ASAHI SUPER DRY

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It was in 1987 that Asahi Super Dry arrived on the scene as Japan’s first ever dry beer. Since then, its unique flavour has earned its place as a standard that continues to elevate the flavour and satisfaction of beer even to this day. In this article, we take a look at what made Asahi Super Dry win the hearts of young and old alike over the years, and a recipe for a type of otsumami – the star of the izakaya dining experience – and their match made in heaven that is Asahi Super Dry.

Photography: Naoto Ijichi

THE ASAHI SUPER DRY STORY

The date was 17 March, 1987. This was the day that Japan’s first ever dry beer, Asahi Super Dry, made its way into the world. The journey that led to its creation was one filled with firsts, each new day bringing its own new challenge.

It all began with the search to make the perfect beer. From a survey of 5,000 respondents, the answer was clear – it had to be clearer and more refreshing, each glass make you wish you had just one more, and a great match for any dish. The survey uncovered
a distinct shift in preferences from a heavier, more bitter taste to a smoother, clearer and more refreshing one. Taking onboard this paradigm shift in customer needs, thus was born the new flavour concept of a dry draught beer.

The flavour of beer is determined almost entirely by the combination of yeast, base ingredients, and brewing process used. And it was here that
the challenge to develop a recipe for a dry draught beer began, by searching through the endless possibilities of the type of yeast to use, the type and amount of base ingredients, and the method used to prepare and brew the beer.

First came the search for the right yeast. Beer is created by taking the sugars from a wort made from malt, and using yeast to convert those sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Limiting the amount of residual sugars left in the end product is essential to achieving a clean taste. Of the several hundred yeast strains that Asahi uses, yeast strain No. 318 excelled in its fermentation capabilities. Its ability to completely consume sugars made it possible to achieve just the right clear, undiluted taste while also adding its own unique aroma.

Next came the base ingredients and the production methods. What would be the optimal conditions to allow Asahi yeast strain No. 318 to perform at its best? The search for the right flavour led to a myriad of combinations being tested, with small adjustments being made with each one and a number of test samples being created. Keywords that defined the essence of a dry beer more clearly flowed – each glass makes you wish you had just one more, a good match for sashimi, and that doesn’t overpower food… More tests followed, pairing the samples with sashimi and a variety of other Japanese, Chinese, and western dishes and otsumami. After this lengthy process, at long last the perfect flavour was discovered, and so the original recipe of Asahi Super Dry came to be. It was this painstaking attention to detail that gave this beer the refined, clear taste that makes it a match for food of all varieties and makes every sip feel like the very first.

INTRODUCING IZAKAYA AND OTSUMAMI

The word izakaya refers to a Japanese style of restaurant that provides a menu of alcohol and simple, matching dishes. Said to have grown in popularity during the Edo period, the izakaya of the day were merchants who sold alcohol in bulk, then steadily began to allow patrons to drink their wares on the spot, and ended up serving simple food to match. The word ‘izakaya’ itself comes from a combination of the Japanese characters meaning ‘to stay and drink’ abbreviated into the sounds ‘izaka’, which was used to differentiate them from merchants who only
sold alcohol. The much higher proportion of men in the Edo period compared to women, and thus the large number of single men living alone, also provided a catalyst to the rise of the izakaya, who offered a way to easily enjoy both food and drink at the same place.

Of course, no talk of izakaya would be complete without discussing otsumami and the role they play in complementing drink. The word otsumami comes from the word for ‘snack’, and refers to food that can be easily picked up and eaten by hand. Common varieties include seafood and meat dishes, and even cheese and crackers depending on your drink of choice. All dishes are generally heavily
seasoned to help bring out the flavour in the drinks they accompany.

“Otsumami are à la carte dishes that are designed to complement your drink; not take centre stage.” So says Shota Sato, head chef of Osaka Trading co. in Tramsheds Harold Park, who earned the distinction of receiving one hat during his days as the head chef of Bar H Dining. See the opposite page for an original otsumami recipe from head chef Sato that can be easily made at home and acts as a great partner to Asahi Super Dry

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TEMPURA CORN AND SCALLOPS WITH SOY BUTTER

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The sweetness of seasonal corn mixed with some salt and soy sauce come together in a mouthwatering balance. Add in the aroma and a hint of heat with shichimi spices, and you have a dish that makes the perfect partner for drinking beer. Try it with just some salt or mixed in with some soy sauce.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2)

Corn 100g
Scallops 1 pack
Shichimi spice 1 pinch
Frying oil As needed
Corn flour 1 pinch

TEMPURA DIPPING SAUCE (as needed)

Plain flour 1 cup
Corn flour 2 tbsp
Cold water 150ml
Vinegar 35ml

SOY BUTTER

Butter 10g
Salt Salt
Soy sauce To taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Remove the corn from the cob, and dice the scallops into a size roughly twice that of the pieces of corn.

