Omiyage (souvenirs) from Japan again! My husband is travelling quite often recently.
We have the tradition of ‘Omiyage’,gift-giving. Omiyage is translated as souvenirs, however, they are not to be kept for yourself. They are the gifts bought for your friends, family or colleagues. You think of someone while you are away and bring something back for them.
If you travel to Japan, you will notice there are hundreds of tourist shops everywhere filled with local produce and sweets. They are all packaged very nicely, often containing individually wrapped packages inside. These are designed for Omiyage.
I do think they are a little over packaged with plastic bags and paper wraps. Some dislike this tradition all together because they feel the obligation to buy gifts whenever they travel.
I like it. I like buying gifts thinking of someone, and of course, I love getting Omiyage, too.
Usually Omiyage goods are associated with the a specific region; I had requested sake this time and my husband got me a three bottle set from Kyushu region.
Roughly, there are four different types of Sake
Junmai-shu (rice only; no adding of distilled alcohol)
Honjozo-shu (a tad of distilled alcohol is added)
Ginjo-shu (highly milled rice, with or without alcohol added)
futuushu (cheap mass produced sake)
The sake rice is milled before it is used for production. In general, the more the rice used in brewing is milled before being used, the higher the grade of sake. In fact, this is the clearest definition of the ascending grades of sake. Top quality Sake are made with rice that has been milled to remove at least the outer 50% of the original size of the grains.
Some sake are made from rice only, however, some have added alcohol.
Cheap sake has copious amounts of distilled alcohol added to it at the final stages to increase yields. These are just like mass produced jug wines. If you ever tasted sake in a restaurant outside Japan and felt it was too bitter, there is a good chance that the sake was rather a humble grade with lots of added alcohol. Good quality sake should not taste bitter.
Sake with higher grades has had a very small amount of alcohol added to it and this is not to increase yields, but rather the use of alcohol in this very controlled manner helps to enhance aroma and flavour. In fact, all sake which enter competitions has small amount of alcohol added.
If you would like to try real sake without travelling to Japan, you should try a restaurant with good sake list, like this one in London: Sakagura
My husband also brought lots of soy sauce coated rice cakes for my son. They are thick, crunchy and full of flavour. Interesting thing is their ingredients are the same as sake. These rice cakes are made with outer layer of sake rice grains which is removed at milling stage. Nothing goes to waste and the rice cakes taste absolutely amazing.
I am working through the second bottle now. I enjoy tiny bit every day.It is utterly fantastic.