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Matching sake with the foods of different regions


There is no reason why sake can not be consumed on its own. However, for an even more delicious flavor experience, it’s worth considering the compatibility of foods with different types of sake.


To some extent, there are rules and guidelines for combining food and sake. One of the easiest rules to understand says that the food of a particular locality generally goes very well the sake produced in that locality.


How sake and diet vary across different regions
Japan is an island nation surrounded by sea. However, just a little inland are the mountains, rich in flora and fauna. For many hundreds of years, fishing and agriculture have been practiced here.


The brewing of sake in different localities has come to reflect the nature of those localities. For example, it can be observed that sake produced by breweries near the sea goes well with the foods eaten there, such as stewed or grilled fish.


Seafood, as it is cooked in these areas, is not very strongly flavored. The cooking style is to allow the natural flavors of the ingredients to come to the fore, rather than to add seasonings and condiments. Appropriately enough, the sake produced by breweries in these coastal areas tends to be smooth and refreshing, with a clean finish. The true flavor of the sake is appreciated best when consumed together with food rather than on its own.


The same can be said of breweries located in the mountains. The sake they make goes well with freshwater fish, the meat of the animals that live in the mountains, and the edible wild vegetables that can be gathered there.


Inland, where livestock is raised, stronger-tasting foods such as pickles are eaten. Similarly, the sake produced in these areas tends to be richly flavored. The food is enhanced by sake that is capable of holding its own in the presence of strong flavors.


The reason why sake has regional character
Why is it that, from region to region, compatible foods vary? One theory is that it is to do with the water.


Whether it’s coastal cuisine or mountain cuisine, water is an essential. The ingredients are washed with water, and the cooking is completed by simmering or steaming with water. Because breweries make sake using the same water, it is only natural that the cuisine of the area goes well with the sake produced there, or at least, so the theory goes.


In places that have a similar climate, the foods produced there are also similar.


Also, in order to go well with the ingredients sources in a locality, it’s only natural that the sake produced in that locality would be developed to enhance the food.


To put it another way, if we consider a given locality, sake produced in a different place is likely to be compatible with the food if the climate and environment of the two places are similar. It seems reasonable to believe that the compatibility of food and sake has a lot to do with climate and environment.


It should be noted, though, that the general rule does not apply to high-grade sake. That is because in many cases high-grade sake is produced to be shipped nationwide. So, for example, a brewery may be located on the coast, but if it makes a high-grade ginjō-shu, it is not necessarily a drink that is intended to go well with the seafood cuisine of that locality.


But the general rule does tend to apply to lower-grade sake. In other words, if the sake is a variety that is popular in the area where it is produced, it is likely to be an excellent accompaniment to the cuisine of that area.

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