2. Mix the plain flour and corn flour (A). Separately, mix the cold water and vinegar (B). Combine (B) into (A), lightly mixing so that a slight floury consistency remains.

3. Fill a frying pan halfway with the frying oil and heat to 180 degrees. After mixing 1. and the pinch of corn flour in a bowl, add 2 tbsp of the tempura dipping sauce and swiftly combine.

4. Scoop the mix using a large spoon and place slowly into the oil, deep frying both sides for approximately
15 seconds.

5. Sprinkle shichimi spices over the tempura and dress with a sauce made by combining the butter, salt, and soy sauce.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Keep all ingredients cold before you cook to prevent them from collapsing!
Don’t deep fry the corn for too long or it will burst!

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CHEF: SHOTA SATO

Profile

Specialises in a modern Japanese style that blends both Japanese and western influences. Fifteen years experience as a chef. Worked as a chef specialising in French cuisine at hotel-based restaurants in Hokkaido, Okinawa, Tokyo, and Chiba in Japan. Came to Australia in 2009, and after gaining further experience at multiple restaurants, earned the distinction of receiving one hat in 2015 working as the head chef at Bar H Dining, a title only awarded to restaurants selected by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide. Involved in the launch of the Osaka Trading co. in September of 2016 where he now works as the head chef.

AN INTERVIEW WITH SAKE MASTER, ANDRE BISHOP

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AN INTERVIEW WITH SAKE MASTER, ANDRE BISHOP

Interview: Ryoji Yamauchi


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THE ROAD TO BECOMING A SAKE PROFESSIONAL

First, let me tell you a little about my background.

As a sake professional, I have spent the past 20 years working to raise awareness about Japanese sake and other alcoholic drinks from Japan. In 2013, I received the prestigious title of Sake Samurai from the Japan Sake Brewers Association Junior Council in recognition for my work in promoting sake and Japanese culture in general.

It was a surprise to receive an award like this, especially since the road that brought me here began with a passing interest in Japan; I never planned to be recognised as a sake professional. My connection to Japan originated at a young age with simply watching Japanese cartoons (anime) on TV. However, as I grew older the number of Japan-inspired interests grew as if there was something that kept drawing me back to be emotionally invested in the country. When I was old enough to go out to dine it was a natural choice for me to start frequenting Japanese restaurants and in doing so gained an even greater understanding of the food, culture and this amazing drink, sake.

My first experience of premium Japanese sake came in 1996 on my first trip to Japan. I travelled across the country over a period of 5 weeks, often eating in local izakaya featuring sake from the region. That was the moment when it truly struck home just how amazing Japanese sake is, and how good a partner it makes with a wide range of foods. I was also taken by the role of the izakaya as a meeting place, that brings people together in a friendly atmosphere where there was a comradery shared over sake.

This was the beginning of my love affair with the rich world of Japanese food and sake, and my personal desire to build a stronger connection with the country led to my desire to share my interests in and passion for Japan with others. The journey that then began to learn more about sake tasting and food pairings led to me becoming a sake professional.


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SAKE AND WINE – SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES

While sake and wine share a place as drinks that can be especially enjoyed with food, there are several distinct differences. I usually don’t like to draw comparisons between the two as I feel it is important that they are seen as what they are, two very different beverages. However, if pressed, I will say that from a purely scientific angle, sake, by way of its amino acid composition is in general a better match to food in most cases. There is a phrase in Japan that simply states, “sake does not fight with food.”

One common trait of sake is that it makes for a good partner to food. Whether high in salt, deep fried, or full bodied, sake has the ability to make a good partner to all dishes no matter what you serve. In particular, where wine makes a poor partner with foods that are high in salt, one of the key traits of sake is that it matches extremely well with foods that are very salty.

When it comes to wine, you choose what to drink first, then look for a matching dish second. In other words, wine takes centre stage on the table because it makes you consider what to eat based on your selection of wine. You might even say that wine is the leader, and that food follows after. In that sense, sake and food both stand on an even setting. Sake is flexible in its pairing with food, and helps bring out the flavour of the food itself. Sake is a drink that combines a full aroma with the ability to perfectly match any food you put it with.


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CATEGORIES AND VARIETIES OF SAKE

The three main grades of sake are: daijinjo, ginjo, and honjozo. The principle difference between them is the degree to which the rice used is polished. Daiginjo is generally considered a high-grade sake where an extremely large proportion of the rice has been polished away, making it in most cases delicate in style. In highly milled grades, certain rice strains are commonly used such as Yamada Nishiki, since it is known for its smooth and translucent mouthfeel and, when partnered with the right yeast, can produce stunning floral or fruity notes. junmai styles signify sake where the alcohol is derived from fermentation alone, whereas non-junmai grades do contain the addition of a small amount of brewers alcohol.

