We are a Japanese restaurant Phoenix and we not only serve traditional Japanese food, we also cherish it and nurture it here at our restaurant. Many cultures have a signature drink that is well-known around the world. Sake is the traditional rice wine from Japan that has been around for nearly 2,000 years. Containing mostly water, Sake has a light, fruity flavor, and much more balanced flavor than traditional wine made from grapes. Considered to be one of the more healthy alcoholic drinks, many that seek alternative options to traditional beer and wine often find that sake suits their tastes and needs. The history of how sake came to be is an interesting one and really explains why it has stayed around for all these years.
Here is a brief overview of the sake history.
This rice wine was developed a short while after the Japanese first cultivated rice over 2,000 years ago. The very first recorded version of the sake that we know today was called kuchikami-zake, meaning “mouth-chewed”. Making this version of sake required no machinery or technology but did require a strong jaw. Those who were designated the task of making this drink (typically pure, young females) would chew the grains of rice and spit into a collection vat. The enzymes from human saliva and yeast would cause fermentation thus producing an alcoholic beverage (if you want to call it that).
Luckily for those who enjoyed alcoholic beverages in ancient Japan, healthier and more efficient methods for crafting drinks quickly developed. In 689 A.D., a department dedicated to the craft of brewing was established in the Imperial Palace in Nara and thus began the journey of traditional sake. Sometime during the 8th Century, the Kojiki (‘Record of Ancient Matters’) highlights the new developments in the sake craft.
In the early years of sake, the brewing process underwent several important changes. At first, the rice, including the brown outer parts were used, which can confidently be said did nothing to help the taste or fermentation process. But around the year 1000 A.D., a specialty fermenting ingredient, koji-kin mold, was cultivated to turn the starches found in the rice into sugars. This advancement made the sake making the process so much more consistent because no longer did brewers have to hope that the process would occur properly and naturally. Another process that greatly changed the brewing of sake was ‘polishing’ or milling rice, which was done to remove the brown outer covering of the rice to leave behind pure, white rice. There was also a form of pasteurization that was created to kill off the bacteria and mold in the sake that was responsible for ruining the taste. The Japanese used the process a few hundred years before Louis Pasteur formally gave his name to the process in Europe.
While the sake that we know today is perfectly clear, it wasn’t until 1578 that sake underwent a complete filtering process to make it clear. During the Edo period, 1603-1868, many more improvements were made to the sake making process as well as efforts to produce it on a large scale. Instead of polishing the rice by hand, waterwheels were integrated into the process to power large rice-polishing devices, which greatly sped up the process. The 1940’s were the only time throughout the history of sake that there were any real setbacks or challenges. The shortages and restrictions placed on brewers during the war made it difficult to continue with the traditional process. Only since 1960 has sake been commercially available to the international beverage market. Finding sake in Phoenix is now easy and all you need to do is head to the Noodle Bar in downtown Phoenix to get your hands on the best noodles in Phoenix from around the world. Visit us to try the specialty noodle dishes you can only find at the best ramen bar in Phoenix.