Monday, February 21, 2011

Let’s eat more sake-kasu

This year, my passion for sake-kasu (sake lees) has grown so much bigger. I always have loved sake-kasu and dishes made with it, but my use of sake-kasu used to be limited to traditional soup/ hot pot style dishes and making marinade for fish (or sometimes pork). But lately, I’ve discovered the versatility of this magical ingredient, and have made so many wonderful dishes with it. Sake-kasu can be used for savory dishes, dessert, or even drinks. It can be used hot or cold. Best of all, sake-kasu has wonderful natural flavors packed with UMAMI.

Just like what okara (soy pulp) is for tofu, sake-kasu (sake lees) is a by-product of sake (drink). In other words, it’s leftover after making sake. Sake is made from rice, koji (mold), and water. After the process of alcoholic fermentation the liquid (finished sake) is filtered and leaves mash behind. This mash is sake lees. There are two general types of sake lees. Hard-press sake-kasu from making lesser grade (and less-polished rice sake, like “Honjozo”) sake, and soft puree-like sake-kasu from making higher-grade sake (like more-polished rice sake, “Ginjo” or “Daiginjo”). This type is soft and also contains more residual alcohol, because sake is often filtered through hanging bags with natural gravity.

This is hard-press sake-kasu. It’s great for stew, marinade, or baking. It’s also most suitable for making pickles (but I can’t eat pickles…).

Soft-type sake-kasu is lately found in convenient tube packages, the flavor is cleaner and more pure because it’s made from more polished rice. It’s great for soup, appetizer (salad) dishes to use without heating, or drink.

For the hard-press sake-kasu, also just like okara, sake-kasu is known for its remarkable health benefits (different benefits from okara’s). Sake-kasu’s known benefits include helping lowering cholesterol level, making blood flow smooth, making healthier skin, to name a few. In Japan, you also find sake-kasu beauty treatments such as sake-kasu massage, facial mask, or even sake-kasu bath!

In Japan, winter is the high-season for sake making, so it’s naturally also the high-season for sake-kasu. You can also find some premium-quality sake-kasu from high-end Daiginjo, etc. Here in LA, your choices will be limited, but you can still find decent-quality sake-kasu at Japanese grocery stores. I buy a big batch of sake-kasu and portion into small batches based on weight, so they are conveniently ready anytime I need a certain amount of it.

Hopefully I can post more sake-kasu dishes pictures in my blog. You can find my sake-kasu nabe (hot pot) and sake-kasu cake pictures from my recent post here.