This is Shiho Fukushima, a friend and a local restaurant owner. She prepared an array of Japanese 'tapas' and brought a line-up of pairings for us. Remember, this was years ago, so we were not violating any shelter-in-place orders for this. To prepare for January, I sent Shiho a message and got lots more tips.
But here's what I learned at that first exploration...simply, saké is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made with fermented rice. But saké can be divided into categories by how it was brewed.
The first one we tried was Rei by Sho Chiku Bai, Takara Sake's main brand. Rei is a Junmai Ginjo Nama /Ginjo Draft. Junmai means "pure rice" and is a saké composed of only rice, water, koji and saké yeast. No other ingredients or additives, such as alcohol or sugar, are added. I think this was my personal favorite.
The second pour was Honjozo Namachozo by Asabiraki. Honjozo-style means that additional alcohol is added to the saké to highlight certain aromas though added alcohol cannnot exceed 25% of the total alcohol in the finished product. In the U.S. it is not legal to make Honjozo or to add alcohol to saké. Imported Honjozo is categorized as a distilled spirit.
Third on the list was Kurosawa Nigori (photographed at the top) by Nishimoto Sake. Nigori -"cloudy"- saké is unfiltered and has a milky white appearance. It was markedly sweeter than the others...a little too sweet for my taste.
The final tasting was not a true saké , but Jenn and I loved it. Shiho's final selection for us was Hana Fuga, a sparkling sake, by Ozeki Sake. It was fruity and playful.
Not only did Shiho bring us a tantalizing array of sakés for the Saké tasting, she also prepared some amazing eats as well. I didn't get a chance to photograph everything; I was too busy stuffing my face, so this was only part of our menu...
Yellowfin tuna and avocado salad with mandolined sweet onion topped with hand-cut nori tossed in a poke-style vinaigrette...
Ingen Goma-ae: traditionally prepared with green beans and toasted sesame seeds. This version had some ground flaxseed which lent the dish a natto mouthfeel.
Nasu No Nimono: a traditional way of preparing eggplant - prepared in dashi with a hint of freshly grated ginger topped with scallions
On the sushi side of things, Shiho made: a spicy shiro maguro (albacore) with Japanese cucumbers, avocado, radish sprouts with a light drizzle of chili-mayo wrapped in togarashi soy paper; jumbo hamachi rolls with scallions, roasted sesame seeds, avocado, and Japanese cucumber; ume (pickled plum), takuwan (picked daikon radish), Japanese cucumber; and a Teriyaki Ribeye Roll (photographed below).
And we finished off the feast with Amai Mono (something sweet): banana and shiro momo (white peach) tempura fritters topped with a drizzle of condensed milk...
Well, I hope this inspires you to join the Wine Pairing Weekend crew in our January exploration of Saké & Other Pairings for Asian Foods. Kampai!