Both originating from Japan, sake and sushi are unique, flavorful refreshments that enchant the tastebuds and leave you craving more. However, have you ever considered trying them together? Those unfamiliar with their flavor profiles may find it difficult to determine if they’d be a good match.
Is sake good with sushi? Discover why these two are a delicious duo and some of the best sakes to pair with sushi.
Are Sake and Sushi Good Together?
So, should you try sake and sushi together? If you wish to enjoy an enriching, one-of-a-kind food and beverage pairing, then the answer is yes! This article covers some of the reasons why they go well together, as well as specific types of sake that complement sushi.
1. Neutralized Fish Flavors
Well-prepared sushi never has a “fishy” aroma but if you are a few of those who are super sensitive about “fishy” aromas and flavors found in sushi, then you will find pairing it with sake would work extremely well for you. When certain elements like sulfur dioxide and iron come in contact with fish fat, it can result in an unpleasant fishy taste and odor. However, sake only contains a small number of elements that tend to react negatively with seafood. Therefore, it doesn’t emphasize any unfavorable features found in the raw fish. Instead, it will mask that and bring out the true flavor of the fish itself.
2. Complementary Flavor Profiles
Sake and sushi both have rich umami flavor profiles. If you’re unfamiliar with umami, it’s one of the five basic tastes in addition to salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Umami is a savory flavor found in foods like meat, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes and, of course, seafood. By combining the umami characteristics in sake and sushi, you achieve a synergistic effect.
Sake contains a glutamic acid compound, a type of amino acid found in rice protein, which reacts with the umami inosinic acid compound in seafood. Pairing them together results in a burst of flavor and amplified umami taste. In most cases, sake does a better job of enhancing umami tastes than other alcoholic beverages like white wine, another drink commonly paired with seafood that’s known to boost umami.
So, the next time you order a bottle of sake, consider trying it with sushi to see if you can detect this unique depth of flavor caused by the harmony of the ingredients. You may discover a new world of flavor and appreciate a new taste awareness!
3. Multiple Sake and Sushi Pairings
With many different types of sake available, you can pair it with sushi in multiple ways. Each sake grade varies in notes, body, sweetness level, aroma and production characteristics, so naturally, each one will pair differently with this cuisine.
When choosing a sake to accompany sushi, remember that fish is the main ingredient. Therefore, you’ll want to pick a more subtle sake grade so it won’t interfere with the delicate flavor of the sushi. If the sake is overly sweet, fruity and fragrant, it can overpower the dish and compromise the tasting experience.
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the best types of sake to pair with sushi:
Junmai or Tokubetsu Junmai
Most Junmai sake will pair extremely well with sushi or sashimi since umami in sake would emphasize umami of fish such as Maguro, Salmon, Unagi with sauce, Yellow Tail, or Uni to name a few.
Junmai sake is typically produced at medium-to-high temperatures and brewed in quicker batches. Brewers usually use around 70% of the full rice kernel to bring out complex savory and earthy flavors, creating an umami-rich, slightly acidic beverage that accompanies a wide variety of sushi.
Tokubetsu Junmai sake use a little more polished rice such as 60% or less, or fermented in slower fashion, but still retaining the most of Junmai sake characteristics such as umami rich in flavors and well-established body. Therefore, it is another excellent type of sake to pair with a wide variety of sushi.
Junmai Ginjo or Junmai Daiginjo
Meanwhile, Junmai Ginjo or Junmai Daiginjo is created with 60%, 50%, or less rice polishing. It also uses special types of yeast to boost its fragrance without overpowering the senses, as well as a long, low-temperature fermentation process. As a result, Junmai Ginjo or Junmai Daiginjo has light floral aromas. It’s slightly fruitier and more delicate than typical Junmai sakes. Therefore, Junmai Diginjo and Junmai Daiginjo sake will pair well with lighter white fish such as Tai, Suzaki, or Hirame.
Nama (Sho Chiku Bai Organic Nama)
Rather than a traditional heat-based pasteurization process, our Organic Nama sake passes through multiple microfilters to sterilize the final product. This filtering results in a lively, savory flavor that especially complements cold and vinegar-marinated dishes — specifically sushi, sashimi, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon and fish with ponzu. This micro-filtering also results in retaining its nama (young and fresh) flavors.
These lively umami rich characteristics of nama sake goes very well with paring with many different types of sushi while serving it cold.
4. Temperature Pairings
In addition to flavor pairings, beverage temperature is another factor to consider. When deciding whether to pair room temperature, hot or cold sake with sushi, follow these tips:
Chilled (Junmai to Nama, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo)
Chill Junmai Ginjo or Junmai Daiginjo sake to serve at its best. However, if the sake is too cold, it can be hard to enjoy its naturally floral and fruity aroma and flavors of these types of sake that complement lighter white fish sushi. If it’s too intense, wait and allow the sake to warm naturally before enjoying it with your sushi.
Room Temperature (Junmai to Tokubetsu Junmai)
Room temperature Junmai sake or Tokubetsu Junmai sake are arguably the best accompaniment to sushi, as it brings out the natural umami flavors.
We would like to mention that we don’t usually recommend sipping “too” hot sake during any meal. The optimal warm/hot Junmai sake temperature is around 100°F to 105°F. When the Junmai sake is warmed to these temperature ranges the texture and flavor build, bringing out more intense umami while still retaining the softness of texture which makes it an ideal pairing for diverse types of sushi.
Try Takara Sake With Sushi
After exploring some of the best sakes with sushi, you may be interested in trying out this unique pairing for yourself. At Takara Sake, you can easily find your perfect sushi accompaniment from our premium sake collection.
Whether you prefer classic dry sake, sweet fruit flavors or imported varieties, you’re sure to find something to enhance your next meal. Browse our sake products and order your bottle today!