Sushi & Sake 101: How Hot Sake Came About and What Ginger Is Really For

Categories: Cooking Classes

Photos by Carla Torres
A road map to sake
Making sushi is an art, and Sushi Samba Coral Gables' sushi chef Shoyo Iida, paints a blank canvas with brilliant colors. Red, orange, white, and green all come alive in his vibrant preparations, which take him no longer than 45 seconds to roll. For newbies who recently made sushi during the monthly Sushi & Sake 101, it took a little longer than that. Blame it on all the sake tasting.

Short Order attended the $85, interactive, two-part lesson, which teaches how hot sake came about, why sake bombs are unacceptable, and how to make sushi rice.

See also: Sushi Samba Coral Gables Launches Sushi & Sake 101: A History Lesson in Sake Drinking and Sushi Making

Part one of the two-hour event takes attendees through a history of sake. The good news is there's food in between all the drinking so that no one gets completely hammered. It's hard to believe anyone learns anything at all.

An otsumami appetizer features an assortment of greens -- lemon edamame, green been tempura, and spicy and roasted shishito peppers.
But I learned plenty during the April 29 class. Take, for example, the fact that sake is made with rice that's different from sushi rice -- sake rice grains are significantly smaller. And though rice is a big deal in the sake-making process, it's not the most important of the four ingredients -- rice, water, koji, and yeast. That distinction goes to water. Northern Japan has the cleanest and smoothest water and thus produces the best sake. So next time you're out and want to act like a connoisseur of the popular rice beverage, ask for sake from the northern region of that country. Your date will be impressed.

A5 Wagyu beef gyoza with kabocha purée and su-shoyu dipping sauce.
Whatever you do, just don't order hot sake. This concept was created by Americans because the U.S. lacks premium rice and a good brewing program to make sake that's worth drinking. As a result, it's heated to mask imperfections. In Japan, hot sake is frowned upon, as are sake bombs -- another concept created by Americans. If you must order something hot, Sushi Samba's sake master encourages ordering a drink that isn't too aromatic. As far as the sake bombs, that's just a big no-no. Sake drinking is supposed to be a long and delicate process, enjoyed by slowly sipping and allowing all the notes of the complex beverage to reveal themselves.

Crisp taquitos served with spicy aji panda sauce.
Aside from temperature, there are two categories of premium sake: junmai shu and honjozo shu. While junmai is pure rice sake, honjozo is distilled using a very small amount of alcohol to bring out the flavors and aromas.

Location Info


180 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL

Category: Restaurant

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