after-party.
I opened the sake I bought during the daytime: “Tsurunotomo-Jyohaku,” “Takachiyo Jyunmai,” and “Koshino-Happou Arabashiri,” and enjoyed them with local specialty snacks. I headed to Bandai City the next day, a shipping district in Niigata City, where I enjoyed sushi at a popular revolving sushi restaurant named "Sado Benkei" lined with customers before returning to Tokyo.
This overnight trip was a quick food excursion with no visit to local sake breweries. I felt the future potential of Niigata prefecture, where I indulged in and drew energy from local Niigata specialties. I received good news while writing this article. The Nagaoka Fireworks, the largest fireworks show in Japan, will resume for the first time in three years.
As I wrote before, the Nagaoka Fireworks was started to revive the city after World War II. I’m happy to see this fireworks show resume to revive various industries and the city government impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
I hope and pray this fireworks show will bring some comfort to many residents impacted by the pandemic.
This year’s show is not open to everyone, as various locations are stipulated to view the fireworks where people can win seats by lottery. The Nagaoka city homepage has footage from past firework shows uploaded to view. I recommend visiting the city to enjoy the lively summer ambiance of Nagaoka city.


#Japanesefood #Niigata #jizake #nagaoka #sake


Expanding alcohol distribution routes

By Yuji Matsumoto

There is no doubt sushi is the driving force behind the expansion of Japanese food, expanding the way for other Japanese foods to follow.
Currently, the old legend of “opening a sushi restaurant will automatically result in success” is long over, and no longer the trend.
The slowing opening and closing of sushi restaurants are due to impact by rising fish and seafood prices, expensive initial investment, lack of sushi chefs, the rising expenses of employee health insurance, etc., and dropping prices due to large sushi restaurants managed by non-Japanese, impacting small-scale restaurants. However, another factor is casual dining such as ramen gaining attention. Compared to the over 20,000 sushi restaurants in business today, ramen shops in the U.S., leaving much room to grow and expand.
Considering that fresh (raw) fish at expensive prices have come this far to be widely enjoyed by American consumers, it’s not difficult to imagine their acceptance of noodle products such as ramen, especially since they’re similar to chicken noodle soup, and fried rice.
Other casual dining selections garnering attention is “okonomiyaki” (Japanese pancake with meat, seafood, vegetables, egg, etc) and “takoyaki” (octopus dumplings), etc. and other street foods.
Also, recently, in a U.S. magazine, oden (broiled fish cake) and curry rice are also being introduced. I look forward to these magazines in the U.S. introducing Japanese sake, beer, shochu (distilled liquor), and other distribution channels.



#Japanesefood #alcohol #okonomiyaki #sake #sushi


Sake Nation “World Sake Competition Returns”

By Kosuke Kuji

Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, sake competitions were actively held worldwide, such as the International Wine Challenge (IWC) in England, Kura Master in France, and Joy of Sake in America, etc. Due to the sweeping novel coronavirus pandemic however, these competitions were canceled in droves. Since last year, competitions have been partially simplified, judged by only local judges, or reduced in scale.
This year however, with the three vaccines and the characteristics of the Omicron variant taken into consideration, the coronavirus regulations are relaxing quickly in the U.S. and Europe. Unfortunately, Japan is still maintaining near total isolation. Regulations started to relax in March, with foreign sake competitions welcoming back judges from Japan and other nations, while some competitions are returning to pre-pandemic scale. I’m very thankful to see this happening.
International sake competitions are wonderful for having diversified judges, difficult to find for sake competitions in Japan. Therefore, foreign judges judge sake in a true sense.
Sake is judged by transcending race, religion, word, or ideology, a truly international competition.
This year, I truly look forward to inviting diverse judges for the sake competition. I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the judges in Japan and everyone in the world.



#IWC #JapaneseFood #KuraMaster #Sake


Rice Malt

Sake production using mold to saccharify starch spread through Laurel forest, East Asia to northeast China, Japan, and Indonesia.
Food ingredients consist of Japanese millet, proso millet, millet, rice, etc. From North China to Korea, wheat malt is used. Rice malt (loose koji grains) is not used.

Although some rice malt is used in Southern China and Taiwan, molds rhizopus and mucor generate some alcohol fermentation, while in Japan, alcohol cannot be produced without yeast. Aspergillus is used in Japan as loose koji.
An ancient term for rice malt is ‘kamu-tachi,’ ‘kamu’ meaning “mold” and ‘kabi-tachi’ refers to grown mold.
*Laurel Forest
A type of forest classification, referring to a type of evergreen broad-leaved forest that grows in temperate climate.
The name is derived from many of the tree compositions with a strong shine on the leaves’ surface.



