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Taste with KJ – Pairing Sake with Greek Cuisine and Lebanese Baba Ganoush

Taste with KJ – Pairing Sake with Greek Cuisine and Lebanese Baba Ganoush


Welcome to a new True Sake newsletter column called Taste with KJ! You may remember me from a few years ago when I wrote the monthly True Sake archives articles. I wore a silly miner’s cap and searched for fun newsletters of years past. 

This new column is inspired by Beau’s culinary sake pairing adventures formerly called ‘Sake Challenges.’ He would take a good friend and an inspiring brew to San Francisco restaurants to prove sake could pair with just about anything! If you would like to read these articles, head to our True Blog section of the website. True Blog also contains an extensive collection of newsletter articles stemming all the way back to 2014! 

My spin on this concept is to create a monthly challenge by choosing either a sake, cuisine or special dish, then figuring out an eclectic, yet tasty pairing that WORKS! Sometimes I might fail, but we can learn about sake pairing together! Take this column as an invitation to try your own creative pairings with sake. 
This month we are featuring Sogen Junmai ‘Samurai Prince’ paired with Greek cuisine and Lebanese baba ganoush!


Every Friday in the East Bay, my partner and I either make an elaborate meal together or order take out. This week we decided to grab Greek food from Nick the Greek and our favorite baba ganoush from Mediterranean restaurant Rojbas

First of all, this was a challenging pairing experiment due to the sheer amount of contrasting flavors that exist in Greek dishes. We had lamb gyros, falafel with tzatziki sauce and ‘Nicks Fries’ which were thinly cut fries topped poutine-style with lamb, feta, garlic, spicy sauce and green onions. Usually, when pairing complex flavor profile dishes, the rule is to pair to the most dominant flavor. But with Greek food, every flavor from the gamey lamb, to the tangy feta and sharp green onion all hold equal place in the dish. One element that was constant throughout the dishes was a high level of salt. Baba Ganoush, a roasted eggplant spread with olive oil and lemon, as well as the yogurt-based tzatziki sauce provided needed relief from the meal’s heightened saltiness. 

When it came to pairing Sogen Junmai, the sake paired best with the lamb on its own. The lamb’s unique feral taste was highly complemented by the sake’s clarified milk texture and candy cap mushroom aroma. Sogen also provided a comforting cocoa note, which reminded me of drinking chocolate milk as a child. Sogen Junmai has a silky, pleasing effect on the palate and exudes nougat, brown sugar and marshmallow when chilled. 

Interestingly, this Junmai also provided plantain flavor and a hint of coriander, making it a nice contrasting match for the pita bread and feta. Overall, this sake worked with the dishes we chose. I recommend giving it a try and imagining the mid-90s when drinking a tall glass of milk with dinner was cool. 

Other Contenders: 
Tenzan Junmai Genshu ‘Mount Tenzan’  - At room temperature, this sake had the body and alcohol necessary to pair with such powerful flavors, yet lost some of its precious amino acid character. It held on to a slight soy sauce note that added complexity to the gyro and loaded fries. When this sake was paired chilled, it expressed ripe cantaloupe and lingering miso which contrasted perfectly with the salty character of the lamb. 

Tenbu Junmai - This Junmai drinks more like a Junmai Ginjo, with refreshing acidity and fruity aromas including mandarin, persimmon and lime zest. It was a great match with the falafel which was made with bright hard herbs. The herbal notes with the chickpea base accentuated the sake’s fruitiness. Bring a 300ml Tenbu Junmai on your next falafel jaunt. 

What did you like about this article? If you were inspired to try your own Sogen and/or sake with greek cuisine pairings, please email me at and you could be featured in our next article. Kanpai for now!

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