Last time we talked about the importance of the three fundamental concepts (balance, harmony, “wash”) and the flavor characteristics (sweetness, dryness, bitterness, richness, aroma) of sake as relates to matching sake with food. For those who would like to get into more detail, please read last month’s issue or see our website at www.sushiandtofu.com. This time we will dive right into the Seven Theories of drinking sake with food. However, feel free to look for your own combinations.
Theory 1: Sweet food, sweet and dry sake
For food that contains sugar or sweeteners or uses potatoes or other sweet, starchy ingredients, a sweet sake will match very well. If you choose a sweet, dry wine, the sweetness of the food and the dryness of the sake will be both be emphasized.
Theory 2: Rich food, rich sake
For food with heavy, rich seasoning, it is good to choose a full-bodied, rich sake. This combination brings the flavor alive in both the sake and the food. Conversely, a lightly seasoned dish should be eaten with a lighter sake.
Theory 3: Salty food, dry sake
Salty food and a dry, refreshing sake has a surprisingly synergistic, well-balanced effect. When salty food is coupled with sweet sake, the saltiness of the food and the sweetness of the sake is emphasized, resulting in an unpleasant taste. Choose a dry sake.
Theory 4: Fishy or gamey foods, rich sake
Food that tastes strongly of fish or shellfish means that it contains a lot of amino acids. That means that this type of food will go well with a rich, full-bodied sake. For dishes that contain shellfish match well with a refined sake with a good wash.
Theory 5: Acidic food, sweet sake
Under the right circumstances, acidity can add to the flavor of a dish, but when it is strong, the sourness can be very unpleasant. In the way that we add sugar to lemon juice to make lemonade, a sweet sake harmonizes the acidity of food. So an acidic dish goes well with a sweet sake.
Theory 6: Plain food, Ginjo sake
If the dish doesn’t have a particularly strong flavor, there really isn’t a way to match sake with it. However, blander dishes such as appetizers will offset the flavor of the sake itself so a high quality sake such as Ginjo would be appropriate.
Theory 7: Greasy food, refined or aged sake
The fundamental of “wash” is most directly expressed in this case. Refined sakes simply “wash away” the greasiness of the food. Also, in the way that Raochu (a famous Chinese liquor) goes well with Chinese food, aged sake goes well with oily foods.
Beyond what we have presented here, there are many more theories about how to match sake with food. We cannot hope to list them all. The important thing to remember is that you should discover your own favorite way of drinking sake. This article is just a reference. I think it will make choosing sake more enjoyable. See you next month!