Pairing Tacos with Sake
To put it simply, the way Japanese Sake is brewed, the pairing possibilities are endless. Not only does it compliment delicate fresh flavors, but also with robust flavorful dishes like tacos. Mexican style tacos in my book encompass a full spectrum of flavors and textural profiles. Sweet, savory, spicy, herbaceous, zesty, crunchy, and creamy immediately come to mind. Take these bold flavors and elevate them with sake’s undeniable umami, and you get a magical combination that just makes you crave for more.
This month, I roped in 2 of my local Sake buddies to take the road less traveled. Chizuko Niikawa (President of Sake Discoveries), and Tim Sullivan (Founder of UrbanSake.com) prepared a wonderful spread and took Sake to whole new stratosphere with a night to remember.
Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai was carefully selected for this pairing. Here is why and how it was broken down in our minds.
Junmai – Junmai sakes have a distinct richer aftertaste than their counterpart, so the extra body in the sake harmonizes well with the grilled meats, shrimp and rich creamy guacamole.
Tokubetsu – Having floral aromatic Ginjo qualities, the slight fruitiness is enhanced with the raw toppings such as cilantro, onions, tomatoes.
Served Chilled – At roughly 45 to 60 degrees, this kept the sake tight and balanced. It was a nice juxtaposition with the grilled to-order tacos.
Read what New York City’s best had to say about the experience.
Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai is a wonderful sake to support various types of food. It’s clean and light body plays a wonderful supporting role during the meal. This innate characteristic of sake, did not overpower, nor interfere with the meal. Rather, it gently accompanied as a delicious libation the way it should be with any meal. It’s clear this sake was specifically brewed to stand behind food, not to conflict with it.
I find Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai has a slightly creamy finish. This paired well with the velvety guacamole served in the tacos. The guacamole was prepared using a milder recipe containing only avocados, red onion, tomato, cilantro, fresh lime juice and salt. This lends the tacos a delicious creaminess without overpowering with too much heat. Jalapeno chilies were served on the side for anyone wanting a little spice in their taco.
We found the flour tortillas paired better with Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai than the corn tortillas, which were drier and bit gritty. The wheat flour tortillas were softer in body and less pronounced in flavor. This mildness allowed the Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai to really support the flavor.
The overall clean body of Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai really cleansed the palate after each bite of taco.
Fresh crispy lettuce added a wonderful bright crunch to the tacos and paired well with the lightly dry and clean Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai.
Compared to milder but yet delicious shrimp, the beef tacos were richer and came across fattier on the palate. The unique body of Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai helped cleanse the palate after each bite of beef. In addition, the tomato salsa added a nice touch of acidity to the taco.
Written by George Kao, Tim Sullivan and Chizuko Niikawa Photos by Timothy Sullivan