Step up your sake game and flavor by trying some of these with your next bottle.
If you’re old enough to drink, then chances are you’ve tried Japanese sake before. It has a unique flavor somewhere between wine and vodka that some people love, some people hate, and some people don’t get a choice about and are basically forced to drink.
But no matter which category you fall into, you may be looking for a way to spice up your next cup of sake. Just like wine and cheese or beer and buffalo wings, the right food can make a drink even more enjoyable, and sake is no exception.
So with that in mind, we have nine snack recommendations from Japanese people to try with your next bottle of sake. Instead of just suggesting the usual edamame or yakitori chicken though, we decided to present some of the more interesting side dishes, ones that even some sake veterans may have never tried before.
Whether you see the food as an excuse to drink or the drinking as an excuse to eat, with these suggestions, it’s going to be win-win!
#1. Dried Squid
To the uninitiated, dried squid may not sound like the most appetizing thing in the world, but it’s actually quite delicious. It’s typically tough and has a chewy yet crunchy texture to it, kind of like jerky. It’s the perfect way to wash down all that sake your Japanese friends keep pushing on you.
▼ It’s not an alien, it’s a snack!
#2. Salted squid entrails
If you’re ready to graduate from dried squid and get a little bit more hardcore, then try some salted squid entrails with your next cup of sake.
▼ It comes in a bottle like this…
▼ …and looks like this on top of some rice. Uh, yum?
That salted squid is a true test of how far you’re willing to go to achieve that perfect complement to your sake. The texture may be a bit too slimy for some, but the rich, salty taste is the perfect accompaniment a nice cup of sake.
#3. Fried sweet potatoes with cheese
If you’re not ready for squid entrails, then feel free to try something a bit safer, like Japanese potato wedges. You can usually order this dish in Japanese restaurants, but it’s pretty easy to make at home too. Just buy sweet potatoes pre-fried or fry them yourself in nice, big slices, microwave them for a minute with cheese on top, add mayonnaise, onions, and spices to flavor, and you have yourself the perfect savory snack to go with your sake.
▼ You could add some squid entrails on top too, but that would make you a monster.
#4. Sardines with cheese
If you just can’t get enough of that thick cheesy goodness with your sake, then try out this next snack. I’ve never seen sardines with cheese on any menu before, but apparently they’re quite delicious, and extremely simple to make.
Just lay out the sardines, put a slice (or two… or three…) of cheese over them, stick them in a toaster oven for five minutes, and then you have the perfect oily snack to accompany your drink.
▼ You could add some jalapenos and olives to make Japanese nachos.
#5. Katusobushi cream cheese
Maybe you’re in a hurry. Maybe you don’t have five whole minutes to cook up your sake-accompanying snack. In that case, it doesn’t get any simpler than this recipe: just sprinkle katsuobushi (bonito flakes) on top of cream cheese, add a little soy sauce, and that’s it. The smoky bonito and thick cream cheese is suppoed to make that sake taste amazing!
▼ It’d probably be good on a breakfast bagel, but don’t go drinking sake in the morning.
#6. Pickled wasabi
First of all, if you’re not a fan of wasabi, I don’t blame you. The taste can be quite intense, especially if you’re not prepared, potentially wrecking a meal rather than enhancing it. But pickled wasabi is generally weaker than regular wasabi, making it far less likely that your face and sinuses will burn away when you eat it.
▼ You can use it as a dip, or eat it raw.
▼ It’s like mashed potatoes with a bit of a kick.
#7. More entrails!
If you’ve already tried the salted squid entrails and you’re ready to expand your horizons even more, Japan has exactly what you’re looking for. Why not sample some delicious fish entrails with your next sake? It might not sound great at first, but fish entrails got their Japanese name shuto (meaning “stolen sake“) because when people ate it with sake, the two went together so well people couldn’t stop and “the sake would disappear as quickly as if it’d been stolen.”
▼ There’s only one way to find out if you’ll have the same reaction.
#8. Crispy chicken skin
If fish guts aren’t your thing, then maybe some fried chicken skin would be a better complement for your sake instead. You can order this at most Japanese restaurants, but making your own at home is easy too. Just fry the skins, add a little yuzu kosho (paste made from yuzu and chili peppers) with a dash of lemon, and you’re good to go.
▼ Tangy, spicy, greasy deliciousness.
#9. Cheese with bonito and ume
Can’t decide what you want to eat with your sake? Well then have it all at once! Get yourself a little wheel of Camembert cheese, slice it, then add ume (plum), bonito flakes, and onions on top. It’s kind of like a tiny pizza, and, when combined with some sake, it’s the perfect way to get all the flavors of Japan to slam against your taste buds at once.
▼ You could share the slices with friends, but that would mean less for you…
Those were the most interesting suggestions given to us by the Japanese sake-afficianados, but if you’re in the mood for something else, here’s a brief list of the “runner-up” suggestions:
・ Uni (sea urchin)
・ Heshiko (pickled mackerel)
・ Karasumi (dried roe)
・ Matsutake mushrooms
・ Renkon (fried lotus root)
・ Crab entrails (Because you can never have enough entrails!)
・ Camembert with honey (???)
・ Anything with cheese
So what do you think? Have you tried any of the above with your sake before? Or have you suddenly become inspired to order something new with your next drink? If you try any of the entrails, be sure to let us know in the comments. We want to commend you for your bravery.