I’m the ultimate creature of habit. If I hear a good song, I’ll play it over and over again (much to the annoyance of everybody). If I like a top or skirt, I’ll buy it in five different colours (much to the amusement/horror of my girlfriends). If I find a restaurant I like, I’ll go there so often that the reservations line may as well be on my speed dial. You get the picture.
I’m going through a long-term obsession with sushi (well actually Japanese cuisine in general). Sushi for lunch? Sure, why not. For dinner? Absolutely. For breakfast? Well, I’m not quite there yet but you never know how things pan out.
A couple of weeks ago, a few friends and I went to Sumosan for dinner. While our knee-jerk reaction would be to order a bottle of wine – chosen with help from Grapeful, obviously – we canned the idea because half of the group felt in the mood for cocktails instead. Freed from the confinement of the wine list and not quite edgy enough for a dirty martini, my eye wandered over to the sake menu. Nestled between the hot and cold sake on the list, I spotted a “sake flight”. I was intrigued.
Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. A big misconception is that it is “rice wine” but in reality it isn’t like a wine at all. In fact, it is produced using a brewing process similar to that of beer. It is traditionally drunk from small cups (“choko”) served using a ceramic flask (“tokkuri”). It can be served hot or chilled, but the high quality sakes tend to be served cold to preserve the aromas and flavours. Sake fanatics around the world claim that it is the oldest known spirit in the world – first produced in China in 4800 BC – but this remains a major point of contention.
There are many different types of sake. A brief yet edifying discussion with Sumosan’s sommelier revealed that their sake flight consisted of three 50ml servings: junmai, ginjo and nigori. Junmai is known as “pure” sake because it is made from rice only (i.e. no distilled alcohol is added to it) and it tends to be relatively fuller in body. Ginjo may have distilled alcohol added to it, and is usually balanced, delicate, and of high quality. Both of these types of sake are generally filtered to remove the grain solids after fermentation. Nigori sake, however, is unfiltered – which explains its cloudy appearance. You can also find sparkling sake although it wasn’t part of Sumosan’s flight.
The good news is that sake is a great partner for food – wine doesn’t always have to be your first port of call. All three sakes in the flight paired exceptionally with the overabundance of food we ordered – the most memorable combination was the junmai (my favourite of the three) with a tuna & truffle cut roll. I’m hungry just thinking about it.
Sake contains no sulfites, no additives, no preservatives; it’s gluten-free and it co ntains considerably more amino acids than wine. High quality sakes contain no congeners (the by-products of fermentation) which means less of a hangover.
I therefore conclude that sake is good for your health.
The sake flight included the following:
Hoyo genji Junmai from miyagi (Dry, clean & refreshing floral aromas)
Sumosan junmai ginjo-kaetsu shuzo – niigata (deeper & fuller bodied)
Kamoizumi ginjo nigori from hiroshima (rich, creamy with fruity exotic flavours)
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