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How Different Types Of Sake Affect The Umami Taste In Fish

Sake has to be one of the most versatile alcoholic beverages in the world. With all of the different types and flavors available, the options in your grasp when it comes to picking a sake are almost endless. 

One thing they all have in common, however, is their synergy with seafood when it comes to umami. Research has shown that sake is much better at enhancing the sensation of umami in our mouths when compared to other alcoholic beverages like white wine.

This is because sake contains an umami compound called glutamic acid that can interact with the umami compound in seafood, called inosinic acid. The two react on our taste buds to boost the effects of umami, and sake plays a large part in supplying the glutamic acid for that burst of flavor. 

Foodbeast and Instagrammer George LaBoda @atlasandmason got to try this out firsthand while visiting Hermanito, a restaurant in Los Angeles, California. There, he met up with sake sommelier Bryan West to sample three different sakes with Hermanito’s Hamachi and Uni Agua Chili Sunomo. Each of the sakes had different properties that affected LaBoda’s perception of umami. 

jfoodo hyaku moku edited

One of the properties discussed was the ability to blend sakes, which was the case for the bottle of Hyaku Moku Alt. 3 from Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewing they started with. This blend of Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai Ginjo has a collection of fruity aromas to it. LaBoda also noted that the sake and seafood together opened up flavors he couldn’t perceive with just the dish on its own.

Another property of sake the pair dove into dealt with the polishing of rice. A higher degree of rice polishing doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher quality of sake. Instead, it refers to the amount of protein left, which means that something less polished has more protein available to create a unique range of umami flavors.

In comparing the final two sakes, a Tokugetsu Junmai Daiginjo from ASAHI-SHUZO SAKE BREWING and a Shirakabegura Tokubetsu Junmai from Shirakabegura Brewery, that difference was made clear. The Asahi-Shuzo sake was a lot more balanced, and even provided a cooling effect, lending itself to the fish. On the other hand, the full, rounded, and savory flavors of the Shirakabegura sake lent to the vegetables, creating unique experiences for both sakes from the same dish. 

None of the above necessarily has to be the “ideal” or “correct” pairing for a dish. If anything, the different qualities of the sakes show that each can provide a unique experience to the meal. However, the one commonality they do have is that synergy when it comes to umami. 

Hermanito’s Hamachi and Uni Agua Chili Sunomo will be available, with the Hyaku Moku Alt. 3 sake to pair with, through the month of December as part of the Unlock Your Palate campaign by JFOODO

You can learn more about the relationship between sake and seafood, as well as other restaurants featuring it, through JFOODO’s website, or by following the hashtags #UnlockYourPalate and #SeafoodAndSake. 

Created in partnership with JFOODO.

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Sake Is The Key To A Tastier Lobster Experience

Synergy is a buzzword that’s used to illustrate vividly the beautiful result of two plus parties or substances working together to achieve something more significant than the sum of their separate effects. Applying the concept to food yields scintillating possibilities, like flavor profiles being enhanced to create more dynamic and memorable dining experiences.

In one useful and powerful example, the synergy between the lauded taste of umami and sake produces a boosted dining encounter. “Umami is created by the meeting of glutamic acid — which is found in sake; you also find it in a lot of fermented food — and inosinic acid, which is found in meat and seafood like lobsters and oysters,” explains sake sommelier Bryan Patrick West. He continues, “When you get a meeting of the sake and flavors in the lobster pot pie, the union will boost the umami levels overall in your tasting experience.”

West guides Foodbeast Reach Guinto through this umami event like the wise sake sherpa he is, teaching him how to smartly pair an exquisite Lobster Pot Pie from Raw Bar by Slapfish in Huntington Beach, CA with three different sakes.

The results vary with each type of sake when eaten with the Lobster Pot Pie, yet the common thread through all three is the heightened taste of umami flavor from the synergy between the seafood and sake. Let’s take a look at the specifics:

Tamano Hikari Junmai Ginjo Yamahai Classic

“Fuller in body, nice and rich, earthy” is how West described this sake. He adds that beyond a fitting pairing to the seafood and root vegetables in the chowder, it is also bold enough to stand up to fried foods like the oyster crowning the pot pie.

Nihon Sakari Daiginjo 

“I personally think that the umami synergy between the fried oyster and this sake in particular will go really, really well,” highlighted West. Historically one of the more prominent producers of premium sake in Japan.

Amabuki Junmai Ginjo “Himawari”

The unique thing about this sake is that the brewery uses yeasts that are derived from flowers. Moreover, it’s an unpasteurized sake, literally giving it a blooming flavor profile that enhances the seafood’s flavor.

“The way I like to put it, [sake] isn’t the star of the show. It’s a really, really good supporting actor creating this savory, umami, mouthwatering note that leaves you wanting more,” illustrates West. 

