[ Bracket response is from [me]a.k.a. thesoulofjapan]
Courtney Schiessl is a Brooklyn-based sommelier, wine writer, and consultant. She has held positions at some of New York's top restaurants, including Marta, Dirty French, and Terroir, and her writing has appeared in Drink Me Magazine, The Daily Meal, and ABC News online, among other publications. She is most likely to be seen dreaming of her next international adventure over a glass of bubbly.
AMERICANS LOVE PAIRING SAKE WITH SUSHI, BUT IT’S A BIG MISTAKE
Sake is having a moment in the U.S. We are currently Japan’s largest export market for its traditional rice beverage, sipping nearly 5,000 kiloliters per year. Small wine shops sell unfiltered nigori sake alongside hipster varietal wines. Restaurants like Oberlin in Providence, R.I., Catbird Seat in Nashville, and Banyan in Boston, pair sake by the glass with everything from tacos to Buffalo chicken to red-sauced pasta.
[ Sake pairing with ethnic foods is a new thing, and is still experimental. Just because a few geeks do it, and like the taste does not redefine Japanese sake for the masses. Buffalo chicken wings is a stand-alone food dish as it is. I don’t need a delicate sake with it. ]
For those of us who had our first sip of sake alongside an “any-three-maki” special at a sushi spot, this might seem odd. What about tradition? Isn’t sake the quintessential pairing with classic Japanese fare like, say, sushi?
[ Yes. It is. Along with tea]
Turns out, we’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. If you want to dine in the traditional Japanese fashion, don’t — I repeat, do not — drink sake with sushi.
[ No. You are miseducating the people on this one]
“I think the Western public have been trained to group sake with sushi because it is commonly served in establishments here,” Andrew Richardson, sales representative for World Sake Imports, says. Most exported sake is served in Japanese restaurants abroad, of which there are nearly 89,000. But until the mid-1900s, the pairing was unheard of in Japan.
[ Andrew Richardson doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. Until the mid-1900s, most Japanese couldn’t even afford to eat sushi, let alone Japanese sake. What was actually going on in the mid-1900? You are misleading the masses again]
“Traditionally in Japan, sake wasn’t paired with any rice dishes,” Joshua Rolnick, beverage director at Neta in New York, says. “Once the rice dish hit the table, the sake went away.” Instead, Japanese diners opted for beer, fruit wine, or tea while eating sushi. Since Neta is a traditional sushi restaurant, Rolnick avoids pairing sushi with sake when possible, suggesting versatile whites like Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, or light reds like Pinot Noir and Gamay.
[ Do you even know what a Gamay is? I could probably school you on wine too, but I’ll save that for another post. Rollick is making a misleading statement here: “Once the rice dish hit the table, the sake went away.” This is stupid. You should reread the statement. Rice is the main stable in the Japanese diet and over 90% enjoy eating at least 3 times a day. Why do you need to juxtapose that with the decline in sake consumption? What you are saying is that because Japanese people eat more rice, they no longer need sake. The same fucking product! You made another comment about fruit wine? Are you fucking kidding me? Who’s drinking fruit wine with their sushi? Diners opt for beer because of price performance and less alcohol, not because of taste.]
Because sake is brewed from rice — yes, brewed; sake production is more similar to brewing beer than winemaking — pairing it with sushi essentially just adds rice on top of rice. This was seen as “too much of a good thing,” according to Rolnick, and would fill the diner up too quickly, defeating the intended purpose of a beverage pairing.
[ Rolnick’s wrong! That whole statement you paraphrased wreaks of HIM, not the Japanese artisan.]
“The idea of pairing [alcohol with meals] is actually fairly new to Japan, just since the 1980s or so,” says Jamie Graves, Japanese beverage portfolio manager for Skurnik Wines. “If people did consider the combination of food and drink, the beverage was basically seen as a palate cleanser, to wipe your palate clean and prepare it for the next bite.”
[Jamie is another distinguished idiot. It is not fairly new, maybe in the states, but not in Japan. Stop trying to reinvent Japanese culture. A palate cleanser, no idiot, that would be the pickled ginger on the table, not 1000 yen rice brew. Nobody is paying good money to wash their food down with a 1000 yen per glass palate cleanser. Poor choice of words]
Classically, Japanese diners considered those other beverages to be more cleansing and less filling than sake, allowing them to enjoy more food, which was traditionally the priority of the meal.
Sake’s structure also plays a part. It’s lower in alcohol than most spirits, rarely exceeding 20 percent ABV. However, that also means it’s usually more alcoholic and always less acidic than wine or beer. As a result, it can seem flat or flabby when paired with high-acid vinegar on sushi rice. And, conversely, its flavors can overwhelm particularly delicate fish.
[ Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This whole statement is wholly inaccurate. Flabby as your premise]
“The chef at a more traditional sushi spot most likely wants to highlight the fish’s taste in the sushi,” Richardson says, adding that the weight and texture of many sakes “will dull the subtle flavor.”
But just as sake lovers are bucking tradition by pairing it with fried chicken and pastas, experts do emphasize that sake with sushi need not be shunned. “There’s a saying in Japan that sake wa ryori o erabenai, loosely, ‘sake isn’t choosy about food,’” Graves says. “That’s to say how generally versatile it is in pairing.”
Because sake has many complex, umami-driven flavors, it can be difficult to select just one option to work with many different bites of sushi. If a sake and sushi lover really wants to stick with the pairing, simpler is better.
“If you’re going with one choice for the meal it should be a clean, dry sake with restrained aromatics,” Graves says. Rolnick agrees, saying that a Junmai or Junmai Ginjo work well for most sushi, since more polished sakes typically have more body.
[ This is all an attempt by sake exporters to push people away from traditional sake and sushi pairings by reinventing the cultural dynamics of why sake works so well with Japanese cuisine. It’s an ignorant attempt to mislead people to pair sake with spicy buffalo wings and fried chicken, and other weird shit that simply won’t work. These so-called experts are being disingenuous to the readers and are misleading you. Pizza and coke works. Do we need a panel of judges to determine if their is a cultural value to that? What these people put out is wrong.]
Taking sake outside its most stereotypical pairing may seem forward-thinking, but we’re really just rediscovering a centuries-old Japanese mindset. In doing so, perhaps we’ll all open our eyes — and our palates — to drinking quality sake in the way that it was meant to be enjoyed: sans sushi.
[ No. It is rediscovering your Western arrogance and total lack of understanding of the dynamics of Japanese sake and how it pairs well with Japanese food. You have rediscovered nothing more].