To Create Perfect Matching Side Dishes for Sake, Simply Add Essence of Sake: Sake Kasu / Lees

Greetings sake lovers, did you ever wonder what happens to all those leftover rice solids after the sake has been filtered? You may remember from previous articles that these solids are called Kasu in Japanese, lees in English. What might be thought of as a throwaway item, is in actual fact highly sought after for its health and beauty benefits, especially among women.

Sake kasu can also be added in cooking to thicken soups and add more of the umami factor. Of course it’s this that we sake aficionados are most interested. In this article we bring you 7 recipes for side dishes that are the perfect match for sake, thanks to a little added essence of sake.

What is Sake Kasu

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First a few more facts about sake lees.
In a typical sake production, 25% of the white rice will be left behind as lees. This is completely intentional on the brewer’s part; the more the rice breaks up and imparts peptides, amino acids, vitamins into the end sake the richer it will be and this is not always so desirable, especially not in today’s delicate-flavour obsessed sake industry. However what doesn’t end up in the bottle remains in the lees. In other words, kasu has plenty of potential as a cooking ingredient.

Ah, but before we get your taste buds tingling, let’s have a quick look at those health and beauty benefits in a little more detail.

Beauty Benefits

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Arbutin
Effective against acne and blotches. Helps to keep your skin beautiful. This is the reason why brewers have such beautiful skin.

Koji Acid
Effective against wrinkles and dulling in skin colour. Again, helps keep a beautiful complexion.

Ferulic Acid
The holy grail (anti aging) compound in Kasu.

Health Benefits

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Scientists have discovered that because sake kasu has a similar effect to insulin it helps prevent diabetes and helps you lose weight.

It’s also full of fibre, so works as a laxative.

It’s also effective in cancer prevention, allergies, and even Osteoporosis.

Merits of Using Kasu in Cooking

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As well as adding umami, there are a number of other merits of adding kasu in cooking.

1. It contains 500 times more amino acid than rice, essential proteins for body building and 9 types of essential amino acids.

2. Alcohol from the yeast and lactic acid from the lactic acid bacteria have killed off all the other microbes increasing its storage stability.

3. Rich in enzymes and amino acid, it’s highly nutritious.

4.The enzymes aid digestion and help prevent constipation.

5. Lowers cholesterol and keeps blood flowing freely.

7 of the Best Recipes for Using Kasu

Note: Kasu is sold in one of two forms depending on how the sake was pressed: using a Yabuta or using a more traditional fune; as a paste for the latter and in sheets for the former. If you get the kasu in sheets, you might first have to turn it into a paste to use in the below recipes. We have specified which type you require for each.

First up is a recipe for sweet sake that is also a great way to beat the heat in the summer.

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Ingredients(3-4 Cups)

Kasu 100g
Water 600㏄
Sugar 50g
Salt A pinch
Ginger(Grated、squeezed juice) Personal preference

 

Method (this recipe uses kasu that comes in sheets)

1. Cut the kasu up into thin strips so that it melts easier.

2. Put the sake kasu and water in a pot and leave overnight. Add more kasu the next morning.
3. Put the pot on the heat and melt the kasu.

Tip: Sake kasu contains approx 8% alcohol, so it is best to boil away the alcohol for kids and the alcohol intolerant. Or, If it’s that sake aroma you want, keep the heat low (boiling point of alcohol is around 78 degrees.)

4. A strainer may help to remove any lumps.

Tip: if you use a strainer and boil the kasu will melt much quicker so no need to leave overnight beforehand.

5. Once the kasu has melted, add salt and sugar to taste and simmer for little while longer.
Top off with ginger and perhaps a dash of cinnamon. It’s delish!

Next up is a deliriously moreish recipe for kasu pretzels

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Ingredients(one cup)

Flour 100g
Sake Kasu(any type will do) 70g
Vegetable Oil    30g
Sugar Teaspoon 1/2
Stock (Consome brand by Ajinomoto) Teaspoon 1/2
Salt ample

 

Method
1. Put everything apart from the salt in a bowl
Tip: Bring the kasu up to room temperature to soften.
2. Knead everything until it is evenly mixed.

