“Ask Beau” – “As a sake sommelier what were some of your training techniques or buzzwords for pairing sake with foods?”
Ah! Good question Phillip R from Manhattan! Basically I look at food pairings as more of a war against wine, and think in terms of what can sake do that wine can and cannot do – including pairing with asparagus! (Ha, a little somm humor!)
So this begs the question, what can sake do? Well in the first and most pronounced instance sake can stand up to salt – even a lot of salt. From table salt to soy sauce, sake remains largely unchanged when pairing, and this is pretty awesome as we westerners loves us our sodium! And this goes straight into pickled foods, where sake also excels. Add vinegar to the mix as well and it is clear that sake can stand up to and perhaps even enhance these flavors. Oh and don’t forget olives! Think Junmai sake and green olives!
Sake can also do sweet! Sweet flavors and even fruit do not blow sake away. Sure, there are some exceptions, but there are also sakes for every fruit and every dessert. It took me some time learning, but sake can actually hold up to spices, especially Japanese spices such as wasabi and certain mustards. That said, we westerners love us our super spicy sushi rolls and there are a ton of sakes that can take that international heat and work with it. I don’t know too many wines that can take that!
Sake can also clean up a dish! It is an emulsifier and does a great job dissolving and breaking down fatty elements in meats, poultry, fish, and game. It also cleans up plant and vegetable oils. It kills me when I see folks drinking wine and eating anything from the ocean. I’m sorry, sake simply works better than a grape juice. There are a lot of amino acids in sake and this actually helps fish, shellfish, and all sea creatures taste better.
Like wine, sake goes well with cheese! But does wine go well with citrus? Sake does! And as sake is a starch, it pairs very well with other starches including French fries! Also, I like to say that sake can defeat too much yeast in many breads and dishes and cleans up those flavors. Am I nuts? No, but of course sake does go very well with nuts as many sakes have a nuttiness to them.
The bottom line is that I always want people to think of sake when pairing with western cuisine. Period! And this may be a hint – wink wink nudge nudge – but our new project which is soon to come to light will be made all the more awesome by sake being so good with the above mentioned flavors. Sake does go well with western fare and I will prove it, and you will totally enjoy being a judge of that!