Hi! I’m Tori, the Marketing Manager at Opopop, and I’m excited to share my sake pairing experience with all of you.
When we created our newest popcorn flavor, Wasabi, the first thing that popped into my mind was “where’s the sake?” So I knew I had to reach out to my friend and sake sommelier Ryuta aka Wasabi (how perfect is his nickname?!) who lives in Tokyo, Japan. In February 2020, he showed me an amazing in-person experience where we toured a 300-year-old brewery and taste tested many different sakes. I knew he was the man for the job.
We quickly scheduled a call where he provided sake suggestions that would pair perfectly with our savory, yet spicy new Wasabi flavor, and while I sipped, he went through the basics of how this Japanese spirit is made, along with some fun facts about the wasabi root.
If you want to know all the details, check out the video below. Don't have time for the whole video? Don’t you worry, I’m here to share all the sake knowledge I learned and how you can enjoy your own Wasabi Flavor Wrapped™ Popcorn Kernels at home with the perfect beverage.
- Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice
- The foundations of good sake are quality rice, clean water, koji mold and yeast
- Sake is categorized and priced by the rice polishing process which removes impurities and refines the taste
- The more polished the rice is the more expensive it gets
- The Sake Meter Value (SMV) indicates the density of sake compared to water which will tell you if it’s dry or sweet
- “Kanpai!” is Japanese for “Cheers!”, but if you break down the word, kan equals “to dry” and pai equals “glass”
- People have been eating wasabi for over 1500 years
- The wasabi plant is very difficult to grow as it thrives along mountain streams in 46-70 degrees with shade as it can’t tolerate direct sunlight
- Most of the wasabi pastes and powders you find at the supermarket contain barely any real wasabi, if they have any at all
- Traditional Japanese restaurants will use Shark Skin grinders to create the wasabi paste
- The pungent ingredient in wasabi that causes the nasal burning sensation is allyl isothiocyanate, a chemical also found in mustard and horseradish
- Wasabi leaves and stems can be eaten pickled or sautéed, and also make excellent appetizers or additions to a meal
TYPE OF SAKE
Now that we know some fun facts about sake and wasabi, I’m going to quickly note the three different Junmai (rice only) sake types we focused on during our pairing.
- Junmai: 70 percent (or less) remains unpolished; typically display a robust rice flavor and tend to be light and refreshing on the palate; this is “entry-level” sake
- Ginjo: 60 percent (or less) remains unpolished; fruity and floral notes, more nuanced than Junmai but still light and refreshing
- Daiginjo: 50 percent (or less) remains unpolished; made in smaller quantities with more traditional methods; richer flavor and aroma profiles displaying complexity and finesse
OUR GO-TO PAIRINGS
I was thrilled to try the following three sakes with our Wasabi Flavored Wrapped™ Popcorn Kernels as it enhanced the savory taste and really made it pop (no pun intended).
The TYKU Junmai is fresh and smooth with subtle pear notes, leaving softness on the palate as you sip. It’s crafted from specialty Akebono sake rice that is polished so only 70% of the grain remains. This style is well-rounded, with rich umami taste making it an easy pairing for our Wasabi popcorn.
Wandering Poet Junmai Ginjo
This Junmai Ginjo is made with Yamada Nishiki rice, known as the pinnacle of quality sake rice. It has notes of banana and melon with a clean, crisp acidity that highlights its light-to-medium body. The acidity gives you a little more bite which helps amplify the flavors and spice.
Takatenjin "Soul of the Sensei" Junmai Daiginjo
The brewery continues its former sensei's traditions with this clean, dry and rich brew which is considered one of Japan's most highly regarded sake. It’s a rare combination of concentrated fruit aromatics with a refined dryness that balances out the spicy notes from the Wasabi popcorn.
LET’S GET POPPIN’
Our Wasabi Flavor Wrapped™ Popcorn Kernels are limited edition, so make sure to order yours before it’s gone and enjoy them with some sake. Click here to shop now. Kan Pai!
If you’re interested in a virtual sake tasting, make sure to book your experience with Ryuta aka Wasabi here. He also offers in-person tastings so if you’re making a trip to Japan, make sure to check out his brewery experience here.