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3 Sakes To Give Your Oysters An Umami Flavor Boost

When thinking of what drinks to pair with seafood, like oysters, sake is something you should keep at the top of your mind. The natural umami present within sake and oysters don’t just pair with each other: they mesh and enhance each other, meaning you get more umami from the two combined than either individually.

This is because sake and seafood contain different types of umami compounds. Umami compounds are substances found naturally in food that trigger tastebuds to register the savory taste umami has in our brains. Sake has a compound called glutamic acid, while oysters contain another called inosinic acid. When combined, they are shown to have a synergistic effect that enhances umami.

A recent joint study between JFOODO and Japanese company AISSY looked at these pairings by quantifying umami as an “umami score” across multiple types of beverages. White wine is a typical beverage to pair with seafood, but based on these umami scores, sake results in a larger increase in umami. According to a press release, when paired with raw oysters, white wine only increased the umami score by 0.13 points, while pairing the oysters with sake increased the umami score by 0.41 points. This signifies a larger enhancement of umami in our mouths when we drink sake with seafood over white wine.

Foodbeast and food Instagrammer @ashyi recently got to experience this new type of pairing style firsthand. She met up with sake sommelier Bryan West at Shuck Oyster Bar in Costa Mesa, California to try some different sakes meant to pair perfectly with oysters.

The three sakes West recommended are as follows:

Born:Gold Junmai Daiginjo, Katoukichibee Shouten

This gold tinted sake is cold-aged for about a year, lending to some light and sweet undertones that cut through the briny, salty flavors oysters contain while still packing a savory punch. 

Suigei Junmai Ginjo Koiku No. 54, Suigei Brewing

Suigei Brewing’s Koiku No. 54 is made with Gin-no Yume rice, which is locally produced in the same region the brewery is located in. It’s a semi-dry, light sake with citrusy notes, yet still retains a strong umami flavor that pairs with and enhances an oyster’s taste.

Mutsu Hassen ISARIBI Special Junmai, Hachinohe Shuzo

“Isaribi” is the name given to a fire meant to lure fish at night. It’s a fitting name for this rich, dry sake, which was crafted to pair well with all types of seafood, including oysters.

Each of the above sakes has unique flavor profiles and qualities, but all contain that glutamic acid that provides the umami synergy with oysters. Together, that creates a mouthwatering flavor combo that you can’t get with just either alone.

A unique yet optimal way to combine the two umami sensations is through something called a “sake drop,” where some of the sake paired with a meal is spooned on top of the oyster. It’s then all eaten at once to enjoy the enhanced umami synergy.

You can try doing a sake drop at Shuck Oyster Bar, who is serving a special oyster dish alongside the Isaribi sake as part of the Unlock Your Palate campaign by JFOODO. It will be served alongside Oysters on the half shell topped with caviar, micro greens, yuzu spritz, and a dash of Fresno chili sauce. This pairing will be available at Shuck starting December 1st, and may end when the stock of sake runs out. Otherwise, it will run through the entire month.

To learn more about the sakes and how they go with oysters, check out the full video at the top of this story. You can also learn more about the pairing, and other restaurants featuring it, through JFOODO’s website, or by following the hashtags #UnlockYourPalate and #SeafoodAndSake.

Created in partnership with JFOODO

By Constantine Spyrou

Constantine's life revolves around eating, studying, and talking about food. He's obsessed with eggs, gyros, and the future of food.