Do I Need Sake for Cooking? Can I Substitute It?


Cooking Well Without Sake


Do I need sake for cooking?

When I lived in Japan, I used to say that cooking sake was a must. Now I live in Finland, where a 500mL can of beer costs over 3euro. How can I buy cooking sake imported from Japan in a country where liquor tax is so high? Well, before that, there is no such thing as cooking sake in Finland.
Is sake really necessary for cooking?

What is sake for cooking?

Cooking sake is an alcohol. It can be similar as drinking sake, which is a brewed alcohol, or made from sake and add something, there is a big variety of cooking sake. Cooking sake, which can be bought cheaply in supermarkets in Japan, is exempted from liquor tax by adding salt or vinegar to make it taste unfit for drinking.
料理酒とは - 日の出みりん|食を豊かにする「調味料」、食を楽しむ「清酒」造りの日の出みりん
「さしすせそ」の前に美味しい料理に仕上げる縁の下の⼒持ち 料理酒は米、米こうじ、食塩などを原料とした、料理に特化した醸造調味料です。 原料の米由来の有機酸やアミノ酸などは料理にうまみ・コクを付ける効果があります。 また、
料理用清酒に関する基礎知識 | おいしさづくりの基礎知識 | 加工・業務用調味料 | 商品紹介 | 宝酒造株式会社

Why do we need sake for cooking?

From the perspective of seasoning, the role of cooking sake can be summarized in three ways
To remove odor
To add flavor
To add umami
In addition, there are other effects such as softening the ingredients, but since there are only a limited number of dishes in which these are effective, we will focus on seasoning here.

Remove odor

When the alcohol in cooking sake evaporates, it also removes odors. In addition, cooking sake has a unique aroma, which covers the odor of the food.

Add flavor

Add the unique flavor contained in sake.

Add umami

Sake contains umami ingredients such as glutamic acid and aspartic acid, and adding sake adds umami.

Adding aroma and umami

I believe that the alcohol in cooking sake is necessary to remove odor from mainly fish dishes, especially white fish with a light taste. Unfortunately, Finland does not have the same access to a wide variety of fresh fish as we do in Japan, so I would exclude the issue of odor removal.
Foreign meat has its own unique smell, which is different from that of Japan. If you want to get rid of the smell of meat, it is better to rethink the cooking method rather than adding sake to the Japanese recipe because the smell of meat is quite strong.
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So we can say that the role of cooking sake is to “add flavor and umami”.

Is it really necessary?

. Is cooking sake really necessary? As for the aroma, the smell of sake is certainly appetizing. But what are the dishes that come to mind when you think of the aroma of sake? For me, it’s steamed shellfish with sake and simmered white fish. To put it another way, I have didn’t think that the aroma of sake is effective in any other dishes.
When it comes to flavoring, it is possible to use mirin, brown sugar, or any other seasoning. Of course, it is different from the aroma of cooking sake.
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As for umami, the amount of cooking sake used has very little to do with the amount of umami ingredients contained in it.

If you must, white wine

. If cooking sake is absolutely necessary, white wine can be substituted. But, again and again, it is good enough without cooking wine, even without white wine. This article is part of the seasoning series. What is seasoning? How can I substitute mirin, cooking sake, etc.? You can read all articles about seasonings here.
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When living abroad, there are many Japanese seasonings that are not available, such as mirin and cooking sake. How can w...


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