Wine – Many individuals enjoy a glass of wine with their meal, but which wine pairs best with sushi? Red wine can overpower the delicate flavors of sushi, so white wine is preferable. Due to its high acidity, white wine pairs well with seafood and is therefore a good option (rather like adding a splash of lemon juice to the fish).
Does tea complement sushi?
After enjoying a round of nigiris at a traditional sushi restaurant in Tokyo, the sushi master announces, ” Agari onegaishimasu!” (Agari please!) A few moments later, you are served hot Japanese green tea in a yunomi that is larger and thicker than the standard Japanese teacup.
- The subtle astringency of the hot tea cuts through the fish’s oil, leaving you with a refreshed mouth and a tranquil, alert, and extremely satisfied mind.
- As you absorb the warmth of the tea and bask in the radiance of a perfect sushi experience, you wonder how these sushi masters select and sequence the various dishes of fish, matsutake (if in season), rice, and tea in such a remarkable manner.
Today, we will examine the tea component of sushi-making! Sushi chefs working diligently in a Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan, sushi restaurant. Presently, sushi restaurants outside of Japan may also serve green tea. In Japan, however, the green tea served at sushi restaurants is referred to as “agari” by sushi masters/chefs and is offered for free between courses or after the meal.
- Interestingly, while the sushi may be of exceptionally high quality, the tea would not be considered to be particularly rare.
- Although you might anticipate high-quality gyokuro or sencha, their excessive umami would actually detract from the sushi.
- The green tea plays a specific role in the gastronomic experience and is meant to complement the high-quality sashimi or nigiri rather than detract from them.
This may come as a surprise, but the green tea that pairs best with sushi is “konacha” or powdered green tea. Konacha is a tea made from bits of leaves and leaf powder that are essentially a by-product of producing premium teas such as sencha and gyokuro.
- Smaller, non-uniform leaves are gathered and coarsely ground for the production of konacha during the various sifting stages of the manufacturing and grading process.
- Because konacha resembles scraps and sifted bits, it is typically less expensive than tea made from whole, properly formed leaves.
- In this regard, konacha is similar to kukicha (stem tea), which can also be a cost-effective way to appreciate high-quality harvests.
The color is a vibrant dark green, but the flavor and aroma are weak. It may be because of this that it works so well in sushi restaurants, as the tea can be easily prepared (i.e., there is no need for a kyusu, so it is hassle-free!) and its moderate bitterness pairs well with sushi.
- In fact, the konacha will assist in a refreshing manner in removing the fat from the raw fish.
- Although I am more accustomed to green tea being served at the conclusion of a sushi meal, when served between courses or during the meal, it is intended to reset and refresh the palate.
- Some sushi restaurants may even blend different konachas to create their own unique konacha blend! Last but not least, the konacha will be served in a larger and thicker cup than one may be accustomed to.
This is to keep the tea warm for a longer period of time, giving you more time to savor the experience! Takeo Tea Farm’s Spring Konacha Green Tea, Ichiban, pictured above (JAS certified organic). Image by Yunomi. If you are similar to me, you may have pondered the origins of the term “agari.” I was surprised to discover that the term has an intriguing (and somewhat bizarre) history dating back to the Edo period (1603-1867) In fact, it was first used in the Hanamachi district (literally meaning flower town, but at the time referring to the red light district) and had nothing to do with sushi! In the Hanamachi district, when geishas were without clients, they were said to ” ocha wo hiku ” (), which literally translates to “grind the tea,” which is what they did.
However, it was also a metaphor for wasting time. As a result, they began to avoid calling tea “ocha” in the Hanamachi district, as it was associated with bad business. To attract more fortune/customers, they began referring to tea as “agari” because geishas who had customers were known as “oagari-san” (.
Additionally, when geishas did have clients, the tea served at the end was referred to as “Agari-bana” () rather than “ocha” () to add elegance. Simply put, “agari” replaced “ocha” because it was associated with more good fortune. Sushi restaurants flourished during the Edo period, and because they also required a steady stream of customers, it is believed that the term caught on.
- Photo uploaded to Unsplash by Kazuo ota.
- So, have you found anything new? Because green tea is so naturally paired with sushi in Japanese sushi restaurants, I never thought to inquire about the type of tea used.
- Personally, I appreciated how the konacha was served to complement the sushi.
- I am certain that the next time I visit a sushi restaurant in my native country, I will appreciate my Japanese green tea even more, wondering if the establishment has its own house-blended konacha.
Oh, and you may have noticed that I did not refer to the tea as “agari,” as this is one of those terms that only sushi chefs use with their clients! This Aritayake Tea Cup was perhaps not identical to the yunomi (Japanese tea cup) used to serve green tea in sushi restaurants, but it was the closest cup we had at home.
What is Japan’s primary beverage?
Japan is a nation of drinkers, and a few customs must be observed prior to imbibing. Never pour a drink for yourself; your friend or host should do so, and you should keep the glasses of your companions filled to the brim! You will frequently hear kanpai, which means “cheers” in Japanese.
