Ep.2: Why Pairing Sake And Ramen Has Become Popular?

Written by Ryuji Otaki

“Soup doesn’t go with sake”.

I mentioned this in my previous article. One of my customers who read this article complained about it.

“I don’t agree with your opinion. Soup can be paired with sake! It goes great with it!!”

Now, I had actually been expecting this type of comment, and that’s even a part of why I chose this topic my article this time.

Japanese people are insatiably curious about “deliciousness”. They are good at developing new ways of drinking. For example, curry sauce can be a great pairing for sake.

In Japan, most people enjoy curry as curry rice, a dish that is essentially pouring thickened curry sauce over white rice. However, some izakayas have taken to serving curry sauce as a side dish.

Soup doesn’t “go with sake” in the traditional sense, which is to say that both soup and sake serve the same function of palate cleanser in Japanese cuisine.

In other words, there wasn’t the custom of pairing sake with ramen before these izakaya started experimenting.

But recently more and more ramen bars have started serving sake like me. The fact is that in the background, ramen is becoming more diversified and at the same time, so is the taste of sake.

This diversification is spurred on by increasingly complex refrigerated transportation systems and storage methods at liquor stores across Japan.

In the old days, nama-sake (unpasteurized sake, which skips the final step of heating) was mainly consumed by local people where it was produced. Most sake distributed nationwide was pasteurized.

Generally speaking, pasteurized sake is more approachable, with a smooth, rounded taste and weaker fragrance compared to nama-sake.

On the other hand, nama-sake is fresh and with a rich aroma.

The development of transportation systems and storage methods has brought us more diversified sake and with it, more diversified pairings.

I believe this is the reason that more and more ramen bars are serving sake at their shops.

In my understanding, since refrigerated transportation systems have not yet matured outside of Japan, the area where you can enjoy nama-sake is very limited.

In Japan, we have a large variety of sake far beyond your imagination. If you have a chance to come to Japan for either business or pleasure, I highly recommended you take advantage of the chance to taste both nama-sake and pasteurized sake!