3. Spread out the dough using a roller to a 3-5mm thickness.
4. Take the dough and cut it up into 2-3mm thick sticks.
5. Heat an oven to 160℃ and heat the sticks for 10 minutes.

Tip: Some ovens are more powerful so best to check the sticks 2 minutes before the end to make sure they don’t burn. If they look like burning, cover in foil.

6. Cover the sticks in salt and let them cool down for a while before serving.

Transform simple ingredients into a more, adult tasty sake-pairing morsel: Avocado pickled in sake lees

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Ingredients(2-3 people)

Sake Kasu (paste type) ample
Avocado 1
Salt ample

 

Method
1. Destone and cut the avocado up into half lengthways. Cut up further into bite sized chunks.
2. Press the sake kasu into an air-tight container and cover with the avocado.
Tip: Lightly bury the the avocado in the sake kasu to prevent it from making contact with air and oxidizing.
3. Fold the kasu over the avocado until it is completely covered. Close the container and put in the fridge for about half a day to one day.
4. Remove the pickled avocado from the kasu.
Tip: Be careful not to crumble the avocado when you remove.
5. Lightly dust the surface of the avocado with salt and grill or broil until the surface is golden brown.
Tip: if using a grill, 5 minutes on a low heat should be enough.
6. Lay out on your favourite plate and finish with a splattering or two of soy sauce and perhaps a few bonito flakes.

Super simple rich smooth sake kasu dip

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Ingredients(1 dipping dish)

Sake Kasu (any type) 2 Tablespoons
Cream Cheese 2 Tablespoons
Honey    1/2 Tablespoon
Dry Parsley Ample
Something to spread (crackers)

 

Method
1. Put everything in a bowl.
Tip: Add more or less honey to suit depending on the sweetness of your tooth
2. Mix until the kasu becomes smooth.
Tip: if using the sheet type kasu, sprinkle with a little water beforehand to turn into a paste.
3. Place everything in your dipping dish and spread onto your favourite cracker or buscuit.
Add other ingredients on top for a great, simple canape to pair with sake that can be prepared with just minutes to spare. We recommend olives, smoked salmon, Italian ham and fruits.

Taste like rare cheese cake ! A scrumptious adult sake kasu pound cake.

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Ingredients(1 18cm cake)

Eggs(M) 2
Sugar 60g
Vegetable Oil    40g
Wheat Flour 70g
Sake Kasu (any type) 70g
Milk(alt: water or tofu milk) 70g

And a pound cake mould

Method
1. Mix the kasu and milk and create a paste.
Tip: If you are using the paste type kasu, reduce amount of milk.
2. Preheat an oven to 180℃, break eggs into bowl and whisk until bubbles form.
3. Add sugar to the whisked eggs followed by milk and vegetable oil and mix well.
4. Add the kasu paste and mix until smooth.
5. Sift the flour onto the paste and mix with a wooden spatula as if you are cutting through the mixture.
6. Put the mixture the pound cake mould and bake at around 160℃ for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Tip: Poke the middle with a toothpick or fork to test doneness. If it comes out clean, it is done. Try not to overbake.
7. Remove from the mould and wrap and leave overnight.
If only every day could be a cake day!

Cheesy delight! Tofu pickled in sake kasu

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Ingredients(2-3 ppl)

Tofu 1 block
Miso 3 tablespoons
Sake kasu (Paste type) 3 tablespoons

 

Method
1. Tip out the water from the tofu and leave for about 2-3 hours on a plate covered with cling film.
2. Mix the miso and sake kasu to create a paste.
3. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and lay out onto the bottom of an air-tight container. Lather on the miso paste.
4. Fold in the miso-kasu paste until the tofu is complete enveloped by it.
Put in the fridge for 7 days. Remove from the kitchen paper and season to taste. A splash or two of soy sauce completes the dish.
Tip: the longer the kasu is left to pickle the tofu, the richer the flavour will be. Leave a little longer for 2 weeks for an absolute umami bomb.