In Japan, the culture of going out for a drink is not as prevalent as it is in the West. Almost always, drinking is accompanied by a meal or otsumami (a light snack). Otsumami typically consists of edamame (soy beans), surume (dried shredded squid), and arare (small rice crackers whose name literally translates as hailstones!).
lager-beer (pronounced “beer-ru” in Japanese) is the most popular drink in Japan. These brands are widely available: Kirin, Sapporo, Suntory, and Asahi. The average alcohol content is approximately 5% abv. Be wary of inexpensive brands, however, as these are not beer at all but happoshu, a malt-flavored beverage.
- This appears and tastes like inexpensive beer, but the low malt content allows the brewers to avoid paying beer taxes.
- Regarding sake, we recommend serving the inexpensive varieties (which are a bit harsh on the palate) warm, while drinking the premium brands (which are robust and crisp) well chilled.
When times are tough and the strong yen drives up the price of a pint, it is important to remember the word nomihodai (drink as much as you like). Head to the nearest izakaya (a Japanese drinking establishment that also serves food) for the best deals on nomihodai – typically between 2,000 and 3,000 yen per person.
Remember that the entire group must be on the same package and that the duration is typically limited to two hours! Many restaurants offer similar deals even if they are not listed on the menu, so it is worthwhile to inquire if you intend to remain at the same location for an extended period of time, as it can be cheaper than purchasing individual drinks.
Karaoke box is also a great place to find good drinking deals, including both utaihodai (all you can sing) and nomihodai. The drinks menu at karaoke box is typically extensive and filled with vibrantly hued beverages, a few spirits, and one or two beers.
- British-style drinking establishments are restricted to a handful of overpriced imitation pubs, which are typically located in larger cities and should be avoided.
- A variety of alcoholic sodas known as chu-hai are available.
- Convenience stores such as Lawsons, 7/11, Circle K, and Family Mart sell them, as do restaurants and bars.
Chu-hai are made from shochu, a spirit that can also be consumed neat and is distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice. Scotch is regarded as the best and is highly sought after. Whisky is a popular beverage among Japanese men. Numerous Japanese whiskies are gaining popularity in the west at present.
Receive the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture delivered directly to your inbox. Andrew Richardson, sales representative for World Sake Imports, asserts, “I believe the Western public has been conditioned to associate sake with sushi because it is commonly served in restaurants here.” The majority of exported sake is served in Japan’s nearly 89,000 restaurants abroad.
In Japan, however, the pairing was unheard of until the mid-1900s. According to Joshua Rolnick, beverage director at Neta in New York, sake was traditionally not served with rice dishes in Japan. Once the rice dish was placed on the table, the sake disappeared. Instead, Japanese diners paired their sushi with beer, fruit wine, or tea.
Since Neta is a traditional sushi restaurant, Rolnick recommends substituting sake with versatile whites like Riesling and Grüner Veltliner or light reds like Pinot Noir and Gamay. Because sake is brewed from rice — yes, brewed; sake production is more akin to beer brewing than winemaking — pairing it with sushi amounts to adding rice on top of rice.
According to Rolnick, this was “too much of a good thing” and would quickly satiate the diner, defeating the purpose of a beverage pairing. According to Jamie Graves, Japanese beverage portfolio manager for Skurnik Wines, pairing is a relatively new concept in Japan, having emerged in the 1980s. “If people did consider the combination of food and drink, they viewed the beverage primarily as a palate cleanser to prepare the tongue for the next bite.” Historically, Japanese diners considered these other beverages to be more cleansing and less filling than sake, allowing them to consume a greater quantity of food, which was the traditional focus of the meal.
The structure of sake also plays a role. It contains less alcohol than the vast majority of spirits, rarely exceeding 20 percent ABV. Consequently, it is typically more alcoholic and always less acidic than wine or beer. As a result, when paired with high-acid vinegar on sushi rice, it can appear flat or flabby.
- And conversely, its flavors can overwhelm fish that are particularly delicate.
- The chef at a more traditional sushi restaurant most likely wants to highlight the flavor of the fish in the sushi,” says Richardson, adding that the weight and texture of many sakes “will dull the delicate flavor.” However, just as sake lovers are defying convention by pairing it with fried chicken and pasta, experts emphasize that sake is not incompatible with sushi.
“In Japan, there is a saying that sake wa ryori o erabenai, or roughly,’sake isn’t picky about food,'” says Graves. This indicates its general versatility in pairing. Because sake has numerous complex, umami-driven flavors, it can be difficult to choose a single option that complements a variety of sushi bites.
If a sushi and sake enthusiast is committed to the pairing, simplicity is preferable. Graves suggests a clean, dry sake with restrained aromatics if you’re only going to choose one beverage for the meal. Rolnick concurs, stating that Junmai or Junmai Ginjo sakes pair well with the majority of sushi, as refined sakes typically have more body.
Taking sake outside of its most stereotypical pairing may seem progressive, but we are merely rediscovering a centuries-old Japanese philosophy. In doing so, perhaps we will all open our eyes — and our palates — to the pleasures of drinking high-quality sake without sushi.
Do you drink sake before or after sushi?
6. Consume it with Appetizers – Sake is traditionally best enjoyed during the appetizer portion of a meal or during tapas-style dining known as izakaya. You may even appreciate sake with sushi options like sashimi and nigiri. Various sakes can enhance the flavor of the appetizers and make the meal more memorable.