#japanesefood #rhizopus #rice #sake


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (To Niigata prefecture reopening after the Coronavirus Pandemic)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Restrictions across Japan, enacted following the state of emergency declaration due to the coronavirus outbreak, and preventative measures to prevent the virus from spreading were all lifted in March. As the warm spring weather in March signaled the beginning of rice and sake production season in Niigata prefecture, I paid a visit. Driving from Tokyo on the Kan-Etsu Expressway takes approximately three hours to reach my destination, Nagaoka city. First, I stopped in at the Takasaka Service Area of Saitama prefecture to enjoy a Char Siu Rice Bowl for breakfast. The meat was tender and the sauce was not too rich, very delicious. Service areas in Japan serve delicious food!
My delicious breakfast confirmed to me why more people are said to stop in at service areas on their way to their destination. After the rest stop, snow on mountaintops started to emerge from the Akagi Kogen in Gunma prefecture. Exiting the Kanetsu Tunnel revealed a snow-covered landscape with rice fields near Uonuma city still covered in snow. The arrival of spring was noticeable in Tokyo, yet still seemed a distant future for Niigata prefecture from the road.
This trip to Niigata prefecture is not to visit a sake brewery unfortunately, but a trip to attend a gathering with drinking buddies since a close friend and chef returned home with his family. After arriving at my destination in Nagaoka city, I greeted the chef’s family and went out to lunch with just my drinking buddies. We went out for “Ginger Shoyu Ramen,” representative of Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture.
The most popular restaurant for this ramen is Aoshima Shokudo I wrote about before. However, we heard about another competing ramen shop also popular, and headed to ramen shop “Taichi.” Apparently, Ginger Shoyu Ramen fans in Nagaoka city are largely divided between Aoshima ramen and Taichi ramen. Only a few customers were seated at Taichi besides our group, seated at a table after approximately ten minutes.
Since this was our first visit, I ordered the standard Ginger Shoyu Ramen that turned out to be more voluminous than I anticipated. I quickly became full since I had Char Siu Rice Bowl only two hours before. Just the right amount of ginger flavor and smooth noodles were very delicious. Looking around the restaurant, I noticed many customers were ordering large portions of noodles. Even ladies finished a large bowl of ramen approximately 16 inches in diameter.
Leaving the ramen shop with a full stomach, we noticed a long line had formed in the storefront, no doubt a popular restaurant. We still had time before meeting up with the chef’s family, so we headed to Ponshu Kan at the Nagaoka Station to purchase snacks to accompany Japanese sake to drink at the hotel after dinner.
Despite my work pertaining to Japanese sake and my countless encounters with various regional sake brands, I can never ignore labels that read, limited edition released only in Niigata prefecture, etc. I bought several snacks and three bottles of Japanese sake, and then headed to the meeting point for the group to dine at a popular yakiniku (Japanese-style Korean BBQ) restaurant for dinner.
I’ll elaborate on our moving dining experience at yakiniku restaurant “Stamina-En” in Nagaoka city in the next issue.



Harmony of Sake and Cuisine

By Yuji Matsumoto

Especially when it comes to pairing Japanese sake with food, many people likely think, “What’s with the exaggeration…? It doesn’t really matter.”
In this issue, I’d like to pass on to our readers a trick that enhances one’s abilities to pair sake with food.
First, please select three brands of sake with very different properties. The differences in properties are hard to tell without drinking the sake, but first, let’s select the sake according to the information listed on each label.
For example, please select a Junmai Daiginjo, Tokubestu Junmai, and Junmai Kimoto, all produced in different regions like Akita, Niigata, and Hyogo prefectures, etc. Sake produced in the U.S. are reasonably priced, for including a few of these brands in the mix may also be fun. Please be sure to use the same shaped glass for each of the three sake brands. It’s best to store the glasses in the refrigerator for approximately 3 hours and to maintain their temperature at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. (white wine glasses are better)
And now, for the cuisine. There’s no need to stick with Japanese cuisine, for it’s fun to also pair sake with Chinese and Italian (please avoid excessively spicy or strong garlic-flavored dishes) cuisines. Please be careful to compare the balance between the sake and the food upon consumption, the changes detected in the umami flavors, and any changes in the aroma particular to that food, and aftertaste. If these factors in the pairing are satisfying, then it’s safe to say the pairing was a “success.”


#alljapannews #junmai #sake


Sake Nation “Beijing Olympics & Paralympic Games and Japanese Sake”

By Kosuke Kuji

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics were held this year.
The festive mood seemed to continue as the games were held approximately six months after the Tokyo Summer Olympics was postponed a year ago. It was great to see the event held with thorough coronavirus measures in place.
Japanese athletes competed well. The greatest winner was ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi from Iwate prefecture, who garnered a Gold Medal when he ski jumped a normal hill.
One of the games that highlighted Japan during the Winter Olympics and Paralympics was curling.
Japan won a Silver Medal in Women’s Curling, a record-breaking victory.
Curling is interestingly linked to alcohol.
In Europe where curling is popular, many curling rinks have bars. After a game, local custom dictates the winning team buys the losing team drinks, which I found impressive.
Further, athletes consume snacks during breaks in the middle of a curling game.
In foreign curling rinks, spectators enjoy alcoholic beverages while viewing a curling game in some cultures.
Although sports and snacks seem not to be connected, I’m impressed by the connection between alcoholic beverages, bars, and curling.
In Japan, curling is widely popular in Iwate prefecture, where a local municipality is considering the construction of a curling rink. I hope a bar will be constructed onsite for spectators to savor Japanese sake while enjoying a curling game. Further, I hope the winning team will buy the losing team a round of local sake, a custom I hope will get passed on in the future.



#BeijingOlympics #Olympics #sake


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