Cheesy kasu crackers for when you can’t resist the munchies

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Ingredients

Sake Kasu (any type) 50g
Wheat Flour 100g
Water 30cc
Olive Oil 2 Tablespoons
Salt 1/4 teaspoon
Black pepper / sesame seeds To taste

 

Method
1. Put the kasu, flour and salt into a bowl and mix with a blender.
2. Add vegetable oil and blend some more until you have evenly sized pieces..
Tip: if you want to create different flavours, separate the mixture into batches here and add the various other ingredients such as parsley, etc.
3. Once the mixture is like minced meat, add water and bring all the mixture together.
Tip: Add the water gradually and be careful that the mixture does not become to sticky. The objective is to get all the mixture into one big dough.
4. Take the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is about 2mm thick. Cut into quarters and poke little holes into each with a fork.
Tip: the holes prevent the dough from rising in the oven
5. Lay a cooking sheet out onto a chopping board and arrange the little kasu tartlets you have created.
6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 180℃ and then leave inside to cool.
Tip: baking time will depend on thickness of tartlets. Bake until golden brown.

How to store sake kasu

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Thanks to the high content of alcohol, sake kasu doesn’t really have a shelf life. That being said, its colour changes over time so best to use up within 3-6 months. It will keep for upwards to a year in the freezer. The freezer is best if you prefer a sweeter flavour.

Don’t worry about the little holes in the packet, this is to let the enzymes and microbes which are still very much alive in the kasu breathe.

Separate the kasu into smaller bags and seal with a tie to keep the kasu as fresh as the day you bought it.


Why not try one of the above recipes and bring it along to share with your friends at KURAND and pair with our selection of over 100 different sake, shochu and plum wine.

We look forward to welcoming you soon!

The Complete Guide to the No.3 Sake Rice: Miyama Nishiki

Rice is an essential ingredient in making sake. Just as grapes are an essential ingredient in making wine. And yet, unlike with wine, very few sake are actually named after the rice. Some even avoid listing the variety on the label at all. That’s perhaps because, unlike the grapes in wine making, the rice has a comparatively smaller effect on the end flavour and style. In fact it’s the brewer and their craft that has the biggest influence in sake brewing.

Be that as it may, there are bound to be people who want to know what type of rice their sake is made from.

As introduced in a past article, Yamada Nishiki has already made quite a name for itself as the so-called “king of sake rice”, but there are so many others, each with its own unique history and characteristics.

In this article we introduce the third most widely planted brewing rice after Yamada Nishiki & Gohyakumangoku: Miyama Nishiki.

A Word about Brewing Rice

Miyama Nishiki is a type of brewing rice. Brewing rice or Shuzokotekimai (lit: rice suitable for brewing) as it’s referred in Japanese, is rice that has special characteristics that are particularly suited to brewing such as a larger Shimpaku (AKA: White Heart, a nucleus filled with starch), a higher water absorbency, bigger grains that don’t crack under pressure when polished, and less proteins, fats, lipids and other undesirable components that cause off flavours in the end product. The downside of brewing rice is that it is much harder to grow. For more details, see this article.

The Origin of the Name

When it was first discovered in 1978 through a sudden mutation by exposing another variety of rice, Takane Nishiki to gamma radiation, the thing that stood out was its shimpaku: a “whiter than white” white-heart to rival the snow capped peaks of even the most beautiful mountain ranges. And so it was named as such: Miyama literally translating to “the beautiful peaks”.

Where it is Grown

Although its main growing area is Nagano, it is grown in as many as 7 prefectures located in the North East of Japan, usually at higher altitudes because of its resistance to the cold.

The Flavour Characteristics

It’s the clean flavour of Miyama Nishiki that sets it apart.

It is what we call a wase (early ripening) rice which means that it is one of the first rice to be harvested each year. Because of this, it is a much harder rice which means that it breaks up less easily in the fermentation mash, releasing less flavour into the end product. As a result, the sake it produces is cleaner, leaner, but not light in body like Gohyakumangoku and still manages to impart enough inherent ricey (cereal-like) notes, albeit in a tight manner and with a quieter nose. If you want to spot this rather elusive rice and impress your friends, look for its trademark long narrow finish often with a sharpness. If you prefer that kind of flavour profile, then Miyama Nishiki is for you. It’s a profile that pairs quite well with food too.


