Top pairings | 8 foods you might be surprised to find pair brilliantly with sake

Top pairings

8 foods you might be surprised to find pair brilliantly with sake

If you drink sake already you probably have your favourite pairings - sashimi, sushi, and yakitori among them -but it goes with more than just Japanese food albeit dishes that may be prepared with Japanese techniques or seasonings

What makes sake unique? As I discovered on a recent trip with the Akashi-based brewery Akashi Tai it’s low in acidity, but relatively high in alcohol which enables it to partner foods as intensely flavoured as grilled meat. There’s often a touch of sweetness too that works well with other Asian dishes and sweet flavoured root veg and, of course, dishes that are rich in umami.

Obviously it's going to depend on the type of sake and the temperature at which you serve it but since sake is complicated enough for the novice I'm not going to be too prescriptive about the pairings just give you the odd nudge where I think it would be helpful.

Just find a decent sake - serve it cool rather than warm - and give it a try!

Especially with soy or miso and garlic chips (rather than with a red wine sauce, say) as you can see from this recent post . just look for one with a slightly higher alcohol content and lower polishing ratio  

Particularly with a creamy dressing or parmesan as in a caesar salad. Sparkling sake would be delicious with a creamy burrata

Peanut-based dressings
i.e sauces and dips like gado gado and satay sauces especially if they have a touch of sesame too

Root veg
like carrots, celeriac, parsnips and sweet potato particularly when roasted which brings out their natural sweetness. (It works with a root vegetable soup too.

Other sweet veg
Such as butternut squash and pumpkin. Try a butternut squash risotto.

Maybe that’s not so surprising as pasta is basically noodles by another name and many sauces contain ingredients that are sake-friendly but it still might not be the first bottle you reach for. I probably wouldn’t with most tomato based sauces but a daiginjo sake would be great with with a seafood pasta such as spaghetti vongole

Also any pasta sauce that is umami (deeply savoury). With mushrooms, for instance, or Nigella’s famous Marmite spaghetti.

Or with this spaghetti dish with kosho and roasted parmesan rind

Fried chicken 
I know I know, there are so many drinks that work with fried chicken - beer, champagne and cava among them but sparkling sake should be on your list. Especially when the chicken's served plain or with a creamy sauce though I think a katsu sauce can be a bit overwhelming (better with beer).

Apparently fried chicken is the traditional Christmas Eve food in Japan. I could adopt that habit!

There’s a lactic element to sake that mirrors that in cheese especially aged hard cheeses like - parmesan and grano padano but it’s also good with alpine cheeses like Gruyère and Comté

More on this in a couple of weeks after I’ve been to a sake and cheese pairing at La Fromagerie in London for which there still seem to be tickets available if you want to experience the combination for yourself.

Not maybe a match you’d have thought of but a remarkably successful one as you can see from this report from sake expert Shirley Booth. (It's the glutamates in both sake and oysters that's the key)

For more conventional sake pairings see some of the archive features on the site.

How the world’s best sakes pair with food 

Why sake pairs so well with food

Top photo by Oksana Mizina at

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