Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

saké a well-known Japanese alcoholic drink, usually referred to in English as ‘rice wine’ (although this is something of a misnomer, given that it is brewed), is familiar wherever Japanese restaurants exist as something to be served, often warm, in small decorated china cups. In Japan, however, it has another role, as a major ingredient in the kitchen, ranked by Tsuji (1980) with soy sauce, miso, and dashi as one of what he terms the Big Four. He comments that the effects of saké are to tenderize; to suppress unwanted strong smells; to tone down saltiness; to remove or tame fishy flavours; and (an intriguing property, not explained in terms of chemistry) to preserve in a state of animation certain delicate flavours which might otherwise disappear. Japanese cooks also make use of saké as a pickling medium.