What goes with sake?


I compared sake to wine last time - now let’s move on to pairing! We can take some inspiration from wine here too.

What comes to mind when you think of something to eat while you enjoy a glass of wine? One very popular answer is cheese.

What if I told you… that sake goes with cheese far, far better than wine?

Sake is normally lower in acidity than wine, so it almost never clashes with food and is actually very versatile when it comes to pairing. But above and beyond that, it goes particularly well with cheese.

Why? They have two things in common.

One is lactic acid, the tangy, soft acidity you probably know best from cheese or yoghurt. Mild and refreshing, it’s produced by bacterial cultures in cheese and by yeast in sake.

The other is umami, the wonderful “sixth taste” that pervades so much of Japanese cuisine. If you haven’t come across it before, think of savouriness but turned up to 11. Slow cooked meat or mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, some seafood or even green teas.

So not only does sake not clash with cheese, they actually echo and amplify each other to create a vibrant, delicious combination.

And it’s so easy to try - next time you pick up a bottle of sake, add some cheese! Choose lighter cheeses with more delicate sake (such as daiginjo, made from rice polished to 50%) and slightly stronger ones with more robust sake (such as junmai made from rice polished to around 70%).

Very sweet sake also go well with blue cheese, and aged sake stand up to strong, aged, nutty cheeses.

And what might be the best combination of all? Sake and pizza. Trust me, sake goes perfectly with many non-Japanese foods and a slightly more robust sake (think larger number for rice milling, around 70% or so) will complement melted cheese beautifully.

So, find yourself some tasty cheese or a good pizza, grab a bottle of sake, and enjoy!

Written by Arline Lyons

Arline Lyons is a Japanese to English translator specialized in sake, based in Zurich, Switzerland. She regularly posts English summaries of Japanese news for sake professionals on Taste Translation, and information and ideas for those new to sake on Discover Sake.

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