A Sake Surprise

I recently had the opportunity to attend a sake tasting class. We learned how sake is such an important part of the Japanese culture and that the process by which sake is made is steeped in tradition.

PourSake is actually made through a disciplined method that has been passed down through generations. Part of the process includes steaming rice and converting that into a mold (koji) that breaks down the starch into sugar. The koji is then fermented by the yeast which converts the sugar into alcohol.

Like wine, sake is best enjoyed in a wine glass. This allows the nose to open up which yields fragrances like citrus, almonds and sometimes floral. Sake can be served at various temperatures and has received an unfair reputation that warm sake is cheap sake.

S.M.V., or Sake Meter Value, is a metric for each sake produced. This measures the density of sake relative to water. The median value of SMV is +3. The higher the SMV, the drier the sake. This is a useful way to know whether it may be more to your liking.

Another useful bit of information I learned is Junmai is pure sake – the only ingredients being rice, water and kogi. Conversely when alcohol is added before the pressing stage, this creates a lighter sake and is called Aruten sake. Some sake manufacturers employ this process to increase yields.

Pairing sake with food

Pairing sake with food

Our instructor, Toshio Ueno, made our sake tasting rather interesting by pairing it with items such as cheese, Japanese mayo and dried squid. Indeed the saltiness of the cheese really complimented the sweetness of the sake we enjoyed.

This weekend, you can experience a sake and food pairing for yourself at The LA Times’ The Taste. The Japanese National Tourism Organization will be providing regional Japanese food and beverage samples. There, you can see for yourself how sakes pair with food.

Sommelier Toshio Ueno will be on hand to answer questions about various types of sake and sake tours that are offered in Japan. Three regional sakes will be showcased, and attendees will have a chance to walk away with a traditional wooden sake cup.

LA Times’ The Taste

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Follow Bryan on twitter for the latest and greatest in food trucks and street food. @btsunoda.

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