Another argument can be made in support of how the umami flavor in seafood is enhanced when paired with sake via a recent experiment conducted by AISSY, Inc., a company that provides data and consulting related to the sensation of taste. The experiment revealed that sake, which contains an abundance of umami, increased the umami score no matter the food it was combined with, with the pairing of seafood like grilled lobster achieving the highest increase in umami.

With this synergy between sake and seafood making food taste better, it unlocks so many flavor possibilities through the pairing of them – whether it be through boosting some Lobster Pot Pie with Crispy Oysters as part of the Unlock Your Palate Campaign or any other seafood dish worth the extra push to titillate your palate. 

To learn more about the incredible umami synergy, click here

Created in partnership with JFOODO.

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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

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Why Pairing Seafood & Sake Is A Sensory Gamechanger

For most of human history, we had no way of identifying what made certain dishes so delicious. We could describe sour, sweet, bitter, and salty sensations, but not savory. That is, until 1908, when Kikunae Ikeda discovered the fifth taste — umami. Umami is the essence of savory, giving life to some of the world’s most delectable ingredients like meat, soy sauce, and fish paste.

That same year, Ikeda identified the molecular happenings that take our taste buds on this journey. In short, he found that an amino acid called glutamate is largely responsible. Scientists have since expanded on Ikeda’s findings, saying there are nucleotides found in many foods that, when combined with amino acids, intensify the umami experience. It’s this interaction that gives alcohol and meat pairings so much depth, as the amino acids in alcohol pair exceptionally well with the nucleotides found in all meat.

This is especially true in the case of sake, which holds significantly more amino acids than most beers or wine, making it one of the purest tastes of umami that we have on Earth. Because of this, it outshines other alcohols in being paired with umami rich dishes, such as seafood, where most would think to drink something like a glass of white wine.

Sometimes, though, it’s best to drop the fancy talk and put things in layman’s terms. In Foodbeast’s new video regarding the drink, sake expert Chris Johnson says it best. Sake and seafood work, on a basic level, because “the seafood elevates the sake, the sake elevates the seafood, and you have a party.”

The video acts as a crash course in sake, as Foodbeast correspondent George Laboda travels to Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Los Angeles, CA to try nine different seafood and sake pairings. But first, he gets hit with the basics.

There are three overarching types of sake: Junmai, Ginjo, and Daiginjo, each carrying a different percentage of milling, a process that consists of polishing down the rice used to brew sake. The more it’s milled, the more the grain turns into a pure starch, producing a layered, textured brew. This does not, however, mean that as the milling percentage goes up, so does the quality. On the contrary, milling says quite little about quality, and more about the flavor of the sake and what food it might work well with.

The video works to show this by presenting nine different pairings by highlighting a variety of sake along the way — from a hazy, unfiltered desert sake to an unusually amber tinted sake — and their wide-ranging effects on our palate. Check out all the pairings below:

Course #1: Raw Oysters & Konishi Aosae no Sumikiri Junmai


Old Salt oysters topped with a kimchi vignette met a sharp Junmai that relaxed the brininess of the raw oysters.

Course #2: Grilled Oysters & Nanbu Bijin Shinpaku Junmai Daiginjo

The next course showed the textural application of sake by pairing a grilled oyster with a light, fruity Daiginjo whose velvety mouthfeel accentuated the kimchi butter that the oyster was slathered in.

Course #3: Crispy Oysters & Suzaku

A smooth Ginjo was used to cut the fattiness of raw oysters and make their sweetness pop.

Course #4: Hamachi & Nanbu Bijin Daiginjo

This Daiginjo pairs especially well with raw fish, as the dryness worked in cohesion with the lusciousness of the raw Hamachi.

Course #5: Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs & Shirayuki Junmai Daiginjo Daihouju

Playing off of spicy and sweet, these smoky deviled eggs were paired with a heavily aromatic Daiginjo with fruity undertones.

Course #6: Peruvian Bay Scallops & Horin

The sixth course featured another Daiginjo, but this time a microbrew that skipped the fruitiness and focused on a texture and mouthfeel that complimented the creamy scallops.

Course #7: Shrimp & Grits with Gochujang Sauce & Nigori

Nigori, a special type of unfiltered sake that produces a textured, thick mouthfeel, was paired with a spin off of a Southern classic to play with the gritty texture and spice of the dish.

Course #8: Grilled Octopus & Shirayuki Sake of Edo-Genroku Era “Year1702”

Made using half the amount of water as a normal brew, the Year1702 is amber-colored and naturally sweet, which provides for a phenomenal pairing with sweeter seafood dishes, like the Spanish-style octopus from the video.

Course #9: Lobster Roll & Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai

The final course coupled a lobster roll with a simple, clean-tasting Junmai to break up the intensity of the sauce that the lobster was tossed in.


Created in partnership with JFOODO.