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Unlock the joys of harmonising sake with food

It’s not just sushi that you should be enjoying this wonderfully versatile drink with...

By Time Out in association with JFOODO
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There’s a reason why everybody is saying that sake is the drink of 2018. Actually, there are a lot of reasons, and one of them is the fact that it harmonies so well with such a wide variety of foods that go way beyond Japanese cuisine.

Speaking of which, you’ve probably tried sake once or twice at a Japanese restaurant and enjoyed it, but never considered ordering it at any other time, right? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. But here’s why you should skip straight to the sake section of the drinks menu when you’re dining out.

First, a quick brewing lesson. Sake is made from sakamai, a special type of rice used just for brewing. The sakamai is polished, which forms part of a process that allows the grains to release that delightful, distinctive umami quality. It’s then fermented using a technique called multiple parallel fermentation, which sounds sciencey and complicated – and it kind of is. But all you need to know is that it’s a technique which is pretty much unique to sake brewing.

Finally, there are five categories of sake: aromatic, aged, rich, smooth and refreshing, and sparkling, each with its own distinct flavours.

So, now you’ve had a crash-course in sake-making, let’s talk food. As we mentioned, sake doesn’t just complement Japanese food – it works brilliantly with a huge range of cuisines from all over the world. Like what? Glad you asked. Here’s an introduction to a few fantastic sake-food harmonies you’ll want to try right away, and really should.

Find out where to try these and other perfect sake-food harmonies in restaurants around London.

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Sake and cheese

Cheese and wine? So twentieth century. Raise your game and start exploring cheese and sake – you’ll be glad you did and you’ll also be ‘that friend’ who turns people on to this inspired combination. There are all kinds of great matches here, but one definitely worth investigating is blue cheese and aged sake. The rich nuttiness of the sake works in harmony with the creamy, powerful cheese, making for a superb tasting experience that you won’t want to end.

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Sake and fish and chips

Surprising as it might seem, the quintessential Brit classic is also a winner when matched with a great sake. In particular, sparkling sake works particularly well, with the gentle fizz and light, sweet qualities balancing out the richness of the battered fish and the savouriness of the chips. And – even better news – seasoning with a bit of salt and vinegar (because, who doesn’t?) will help further enhance the whole set of flavours and give the sake even more to work with.

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Sake and oysters

Everyone needs to go big once in a while, and when you do, combining sake and oysters is a great way to do it in style. Oysters are clearly a bold dish, and that’s where sake’s umami qualities really come into play, matching the saltiness and full-on sensation of the oyster before providing a smooth, clean, subtly sweet finish that almost acts as a kind of palate-cleanser – just before you grab that next oyster and dive-in again.

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