Lesson 7: Food pairing guide
“What do I eat with sake?” Although Japanese food is the most common pairing, many are surprised to learn that sake can be easily paired with a variety of cuisine. Unlike wine, which has significant levels of acidity and tannins that must be taken into consideration when pairing with food, sake’s lower acidity and no tannins makes it a very likeable accompaniment for a meal. More and more, sake is gaining recognition for its subtle and complementary characteristics, and restaurants are adding it to their beverage offerings. Here, we offer some basic tips on pairing sake with different kinds of food. Whether it be fried, spicy or hearty dishes, there is a sake pairing for you!
Four categories based on aroma and taste
Tippsy offers taste metrics for four major flavor profiles, and descriptions for each sake. When trying sake, try to observe the aroma and taste sensations: dryness, bitterness, tartness, sweetness and acidity. A good sake will have a good balance between components, ensuring that not one overpowers the other. As always, the best way to discover sake pairings is to explore your own palate and find what you like. The descriptions below serve as starting points for beginners, or those wanting to try something new.
Note: The S.M.V. (Sake Meter Value) measures the dryness or sweetness of sake; the higher the SMV value, the dryer the sake.
1. Light & Dry
A moderate aroma and clean and crisp taste characterize this type of sake, which is usually a favorite of beginners. Sushi, sashimi and other light food that has a clean aftertaste are perfect pairings.
White fish sashimi with Makiri “Ex Dry”
2. Light & Sweet
Sake within this category are popular for their floral and fruity fragrances, and moderate sweetness. Fish, shrimp and lightly fried dishes go well with this sake.
Grilled fish and other dishes with Nihon Sakari “Fuga”
3. Rich & Dry
A scent of rice or grain and various flavor components give this kind of sake its depth and ability to pair wonderfully with hearty meat dishes.
Grilled meat balls
4. Rich & Sweet
Strong aromas of herbs, spice, or dried fruit, and thicker, more complex flavors make up this category of sake. Umami and protein-rich ingredients, like cheese or soy-based dishes, are excellent pairings.
In general, lighter flavors pair best with lighter styles of sake, while savory, heartier flavors go well with richer, bolder styles of sake. Exploring with different styles and different kinds of cuisine is really the best way to discover sake! Why not try pairing sake with French, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese or Italian food?