Sake is great during cold Japanese winters to make you warm and cozy. Both the hot "atsukan" and cold "reishu" have their unique charms. Below are five Japanese dishes that go well with sake.
1. Nabe Ryori (Hot Pots)
First on the list is nabe ryori (hot pot), which is a standard dish to make during cold times. It is offered on the winter menu of many izakaya restaurants and specialty restaurants. Beef Sukiyaki is a hot pot dish that is quite popular abroad, but there are many more.
For example, there is Chicken Mizutaki (chicken and vegetables simmered in seaweed dashi stock) and Tonyu-nabe (seafood and vegetables in a soy milk-based soup). There is a wide variety of hot pot dishes that can be enjoyed by combining dashi stock, soups, condiments, dipping sauces and ingredients in different ways. Japanese sake goes well with any nabe dish. Why not have some steaming hot nabe ryori with sake in a warm room during the cold winter?
Next up is one of the most famous types of Japanese food, sashimi (raw slices of fish). A variety of seafood can be enjoyed throughout the year in Japan, which is blessed with fresh seafood thanks to being surrounded by the ocean. In addition to standard fish (such as tuna and scallops), fantastic seafood like mackerel, oysters, striped jack and crab are in season and even tastier in the winter! Although the best sake pairing may differ depending on the ingredient, light sake is recommended, as it usually goes well with everything.
Here is another winter favorite, Yudofu. It is a simple dish that is made by taking square pieces of tofu, cooking them in a dashi stock made with seaweed and other ingredients, and then eating them with soy sauce and other condiments (such as finely chopped scallions). Sometimes the vegetables (such as scallions and mustard greens) are cooked with the tofu. The key to retaining the flavor is not to let it boil. The tofu loses its umami flavor when cooked too much. It is a dish with a fresh and light flavor that goes well with any sake.
4. Buri Daikon
Next is a dish made with buri (Japanese amberjack), which is best in the winter when it becomes fat. In this dish, pieces of bite-sized buri meat, along with the "ara" (head and bones with meat left on them), are cleaned with salt or hot water to take away the odor and cooked with daikon (radishes) – a winter vegetable – in soy sauce, mirin and sake. The flavors are enhanced with condiments such as scallions and ginger. It has a rich flavor, so it goes well with sake that is light and crisp.
The last dish on the list is Namero, which is a regional dish from Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. Fish such as horse mackerel, sardines, and Pacific saury are pounded together with miso, scallions, ginger, and shiso until they form a sticky mass. It is said that this dish was invented by fishermen to eat on their boats. It is an outstanding dish with a sticky, yet smooth texture. It goes particularly well with sake, which will cancel out the fishy flavor of raw fish and enhance the rich ocean scent.
All of these dishes are often served at izakaya restaurants. We encourage you to try them!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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