Here at KURAND, our fridges often include the odd Miyama Nishiki sake or two.
Why not challenge your friends to see who can find the most Miyama Nishiki sake or even try blind tasting your way through our selection. Identifying a sake’s raw ingredient by taste is not nearly as easy as it is with wine, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

We look forward to welcoming you to KURAND soon!

Vintage Sake (Koshu). The Polar Opposite of New Sake (Shinshu)

Welcome to another edition of KURAND’s series explaining the meaning behind various sake terms.

This time we explain the meaning of koshu (vintage sake).

With a flavor like brandy, and a very distinct aroma that is the polar opposite of just-filtered / pressed new sake (shinshu), koshu comes in a range of complex styles. Let’s have a look at some of the more common styles of koshu.

Koshu has no Clearcut Definition

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First, koshu does not having an exact definition

In fact, just like shochu and awamori (two of Japan’s indigenous distilled beverages), koshu is itself a category.

The term koshu is normally attached to sake produced in the previous year. Sake that produced during the current year is called shinshu and sake produced over more than one year ago is sometimes labelled as daikoshu (lit: super vintage sake).

The definition is very broad and there are no terms to differentiate between koshu of different ages, so always check the date of production and find out how long ago it was produced. Identifying this is the key to finding a koshu to suit personal taste.

Chouki Jyukusei Sake

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While the definition of koshu is indeed broad, there is an organization of koshu manufacturers, chouki jyukusei sake kenkyukai, that have devised their own definition for koshu as seishu (filtered sake) that has been aged for over three full years in a brewery. Unlike koshu and daikoshu introduced earlier, this is a clear definition so it’s a good thing to look out for when ordering or purchasing sake.

The History of Koshu, A Once Valuable Commodity?

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From the Kamakura period up until the Edo period, koshu was actually extremely valuable.
Sadly that ended after the Meiji period. The Meiji government implemented zoukokuzei (brewing tax) charging it to breweries even before any sake had been sold, just for the privilege of brewing. There was no incentive for storing sake to mature as every sake had to be sold immediately upon completion to help cover the high cost of brewing it in the first place.

Eventually, zoukoku-zei was changed to kuradashi-zei which changed the timing of the levy until after the sake had been shipped from the brewery. The fact that breweries could waylay paying tax on completed sake and develop its flavour was incentive enough to revive the trend in vintage sake. Little by little, koshu is becoming a thing again. It’s perception has been transformed.

Characteristics and Taste of Koshu

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The taste and characteristics of koshu are the polar opposite to shinshu (new sake).

The color is often much darker, close to amber, and the difference is easier to see than in fresh sake. It tends to be on the sweeter side as a result of oxidation (break down of sugars and amino acids / Maillard reaction) — there may even be hints of cacao, caramel or cinnamon.

Note: Whether or not sake changes colour as it ages depends on various factors, the most important one being temperature. The lower temperature the slower the Maillard reaction and breakdown of components, the slower the colour change. There are even transparent vintage sakes out there that are years old.

Some people even compare it to Sherry wine or Shaoxing Wine (fermented Chinese wine) and a wine glass is a great vessel to enjoy the aromas.

Modern koshu for a much more diverse experience of sake!

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While the basic process of making koshu is the same as it was all those years ago and is essentially breakdown of sugars, amino acids and other components through oxidation and component reduction, some brewers are turning to technology to remove the risk from ageing and perfect the process. KURAND recently teamed up with a partner brewery and created a vintage sake that pairs with chocolate. Actually, vintage sake often makes for a great alternative to dessert wines like Eiswein, and fortified wines etc.

So there you have it, vintage sake is a treasure chest of complex styles that really opens the door to another dimension of sake, another dimension in the time and space of sake.

Sometimes the fridges at KURAND showcase vintage sake, so why not pop by and widen your horizons. We look forward to welcoming on your next visit!