RICE HAS been a staple food in Asian households for several millennia.
For Asian farmers, rice has long been a cornerstone of their lives. It provides sustenance in energy and in income and throughout history there has been an endless pursuit to find new ways to appreciate this humble staple.
What surprised me is that the liquid version of rice, or sake, is only just starting to gain international popularity in recent years.
Centuries of hard work and waiting has brought us to modern day sake.
Having tried many in my time, none have come close to that of Kuheiji Junmai Daiginjo (Betsuatsurae). Ku/Kyu (九 in Kanji or Chinese) refers to the 9th generation of sake brewers in the Kuno family.
Taste The Difference
For those new to the world of sake, the difference between a Kuheiji and say an overrated famous brand such as a Dassai is best highlighted when the two are taken side-by-side (the Kuheiji should be saved for the last, of course).
The first sip has a very slight fizz to it. Subtle and refreshing with a light fragrance of pure rice and a whole sense of well-being. It slips down your throat smoothly, like silky butter. Most other sakes tend to have a stronger punch with a little spiciness in the aftertaste.
The natural sweetness of Kuheiji sake is amazing. Strong but not overpowering, it provides just enough for you to savour the purity in taste. It paired particularly well with nigiri sushi such as salmon, octopus or tuna. We refrained from choosing heavier tasting sushi that had spicy sauces that might distract our taste buds.
Drinking it well chilled to around 10-12°C transported me to a state of taste zen. Anxieties dissolved and all the crinkles and creases of life just melted away. In this state of blissful happiness, I imagine that feeling rice farmers would have, as they sit watching the sun set, while enjoying an evening breeze and admiring the great work they have done in the fields.
If you do find yourself holding a glass of this marvellous liquid, I hope you will find a few moments to close your eyes, to breathe and to relax. Enjoy the love that has gone into making this bottle of magic. Like me, you might not be able to fully understand the amount of labour that goes into tilling the rice fields, but I am sure you can find the bliss within. And that is more than enough.
For many years, the limited production meant that this wonderful drink was mainly available through top Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris. Up till around 5 years ago, I could not even find any in restaurants and retail stores or sake distributors’ outlets in Tokyo. That slowly changed and most recently, this beautiful Kuheiji rice syrup is available for retail sales in Singapore (from $99 a bottle) at The Gong, #01-59 DUO Galleria, 7 Fraser Street, Singapore 189356.