Sake pairing with food! We tried sake from Hokkaido – Kamikawa Taisetsu brewery!

We had our weekly sake tasting session at Healthy Soba Iki at Raffles Place on Friday 19th March! We did a sake pairing with food this time to see what pairs well with Kamikawa sake. This time we had two different sakes from the Kamikawa Taisetsu Shuzo brewery located in Hokkaido. In Kamikawa Taisetsu Sake Brewery, only rice from Hokkaido is used as the raw ingredient together with the natural water of Daisetsuzan Mountains.

Kamikawa Taisetsu Shuzo brewery located in Kamikawa Town, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido. Image courtesy of Kamikawa Taisetsu Sake Brewery Co., Ltd.

The company specialises in producing Junmai-shu (sake made without adding any alcohol or sugar). The chief brewer is Kawabata Shinji, winner of the Gold Prize at the Annual Japan Sake Awards for his sake made from 100% Hokkaido rice.

The two sakes that we had today were the Kamikawa Taisetsu Tokubetsu Junmai (60% milling ratio, pasteurised) and Kamikawa Taisetsu Junmai Ginjo (50% milling ratio, unpasteurised – it is a namazake). Pasteurised sakes go through the treatment of fire (火入れ), which allows it to be kept safe to drink for a longer time. Unpasteurised sakes (namazake, which translates to fresh sake) has to be chilled to prevent bacteria from deteriorating the sake. Namazake usually tastes fruitier and fresh with a clarity of flavour, and pasteurised sake is more subtle and softer (as opposed to being acidic).

From left, Kamikawa Taisetsu Tokubetsu Junmai (60% milling ratio) and Kamikawa Taisetsu Junmai Ginjo (50% milling ratio). These were both made using Ginpu rice, which is Hokkaido’s signature rice

We started off by tasting the sakes without the influence of food. The Kamikawa Taisetsu Tokubetsu Junmai had a more subtle aroma, and tasted more like traditional sake – full bodied, umami and had a great length that developed over time. It had a low, subtle acidity. The Kamikawa Taisetsu Junmai Ginjo, on the other hand was almost the complete opposite. It had a pleasantly fruity (think melon and lychee) and slightly saccharine aroma, and on the palate, it had a medium acidity. Both sakes were delicious and very easy to drink!

We paired the sakes with Aji (horse mackerel) and also a basque burnt cheesecake and smoked Gouda cheese. We started off with the fresh and beautifully sliced Aji. The mackerel was umami and had a certain minerality to it. We tried it with both the sakes. I felt that both the sakes paired well with the Aji. It paired well with the Tokubetsu Junmai because the fuller body and umami richness of the sake balanced with the umami flavours of the fish. The Aji also paired well with the Junmai Ginjo because of the acidity that the sake provided – think lemon with fish!

Aji – horse mackerel. This fish has a rich umami flavour and a minerality to it

We moved on to a cheese pairing after the sashimi. We had a smoked Gouda cheese, which was a semi-hard cheese, and a basque burnt cheesecake. The cheesecake had a delicious density to it with a light subtle cheese flavour which paired really well with the lighter bodied Junmai Ginjo. The smoked Gouda cheese, on the other hand made a great pairing with the fuller bodied Tokubetsu Junmai. I could have these with sake all day!

Smoked Gouda cheese (semi-hard cheese) and a Basque burnt cheesecake

No visit to Healthy Soba Iki is complete without a refreshing Mori soba. It was a great capstone to our dinner.

Best soba in Singapore – it was a good ending to our meal

By the way, soba made from buckwheat also undergoes milling, just like rice before brewing sake! But that’s a topic for another day. If you want to taste the difference between two vastly different sakes (traditional, full bodied and another slightly more modern, fruitier and acidic), try these two sakes! You will not be disappointed.

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