Wednesday 17 February 2016

Hakata Senpachi and some stuff about sake

This is drinking food. It’s quick-grab, slurp, suck, re-lick your fingers food. It’s unlikely stuff on a wooden stick (eel, pork belly) and genius (salted, crispy-fried chicken skin, also on a stick) food. It’s so-fresh-you-hardly-taste-the-fish food; and the eel, not the one that came on the stick but the one that came last, the one on the plate, is as fatty as foie gras in terms of other food, food.

This is ‘What’re they eating over there I'd like some of that’-food, and ‘Can I try a bit of yours’-food. It’s ‘You need to try this’-food and ‘Can we have more of that one’-food. It’s lots of ‘What’s this?’-food and, ‘Try combining this with the one over there’-food. All of it’s ‘Way better than when we went to that expensive place’-food. It’s hungover food.

And we drank slow-brew sake that tasted like chocolate. 

Here's some stuff you might like to know about sake:

  1. To turn rice into sake, brewers use a yeast called Aspergillus oryzae.
  2. In Japanese, the word 'sakeis used to refer to any alcoholic drink. The Japanese call what we call sake nihonshu which means 'Japanese alcohol' . 
  3. There are several types. These are differentiated by the manner in which the rice was milled.
  4. Milling is to do with the rice polishing ratio, i.e., how much of the outer husk and core of each rice kernel has been ground away. To get to white rice from brown rice, you need to polish it to about 90% (i.e. you polish off 10%).
  5. A sake with a higher polish (between 50-70%, so that's 30-50% polished off) is generally more expensive. This is because it requires more rice and processing to make the same amount of liquid.
  6. Ginjo and Daiginjo sakes are considered premium sakes. 
  7. Junmai is the Japanese word for 'pure rice'. Junmai is brewed using only rice, water, yeast and koji – i.e. there are no other additives. Unless a bottle of sake says 'junmai'  (純米), it will have additives.
  8. Some other useful words: amakuchi = sweet, karakuchi = dry, genshu = undiluted sake (most are diluted), honjozo = sake to which a small amount of distilled alcohol has been added,
    jizake = sake from smaller breweries or more artisanal brands.

Oh, and we were at Hakata Senpachi.

Illustration by Briony Crane.

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