Japanese Sake and Octopus Salad

This month the #WinePW crew is looking to pair wines with Asian dishes, led by Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. Her invitation post is here. The premise is Saké or another wine with Asian dishes.  I decided to virtually visit Japan again with #WinePW and write about Sake. I write, and honestly taste, Sake very infrequently and usually only if I am in a restaurant. Years ago I took an amazing class on Sake. It was much more complicated than I thought. When I am eating Asian food, usually I am scoping out wine lists to see what European wines they have on their lists. I love Reisling, Lugana and even Prosecco with many Asian cuisines. Of course Gewurztraminer is also in my mind but it is rare that I taste that pairing. For this weekend’s pairing, I thought I would try two different Sakes, one a still wine and one sparkling. I also decided to pair the wines with two dishes that are made with Octopus.

The first wine was Hakkaisan Sparkling Sake Clear Sparkling “AWA . I bought the smaller 360 ml bottle. It was quite expensive and I wasn’t sure if I would like it. The secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. It was quite particular with rich, earthy notes, slight citrus flavors and a sweet undertone. The tech sheet below shows just how unique tasting Sake is. The rice they use is mentioned, the polishing ratio, the yeast, the amino acid and the Sake meter value. All of this is fascinating to me. According to the website, Sake Rice strains include Yamadanishiki, Gohyakumangoku and Miyamanishiki. These are crops grown only for the Sake industry. Together with the rice used, another important ingredient is water. The waters in Japan are said to contain little heavy metal. Another important component is yeast. Yeast we know turns sugar into alcohol and also gives off other components. Some are bred to create yeasts that are easy to work with. Another component is Koji rice. “Koji mold spores are propagated on rice grains where they dig in and give off enzymes that break up the starch of the rice grain into sugars,” according to their website.

Alcohol13.0%
sake meter value-5.0
acidity1.4
amino acid0.7
koji rice usedYamadanishiki
brewing rice usedGohyakumangoku, Miyamanishiki, Yamadanishiki
rice-polishing ratio50%
yeastAkita-konno No. 2

The first dish I paired this wine with was Japanese Octopus Salad. I found the recipe on the Low Carbing Asian website. I had been looking for a clean and healthy recipe. I didn’t have the Swerve they mention in the recipe and I left the seaweed in water for too long but other than that, the salad was delicious and took 10 minutes to cook. I happened to have had all the ingredients on hand which was lucky except for the Swerve.

While delicious, it wasn’t a perfect pairing with the sparkling or still Sake. I think it’s because of the rice vinegar in the recipe.

The second dish was Octopus and Potatoes and was a better pairing although not perfect either and this is an Italian recipe not an Asian one. Here’s a great recipe for Octopus and Potato salad.

Oddly with the sparkling wine, the best pairing of the day was with fresh strawberries which I was eating for dessert. The still Sake was sweeter and paired better with both dishes but again, this wasn’t my finest pairing hour. It was interesting to see how both paired with different foods and textures. I am going to try both wines with a couple of dishes tomorrow, broiled Salmon or Cauliflower rice with Salmon and maybe Cuttlefish with peas.

The second wine was Ozeki Sake Dry. This wine is made in the Junmai style. It is dry and elegant. This version was fruity, delicate and had a slight sweetness. I liked it a lot and found it very easy to pair. Tomorrow I am going to try it to with other dishes.

Interestingly it has:

  • Sake Meter Value: +8
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Acidity: 1.3
  • Polish Rate: 70%

So the whatever the Sake Meter Value (SMV) is, it is a deciding factor in the decision whether a sake is dry or sweet. It is the density of sake and water. When the number is higher, the Sake should be drier. The lower the number, the sweeter the wine.

Sake is a world unto itself and I would love to visit a host of Sake Breweries. Another trip to put on my list. For now, I am happy with today’s virtual adventure.

Asian cuisine pairings from #WinePW

Now let’s see what other delicious pairings my fellow bloggers included for the #WinePW

10 comments

  1. I’ve never thought about how sake is made so this was fascinating! Thank you for such great background on it!

  2. As I read all of these posts about Sake, I am finally thinking I might be ready to explore this beverage. Sparkling Sake is not something I was familiar with and sounds fascinating.

  3. Sake is indeed a complex adult beverage with a language of its own. I love that you tried a sparkling Sake. I have yet to try one, but I’m definitely a fan of Sake! I’m also a big fan of octopus, and both your recipes sound great Susannah!

    • Martin, Thanks for stopping by at Avvinare. I had a blast with this month’s topic. I had never had a sparkling Sake either. It was really interesting and there is so much to learn about Sake in general. Octopus always reminds me of summer in Italy so it’s a favorite. Cheers to you.

  4. I had no idea of the SMV and now will look out for that in the future. Thanks for sharing all this info. I agree with you that it’s a world unto itself and similar to you, I’ve taken a few seminars on it over the years, and yet just have not gotten all the info to stick in my brain yet. I think more virtual adventures like this would help!

    • Thanks so much for reading Nicole. I am so excited about Sake right now, learning more everyday. Apparently Umami is a tasting note that is often used with Sake. I almost never use Umami in my notes but will going forward. Cheers to you, Susannah

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