A cup of Japanese culture

Seeking Indian connoisseurs, sake specialists explained the features of rice wine at an absorbing event in the city

December 07, 2017 01:09 pm | Updated 01:09 pm IST

VYING FOR ATTENTION Sake being presented at the event

VYING FOR ATTENTION Sake being presented at the event

Sake, the national beverage of Japan, is literally a culture trapped in a bottle..

Despite rapid industrialisation and technological innovation, the Japanese pride themselves in maintaining a traditional approach to create the finest sake.

At an event at Rick’s in The Taj Mahal Hotel, guests were acclimatised about salient features of sake. The beverage came from different regions of the island nation as part of cultural diplomacy and business initiative.

Guests were treated to an assortment of sake, which was kept in long wine glasses so that the discerning could get a feel of each drink . The rice wine, with alcohol kept extremely low, is ideal for connoisseurs who have acquired taste for the drink.

Enlightening guests about the need for promoting sake, Miho Komatsu, a Japanese sake expert, claimed, “Sake symbolises the peace loving culture of Japan. If consumed in optimal quantity, it generates energy, hydrates skin and keeps cardiovascular diseases at bay.”

In taste, Junmai Ginjo sake was a pleasant drink which had flavours of fresh pear and jasmine. It has short grain rice named Yamadanishiki. Each sake is special as it has varied proportion of rice and alcohol. Since the rice content is more than alcohol the taste has sweetness to it.

Explaining the methodology , Miho Komatsu, representative of Akashi Tai, said: “Brewing superior sake by hand requires all five senses to be perfect with the natural process of fermentation and flavour development. Even the hushed process of natural fermentation at work can be heard in the cool quiet rooms of our brewery.”

The event demonstrated that sake can be paired with not only the Japanese cuisine but also goes well with South Indian snacks like idlis and spicy samosas. According to Rie Yoshitake, sake specialist, sake’s versatility can be seen from the fact that it helps in enhancing flavours of food.

“During my Delhi trip, I discovered that it goes well spicy with Indian dishes. We are introducing it to develop relationship between the two nations.”

Sake is prepared by rice grown in different regions of Japan. “But rice is transported everywhere. In North Japan, sake is drier as people in the region eat less spicy food. In South, it becomes sweeter as the locals eat spicy food,” informs Rie Yoshitake.

Rie Yoshitake

Rie Yoshitake

On how sake varies from wine in terms of preparation, she said: “Wine is made from grapes which is in the land of producer but rice is transported to all parts of Japan. We don’t have regionalism but sake makers infuse their own personality in the drink. While wine is in the hands of weather, sake’s quality is in the hands of its maker. It is important to understand that sake makers have their own peculiar characteristics and skills. Bad rice can be compensated by skill of the sake maker.”

She said that one couldn’t trace its exact origin but but its was prepared even 2,000 years ago. “Japanese are basically rice eaters. One fine day rice was accidentally left on the ground with water. So when that rice was eaten it became sweeter because of the enzyme.”

Rice used in sake does not contain the kind of enzymes that barley does. So a different ingredient is needed to help convert the starch into sugar. This ingredient is koji (yeast). When koji is combined with rice then enzymes are produced which break up the starch in the rice and turn it into sugar.

Summing up, she said: “Sake is consumed on special occasions. Most importantly, it is meant to connect people no matter which region, country or continent they come from – heart-to-heart.”

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