Updated: Aug 17, 2022
We are happy to reopen and able to offer new air of Japan in Zurich. You can enjoy our Japanese space, tastes, the refreshed interior, dishes from Japan, new types of sake, and cocktails. You may feel a particular Bran new feeling at ICHIZEN. From the tableware introduced in honor of the restaurant's name ICHIZEN, We carefully selected then sent directly from Japan and served using these dishes. The taste of our restaurant is the same as before, and you can spend a new Japanese atmosphere in the restaurant with this unique tableware.
We would like to introduce Japanese Sake here!
Sake is a traditional Japanese alcoholic drink made from rice. Indeed, the word sake designates the fermented drink made from spring water and rice. The Japanese speak of nihonshu or seishu. It is more precisely rice alcohol grading 14 to 18%, produced by fermentation, like beer. Therefore, it is very different from the alcohol distilled from rice or sorghum flavored with rose, wrongly called "sake", served at the end of a meal in Chinese restaurants (in reality, it is mostly mei kwei lu chew, containing around 50% alcohol). In Japanese, the term sake signifies alcoholic beverages in general, so the Japanese prefer to use the more precise term nihonshu which means "alcohol from Japan".
Thirty to forty liters of water are needed to produce one liter of sake. To guarantee a quality product, it must be as pure as possible. Sake also requires very special rice, sakamai, a brewer's rice of which there are no less than 80 varieties. Some sakes, rosé or red, are made from black rice.
Sake is therefore in the strict sense of the term a rice beer made from a brewing of spring water, yeasts and rice cooked beforehand saccharified using a microscopic mushroom called koji-kin, a technique unique in Japan allowing us to prepare sake without malting.
And if we trace back the history of sushi, we will find out that sushi tradition began in Southeast Asia with narezushi, which still exists until this moment. It all started with a simple technique for preserving raw fish. The fish was salted and put in a container with fermented rice, which kept the fish from rotting. In this article, we are offering you a myriad of five of the most traditional recipes made in Asia that we will detail.
A quick overview of the history of sake:
The words "sake" or what is known in the Japanese language the "nihonshu" - appeared for the first time in the Kojiki, one of the oldest Japanese texts (in the VIII century AD). It tells how Susano no Mikoto defeated the snake Yamata no Orochi, by intoxicating it before cutting off its eight heads. And the first type of sake was called "kuchikami no sakeor sake that is chewed in the mouth, so we were far from the current practice of drinking it. Its manufacture was part of a Shinto rite practiced until recently in the remote villages of Hokkaido or Okinawa. During the ritual, young virgin girls, considered mediums of the gods, chewed the rice so that they could make sake. They thus produced the "Bijin-shu" or the sake of beautiful women. "Kuchikami no sake" is, therefore, a thick mixture of fresh rice, koji rice (fermented rice), and water whose texture is close to oatmeal.
During the Nara (710 - 794) and Heian (794 - 1185) periods, with Japan's interest in Chinese Tang culture, sake went from ritual use to more social use, especially at banquets. And at that time, two types of banquets could be distinguished; the official banquets, in the presence and with the emperor, where everybody is drinking from the same cup, and private banquets held by any official that was more like general drinking. This does not mean that the ritual of drinking sake has stopped. On the contrary, the imperial court established its own brewery in order to make as many different types of sakes as there are gods.
With the withdrawal of the imperial court in 1185, independent breweries began to develop. The temples which already had them take the opportunity to expand their production, supplied by their large crops of rice. Some alcohol markets started emerging on the temples, and plazas of the first public institutions of sake consumption appeared. Not until the XVI th century that the temples start making sake morohaku solely based on polished rice grains, which was known for eliminating all the unwanted taste impurities. And it was the Kofukuji, a temple of Nara, which developed the modern brewing technique using pasteurization.
The process of making sake:
The process of making sake is very unique; the process of making it starts with rice grains that are first polished, that is to say stripped of their husk; this operation allows bacteria to penetrate deep into the grain to release more umami. This rice is then steamed. Part of the rice is seeded with koji, a fungus that will act on the starch contained in the rice and transform it into fermentable sugars. It then bears the name of kome koji. Once the fermentation has taken place, everything is pressed to rid the sake of the solid residues left by the rice. Depending on the types of desired sake, other steps can be involved and whether adding water or not sake is then said to be genshu.