Japanese sake, also known simply as sake, is a traditional Japanese rice wine that has been enjoyed for centuries. It is made by fermenting rice with water and a special type of yeast, and is often referred to as "nihonshu" in Japan.
Sake is not just a drink, but also an important part of Japanese culture and tradition. It is often served at special occasions, such as weddings, and is also used in religious ceremonies. In recent years, sake has become increasingly popular around the world, as more people discover its unique taste and cultural significance.
What is sake?
Sake is a fermented rice wine that is made from rice, water, and koji, a type of mold that helps break down the rice starches into sugar. Sake is brewed in a process that is similar to beer, but is also similar to wine, as it is fermented and aged.
Sake can range in taste from sweet to dry, and can also have varying levels of alcohol content. Some sake is meant to be enjoyed cold, while others are best served warm. The flavor of sake can also be affected by the type of rice used, as well as the water and yeast.
How is sake made?
The process of making sake is complex and requires a lot of skill and patience. The first step is to prepare the rice, which involves washing it and then soaking it in water. The rice is then steamed and mixed with koji and yeast in a large tank. The mixture is left to ferment for several weeks, then the solids are separated from the liquid.
The liquid that remains is then aged for several months or even years, depending on the type of sake being made. Some sake is aged in wooden barrels, while others are aged in stainless steel tanks. The ageing process allows flavours to develop and the alcohol content to increase.
Different types of sake.
There are many different types of sake, each with its own unique flavour and characteristics. Some of the most popular types of sake include:
Junmai: Made with only rice, water, and koji, this type of sake has a rich, full-bodied flavour.
Ginjo: Made with high-quality rice and brewed at a lower temperature, this sake has a light, fruity flavour.
Daiginjo: Similar to ginjo, but made with even higher quality rice and brewed at an even lower temperature, this sake has a delicate, floral flavour.
Nigori: Unfiltered sake that has a cloudy appearance and a sweet, creamy flavour.
Futsu-shu: This is the most common type of sake in Japan and is often referred to as "table sake". It is usually inexpensive and has a mild, easy-to-drink flavour.
How to serve sake?
Sake is traditionally served in small cups called "ochoko", which are often placed inside a larger cup called a "tokkuri". The tokkuri is heated to warm up the sake, or it can be placed in ice water to cool it down. Sake can also be served at room temperature, depending on the type of sake and personal preference.
Sake is often enjoyed with food, and pairs well with a variety of dishes, including sushi, sashimi, and grilled meats. It is also a popular ingredient in Japanese cooking, and is used in dishes such as sake-steamed clams and sake-braised pork belly.
Japanese sake is a unique and delicious drink that is steeped in tradition and culture. Whether served warm or cold, with food or on its own, sake is a versatile and enjoyable beverage that is loved by many. With its increasing popularity around the world, now is the perfect time to discover the world of sake and all that it has to offer.