A Tip for Sake and Food Pairing – Place of Origin

Rule:  Red wine with beef and white wine with fish.  As a general principle, that is a safe practice for wine and food pairing.  Rules are a rigid term, and today many have discovered exceptions.  Food and beverage pairing is less about rules and more about personal taste.  But there are worthy suggestions and guidelines to consider practicing or experimenting with to enhance the culinary experience.


Generally, it seems that matching similar food and flavor profiles can be complementary.  For example, matching a sweet beverage with similarly sweet food.  Or, a contrasting of food and beverage can work well too.  For example, a light and acidic beverage paired with a heavy creamy food.  Sake is a versatile beverage, and is subtler than it’s wine and beer counterparts. Historically the matching of food and beverage was inherent to the local natural resources and cuisine.  Let’s consider how regions have played a role in food and beverage pairing for sake.  For comparison, lets compare how beer and wine have similar histories.


To many foreigners, the thought of drinking sake is something that is only considered when eating sushi.  While that can be a natural match, there are certain styles of sake that can enhance the flavors of the food and sake.  But how do you chose?  Sometimes the location of where the sake was produced will be a helpful factor.  This principle was truer years ago.  Before there was refrigerated transportation, fresh sashimi-like fish was not available in the mountainous regions of Japan.  Fish was salt-dried or preserved with fermenting to make the long journey to reach the mountain areas of japan.  Likewise, many fermented foods such as soy and miso evolved.  Local sake from the mother mountain areas in Japan had tendency to be hearty and full bodied to hold up the preserved and salty foods.  By comparison, sake breweries located closer the seaport areas with easy access to fresh fish, produced lighter style sake.


Today, region alone is not the truest way to consider reliable way to match food and sake.  Sake producers have a variety of products and each product can have a varying style.  What does tend to me more accurate as a general rule of thumb is that a certain category of sake will have a reliable flavor profile.  For example, the Shizuoka Prefecture has access to a rich ocean along the Suruga Bay the deepest bay in Japan.  There is great access to fresh fish.  Shizuoka sake is generally low in acidity and pairs well with fresh fish.   But instead of relying on region, the category of sake is a better gauge for predicting a match.  For example, a light refined daiginjo or junmai daiginjo  will general go well with fresh raw fish.  But is also worthy to be aware of region too, and sake does have tradition and roots to their local culture and cuisine.


On the other hand, beer has similar regional attributes of food pairing.  The Czech Republic is famous for the pilsner style beers.  Pilsners are generally light, clean and crisp.  The local food of the Czech Republic is somewhat sturdy.  There are many creamy dishes.  The balance of grain and hops is refreshing The pilsner is cleansing to the palate when matching with a creamy style local dish.  The bitter and hoppy English style ales cuts through the animal fats of roasted meats and complements root vegetables that are indigenous to the British cuisine history.


Wines are influenced by terroir.  The soil, climate and topography largely determine the style of fruit for wine.  The French Pinot Noir (Burgundy) is earthy by comparison to the same grape in California or Oregon.  The pinot grape that is produced in US is more fruit forward.  The local food of Burgundy is a land locked region.  The cuisine is hearty, local “country style” such as beef, pates, mushrooms.  The lighter earthy style wines compared to their US counterparts support the robust style food.


When pairing your favorite beverage with food.  It is best to not pay too close attention to “rules”.  Rather, experiment and follow your personal preference.  There is a lot of information and attention given to food pairing.  It is a good source and guideline to discover explore and find what may work best for you.