Hello Sake Gumi members! I’m happy to be taking over for Yoko this month to talk about pairing sake with my favorite food: noodles! But before that, a little about me - I co-own Umami Mart with Yoko and am a lover of adult beverages. Sake, cocktails, shochu, mezcal - I drink it all. I bartended for a few years at Camino restaurant in Oakland, and continue to create new cocktail recipes, often incorporating sake, for our blog. My newest cocktail concoction is called the Forbidden Oakland cocktail - a mix of Kenbishi Mizuho sake, rye, sweet vermouth and aromatic bitters. Find the recipe on the blog!
Onto the subject of noodles. It is my favorite food and I certainly could not live without it. Soba, ramen, nabeyaki udon, pad thai, spaghetti alle vongole, naengmyun, caccio e pepe! I will probably shrivel up into a noodle myself someday.
The origin of the noodle is hotly disputed. Was it China or Italy? Likely China, 4000 years ago. They say that the wheat noodle made its way to Japan in the ninth century, where it developed into a myriad of styles - from udon and soba to ramen and kishimen. There is nothing more satisfying than slurping cold soba noodles with tsuyu (dipping sauce), negi (green onions) and a dab of wasabi. It is so simple and yet so complete.
And what complements that zaru soba or a bowl of spaghetti better than a glass of sake? Cold or warm, or even at room temperature, I relish in pairing my noodles with sake, and look forward to sharing my thoughts here with you, dear member.
To celebrate the humble noodle, we’re partnering with Ramen Shop in Oakland to bring you a night of Hiroshima Tsukemen, an evening exclusive to Sake Gumi members on September 18th. Lucky you! We’ll also be publishing an article of my favorite ramen spots in the Bay Area on our blog. Like the origin of the noodle - always a heated debate.
LEVEL 1: Introductory Membership (Two 300ml bottles)
Koshino Karoku Junmai Ginjo
Kondo Sake Brewery (Niigata, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 55%, SMV: +4
This brewery’s claim to fame was its inclusion in the comic book series Oishinbo. The protagonist, Shiro, dared to defy critics by pairing buttery escargot with Koshino Karoku. Oh my! For this junmai ginjo, you’ll get a sweet, toffee-filled nose, yet find that this is quite dry on the palette. I get a mouthful of bright green cucumbers and mineral when enjoyed cold. Take note of the long finish!
Noodle Pairing: A Hong Kong style beef noodle soup (drink cold) or spaghetti carbonara (try it at room temperature).
Dewatsuru Junmai Nigori
Akita Seishu (Akita, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 65%, SMV: +3
Nigori-haters, step aside. This one is quite savory and is extremely food friendly. Boozy up front with a semi-dry finish, this versatile sake is earthy with notes of caramel and toasted nuts. I like to enjoy this sake cold.
Noodle Pairing: Curry udon, spicy pad thai, or the insane Item #2 at Ancient Szechuan in El Cerrito - Xin Jiang style diced chicken and spicy potatos with a heap of hand-made noodles on top. It is not to be missed for Bay Area locals!
LEVEL 2: Premium Membership (Two 720ml bottles)
Hinomaru Jozo (Akita, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 60%, SMV: +3
A refreshing ginjo that is light on its feet, this is a great companion for our Indian summer months. Enjoy flavors of cantaloupe, apricots and green olive; with notes of slate in the ending. It’s so fresh - like dew!
Noodle Pairing: Hiyashi Chuka (Ramen Salad) or cold zaru soba with homemade tsuyu. Find both recipes in our self-published Japanify All Day zine! Also try this sake with the Cold Noodles with Shrimp and Sesame Sauce at Shanghai Restaurant in Chinatown, Oakland.
Aizu Homare Junmai Daiginjo Black Label
Homare Sake Brewery (Fukushima, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 40%, SMV: +3.5
I generally find daiginjos to be the most aromatic of all the types of sakes, and Black Label demonstrates this well. It’s like putting your nose into, and biting down on a juicy, over-ripened melon. And this sake is so viscous and creamy - she’s got legs!
Noodle Pairing: Uni pasta, or spaghetti and meatballs! I would also try this with a bowl of the “Spicy” tantanmen at Shiba Ramen in Emeryville with a side of the chicken wings. You won’t be sorry!