Someone once said "a gourmet is a glutton who dominates himself". I don't know about you, but every year at the same time, before we even think about Christmas presents and decorations, the question that is on our minds is what our meals will be made of. So for once, we would like to talk to you about cooking and especially about the use of sake as an ingredient. Because sake is a fundamental basis of Japanese cuisine.
Sake is counted as one of the "big four" by Shizuo Tsuji*, along with soy sauce, miso, and dashi broth. Its function? To soften food thanks to the amino acids it contains, to reduce the use of salt, to eliminate strong odors, to perfume and to make dishes more lively. Nowadays, its use has gone far beyond the framework of Japanese cuisine and many chefs, both professional and amateur, use it almost daily. That's good news, we have two sake specially designed for the kitchen to present you.
* Shizuo Tsuji, Japanese cooking, A Simple Art - Ed. Kondansha International, 1980
Far from the 20-liter cubes or the small bottles that can now be found in supermarkets, the sake we are talking about has been produced by artisanal breweries, with as much care as for the elaboration of some tasting sake. These two sake are Ryorishu and Izumo Jidenshu. Let's compare them and see how they can be used in simple preparations.
Produced by Asahara Shuzo in Saïtama
72cl - 17€10
At the foot of the Chichibu Hills, Asahara San, the genial owner of the brewery of the same name, once decided to produce a sake dedicated to the kitchen, starting with a Junmai using homemade yeast. The brewery's teams succeeded in producing a juice that was highly concentrated in amino acids and thus carrying a powerful umami. On analysis, it was discovered that the glutamine and asparagine contents largely predominate with much higher concentrations than in the usual sake. These are the responsible for the 5th taste.
As long as you have a fairly broad knowledge of sake (and an open mind), you can take some pleasure in tasting Ryorishu. The nose, focused on tertiary aromas of caramel and candied apple, reminds one of certain koshu. The palate is initially quite straight and dry, rounding generously towards powerful and rich aromas of very ripe fruits and woody notes. The whole on a good acidity. One finds sensations halfway between Port and Whisky!
A preparation with Ryorishu
A very simple idea is to marinate salmon or trout roe in Ryorishu sake for 30 to 60 minutes before serving. Not only will you bring wonderful flavors to your preparation, but you will see the eggs swell and become shiny like glass beads. You can arrange them on oysters for example, and add a drop of sake on top.
Produced by Yoneda Shuzo in Shimane
72cl - 22€50
Izumo Jidenshu has been produced since time immemorial according to a method specific to the region of Izumo, northwest of Shimane Prefecture. Originally intended to be consumed as a drink, its use has gradually been diverted to become an important ingredient in the cuisine of Izumo. It is produced from sticky rice (mochi rice). Koji rice is twice as much as sake for tasting and the water added is half of what is usually added. The result is a very long fermentation of at least 3 months. Before maturing, ashes are introduced into the vats to neutralize the acidity. This also has the effect of giving it this beautiful red-brown color. In the end, the analyses give a sweetness half as sweet as a mirin and an umami 4 times more concentrated than in a classic sake.
A very nice surprise! One finds superb tertiary aromas of walnut, rancio, caramel, hazelnut and chocolate, Chinese shokoshu. Buttery, generous, the nose is confused and one almost has the impression to go on an Italian amaro. The mouth is supple, marked by smooth notes of coffee, caramel and nuts. We find this sensation of being on an amaro, without the sugar. A very pleasant sake, a nice sweetness, generous aromas, and a velvety texture.
A preparation with Izumo Jidenshu
A fish and seafood papillote, another simple way to use sake in the kitchen. Simply place the ingredients in a papillote of baking paper and generously moisten it with Izumo Jidenshu sake, plus a pinch of salt. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.