Sake finger food: 4 awesome pairings to try at KURAND

Greetings sake lovers!

Here at KURAND, our primary concern is that your sake experience is an enjoyable one and we are always trying to find new ways to enhance it. In Japanese, they call this Omotenashi. In English we would call it hospitality or extra service. But to the Japanese it so much more than all that. This desire to continually please your patrons, to make them smile from end to end every time they come to visit, is the essence of the Japanese spirit. For example, we recently added a free Baikingu — Japanese for finger buffet — which is available to all customers on the all-you-can-drink plan.

No one does finger food like Japan — except perhaps Spain from whom the Japanese got their inspiration for this so-called Tapas style pub snack culture. Everything is so simple, but simple doesn’t have to mean pre-processed junk. The majority of Izakaya finger food is good wholesome, healthy, savoury dishes, that despite only taking a couple of minutes to prepare are the pinnacle of gourmet cuisine.

Here is a little starter guide pairing 4 of the most popular items in the KURAND finger buffet with 4 sakes from the KURAND lineup.

1.Miso Shiru

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Miso Shiru (LIT: miso soup) is the soup of Japan. It’s basically a base of fish stock mixed with miso, topped with all manner of savoury delights such as clams, seaweed, tofu, Aburage (fried tofu gourd), spring onion, overflowing with delicious Umami. Nearly every meal in Japan is accompanied by Miso Shiru. In Japan, soup is not a starter, it is served as part of the meal. It’s like a piece of the culinary jigsaw puzzle that makes the whole course complete. For all visitors to Japan, this is undoubtedly their first experience of Japanese cuisine. Given the popularity of Japanese food abroad and influx of restaurants serving Japanese food, they may have tasted it before back home, but nothing will have prepared their taste buds for the real thing. The variety we serve at KURAND contains clams said to stimulate the alcohol metabolism.

How to prepare

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Simply empty one of the soup packets into a cup and pour in hot water.

So far so conventional. However, here at KURAND we like to employ one other little magic ingredient that transforms the flavour… butter!

That’s right, butter. A 4g knob of butter melted into the soup has the rather mysterious effect of taming the all those rather punchy flavours; the flavour is much milder. Of course, if you prefer your Miso Shiru punchy, no need to overcomplicate things.

It’s a mystery why butter works. Perhaps clues can be found in other popular Japanese miso based dishes where butter is added like Ishikari Nabe (salmon and vegetable miso stew), miso ramen and miso basted grilled meat dishes. In all these dishes, butter has the same effect. It seems miso shares an affinity with dairy products. By the same token, milk or even cheese would probably work as well.

Incidentally, the idea for implementing this at KURAND came from Nishie san, the manager of our Asakusa branch who devised this little modification during a homestay in Australia. One day, he decided to try and introduce his host family to a bit of Japanese food, starting with the soup. However, he was aware that outside Japan, similar attempts had been a bit hit and miss with those who liked it and those who didn’t split down the middle. While pondering how to make the soup more accessible to his hosts, he suddenly remembered how Ishikari nabe tasted much milder with the butter. And the rest is history. Suffice to say, the words on the lips of his hosts was simply: “delish!”.

Miso Shiru x sake

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Miso Shiru without butter

Pairing Sake

Iwami Ginzan Tokubetsu Junmai, Ichinomiya Shuzo, Shimane Prefecture
▶ More details here!

The dryness of Iwami Ginzan is a perfect contrast to the saltiness of the soup. The finish of this version of the soup is unimposing, melting away nicely in the mouth so any sake with this level of body should be able to hold its own.

Miso Shiru + butter

Any sake you pair with it needs to have a much stronger flavour profile to stand up to the more pervasive finish that the butter creates. There was only one sake that fitted the bill.

Pairing Sake

KURAND ORIGINAL Matcheese, Miyoshikiku Shuzo, Tokushima Prefecture
▶ More details here!

2. Kyuri no Shiomomi

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Kyuri no Shiomomi is a dish of pickled cucumbers called Tsukemono in Japanese, seasoned with salt. Any sake that can match the freshness of the cucumber while exhibiting savoury and sweet notes to offset the saltiness is game.

Pairing Sake

KURAND ORIGINAL “Sake selling dog, brewing cat” limited edition summer sake, Takarayama Brewery, Niigata Prefecture

▶ More details here!

3. Pickled Daikon

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Next up is another very popular Tsukemono which consists of pickled Daikon (raddish). Sake finger food doesn’t come much more savoury than this. There is a delicate balance of flavour with a tiny hint of sweetness that you need to consider when choosing sake to pair with it. In general, the ideal is fresh sake with an equally good balance.

Pairing Sake

Hirai Rokueemon Junmai, Kiku no Tsukasa, Niigata Prefecture

Layers of UMAMI!

4. Edamame

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Edamame is a dish of green peas in their pods, normally served with salt. For all its rusticity, this Izakaya staple has a certain simple charm to it that is simply irresistible. Not to mention the fact that every pea is packed with UMAMI. There is a certain knack to extracting the slippery little peas from their pods without them flying in the opposite direction onto an unsuspecting fellow bystander’s plate, something much more subtle than a simple squeeze. Having said that, the hilarity of the occasional backfire is all part of the fun.

While you’ll be hard pushed to find a sake that refuses edamame, the lighter ones with the crisp finishes tend to pair the best.

Pairing Sake

Uonuma Tama Fuumi, Tamagawa Shuzo, Niigata

Why not come to KURAND and start your journey into sake and Japanese cuisine!