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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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Sip Or Shoot? An Expert Tells How To Drink Sake The Right Way

We here at Foodbeast love Japanese food as proven here, here and here. And what spirit pairs better with Japanese food than sake?!? With World Sake Day just passing recently (Oct. 1), we spoke with the Grape Experience Wine & Spirit School’s Marina Giordano DWS, one of the very few Wine & Spirit Education Trust Certified Sake Educators in the country about the way sake enhances the “umami” aka savory taste in food as well as the do’s and don’ts for sake newcomers. Kanpai!


How did you get into sake?

I was studying wine, and a friend introduced me to sake – I fell in love and had to know how it was made, why it tasted the way it did, and everything I could find out about it!

What’s the biggest misconception about the spirit?

That is just it – that sake is a “spirit.” It’s not distilled, it is brewed, similar to how beer is brewed. It’s alcohol strength is close to wine strength – 14 to 20% ABV. It should be consumed like a wine with food or alone.

What’s the difference between hot sake and cold sake? What’s your preference?

Hot sake is hot, cold sake is cold! [laughs] Seriously, most premium sake is served chilled, but depending on the style they may taste better warmed. Honjozo, Junmai, Yamahai, Kimoto and sometimes Koshu styles taste better warmed. These types of sake typically have more umami (savoriness), more cereal and lactic flavors, and just taste better warm or at room temperature. Ginjo, Junmai Ginjo, Daiginjo, and Junmai Daiginjo are typically more fruity, floral, and delicate and are better chilled. My preference depends on what I’m eating, what kind of mood I’m in, what the weather is like…

What are your thoughts on sake cocktails?

Some people believe this is the way to get non-sake drinkers to drink sake. I think it continues the misconception that sake is a spirit. I prefer my sake straight!

What about sake bombs?

No! They do have their place, but please don’t use the good stuff!

What are your top three do’s for new sake drinkers?

Do try lots of kinds! Taste all styles and grades. Just because you didn’t like a sake, doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there for you.

Do drink it out of a wine glass. The aromas and flavors will be more pronounced if you are drinking it from the right kind of glassware.

Do try sake at different temperatures. Start with it chilled, let it warm up, find the “sweet” spot that makes it tastes amazing.

What are your top three don’ts for new sake drinkers?

Don’t shoot your sake – it’s not a spirit, sip it like a wine.

Don’t get caught up in only drinking Daiginjo or Junmai Daiginjo. Yes, these grades have the highest milling rates and typically cost more, but it doesn’t mean they are better. There are some truly amazing Junmai and Honjozo sake out there! And these styles will often pair better with food.

Don’t be afraid to pair sake with non-Japanese foods. Sake pairs well with most foods – try it with anything, including pizza, pasta, steak, cheese, eggs, mushroom, potato, the list goes on.

What sake are you currently in love with and why?

It all depends on what I’m eating and what my mood is. Recently I opened Dewazakura Oka Ginjo “Cherry Bouquet.” Wow, what a beautiful sake! It is floral with pear, peach, and cherry aroma and flavors. I just love the aroma, flavors, and complexity of a great sake!

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Alton Brown Teams Up With Umami Burger To Create The “Alton Burger”

Alton Brown, the famed host of the long-running Food Network show Good Eats (along with a slew of other remarkable accomplishments), has officially teamed up with Umami Burger to unveil their newest addition to their Artist Series: the Alton Burger.

Umami Burger, while mostly located in California, is constantly growing and adding more and more locations, with a handful of them popping up on the East Coast. For those who don’t know, Umami is the fabled long-lost flavor that tends to live outside of the realm of traditional tastes like sour, sweet, salty and bitter. It makes sense that Alton Brown would team up with a delicious and inventive company to make his newest creation.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 3.41.43 PM

The Alton Burger will be paying tribute to traditional southern breakfasts by combining the best things from them and rolling them up into one sandwich. The burger features a special beef patty made with bacon lardons mixed in, some cheddar cheese, miso-maple bacon, smashes cheesy tots, fried egg, fried sage, and perhaps the most interesting ingredient of all…house-made coffee ketchup.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 3.52.30 PM

Brown will be another celebrity added to the list of big names that have previously made burgers for Umami’s Artist Series, including Mindy Kaling, Slash, Andy Samberg, The Black Keys, and more. For every Alton Burger purchased, Umami Burger will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Click here to watch Alton Brown go into detail about this new burger.



Photo Credit: YouTube

Packaged Food

Bush’s Releases ASIAN BBQ Baked Beans, Just For A While Though


Baked bean lovers, prepare to take a journey to the east. Bush’s Baked Beans is releasing a limited-time Asian BBQ flavor.

Instead of the staple maple, brown sugar and bacon notes that Bush’s is known for, the new flavor will boast a taste of Asian-inspired spices. One of the main things you’ll apparently notice is the “umami” flavor of the beans. Also, a little ginger.

Pretty stoked to try this. Could go great as a chili or some kind of asian-inspired hot dog.

The cans are already shipping out to select grocery retailers. You can find them for about $1.94 for a 22-oz can. Prices may vary depending on location.

Celebrity Grub

Mindy Kaling Now Has Her Own Sriracha-Drenched Umami Burger


Umami Burger is teaming up with comedic genius Mindy Kaling to create a burger: The Mindy Burger. Kaling is probably best known for her role as Kelly Kapoor on NBC’s award-winning comedy The Office and, more recently, Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project.

The Mindy Burger is made with pickled jalapeños, fried onion strings and a house-made Sriracha aioli on a beef patty. It’s served on Umami’s famous bun.

“I love Umami and I was so honored to be able to create my own burger. Spicy and cheesy, it reflects my own personality,” Kaling said.

The burger isn’t for show, either. For every one sold, a dollar will go towards The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Through research, patient support and community outreach, the Pancreatic Cancer Network has set a goal to double pancreatic  cancer survival by 2020.

Available Sept. 1, the burger will be available at all participating Umami Burger locations for $13.


The Scientific Reason Why We Crave Bloody Marys While Flying


There’s actually a very specific reason why you tend to crave a Bloody Mary when flying on a plane. In a recent study conducted by Cornell University, it was discovered that the environment passengers are exposed to contributed to the desire.

According to the study, our taste buds are altered when we’re in an environment with loud noises and pressure. A taste for the sweet and “umami” becomes heightened and enhanced, says Robin Dando who works as an assistant professor of food science at Cornell.

Umami is a Japanese term that describes the sweet and savory taste of amino acids. Tomato juice, high in umami, can be found in Bloody Marys.

The study, “A Crossmodal Role for Audition in Taste Perception,” which Dando co-authored with Kimberly Yan, published in the online Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

With the results of this study, airlines can now find a way to improve airline food for passengers. Y’know, if they care to.