By comparison, the ginjo and honjozo categories retain a stronger aroma of rice, and are fuller both in body and flavour. These varieties are comparable in style to a fuller-bodied wine. It is important to note that when we discuss these characteristics of grades, rice and styles we usually talk in general terms, however, there are always exceptions to the rule. This variety and variation brought about by the many factors that can be manipulated during brewing and of course the skill and intent of the brewers, make sake such a fascinating journey of discovery.

In addition to this categorisation based on the proportion of rice polishing, there are also many varieties of sake based on other factors as well. For example, the type of sake rice used in production. Yamada Nishiki is one of the most famous, and is used in high-quality sake while other types of sake rice are used in sake where the aroma of rice is more strongly pronounced.

In addition to the sake rice itself as a component of sake, conditions such as differences in the distinct seasons in Japan and regional climates also give birth to variations. Sake brewers take into account a variety of conditions, such as the climate and the condition of local water in search of the right answer to the kind of sake rice to use and ideas about the kind of sake to create. This is also where sake brewers can show off their skill in brewing. Styles of drinking, from cold to room temperature and warm then have a further effect on the flavour of the finished sake, another of the points that highlights the depth and joy of sake.


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ENTERING THE WORLD OF JAPANESE SAKE

Over the years, I have introduced sake in a variety of ways, such as at large-scale dinners, sake classes that teach professional knowledge, at tasting events, and more. No matter the situation, I have always strived to introduce sake of good quality so that guests can discover the wonders of sake and hopefully that sparks an interest in learning more about it. I feel the best way to learn about sake is by enjoying it with food and in doing so, you will can understand what great partners they make.

One of the easiest ways to appreciate sake is to try a variety of different sake at the same sitting. This gives you a chance to easily appreciate how styles can vary whether it be sweet, dry, full or light bodied and so on. Differences in sake can be subtle, but equipped with a little knowledge you will soon begin to appreciate its diverse offering.

For those interested in learning more about sake, know that you have an enjoyable journey ahead. Relax and enjoy your trip out into the world of Japanese sake.


ANDRE BISHOP

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With 20 years of experience promoting Japanese beverages, Andre Bishop is recognised as Australia’s leading authority on sake. As a pioneer of the local sake scene he continues to provide consulting, education and promotional services to assist both the industry and the consumer. He shares his passion for sake with others in order to encourage more Australians to discover the joys of sake and Japanese culture in general.
In August 2013, Andre was inaugurated as a Sake Samurai in Kyoto, Japan. This prestigious title has only been bestowed to a handful of non-Japanese sake experts around the world and is the highest honour awarded by the Japanese sake industry. Andre owns a number of award winning Japanese restaurants in Melbourne that showcase the depth and breadth of what sake has to offer. He is the Australian Brand Manager for the prestigious Dassai brewery and is one of the few non-Japanese to have been accepted into the often closed world of sake breweries and has worked as a sake brewer in Kyoto and Yamaguchi. (Web: www.sakemaster.com.au)

FROM JAPAN’S LUNCH BOX TO THE WORLD’S BENTO

FROM JAPAN’S LUNCH BOX TO THE WORLD’S BENTO

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Japanese lunch boxes, with their collection of numerous small dishes and appealing presentation, have grown so far in popularity that they have come to be known simply by their Japanese name, “bento”, even outside Japan. While Japanese food itself is popular for the healthy image it fosters, bento are coming under the spotlight thanks to the well-balanced meal they provide. From a more traditional style, to train station bento, and the almost art-like bento arranged in the shape of popular characters, you might be surprised at the sheer variety available. In this article, we dive into the world of bento today, and see what makes them so special.

The lunch boxes of the world vary so greatly in their style and contents that a peek at lunchtime fare offers you insight into the very culinary culture of a given country.

Sandwiches squeezed into plastic containers are the norm in the West, with simple combinations such as peanut butter and jam making for a typical filling. Common side dishes include crackers, and vegetables and fruit carried in plastic containers and lunch bags to be eaten as is.

In comparison, the Japanese lunch box – the bento – offers a well-balanced mix of main and side dishes that cover a broad range of nutritional needs. They are both appealing and unique in their appearance, and are highly regarded for being healthy.


SO, WHAT ARE BENTO?

While the word “bento” is now widely understood across the world, exactly what is this piece of Japan’s culinary culture? In Japan, “bento” refers to food that can be eaten while out and about, away from home that is stored and carried along in containers. Bento can be either a hand-made variety prepared in the home, or a commercial product bought in stores.

Commonly consumed at lunch, bento often account for one of the three main meals of the day. As such, those with a good nutritional makeup that offer one third of the daily requirements are opular. Good presentation is also considered an important aspect of enhancing their visual appeal.

Because the dishes in a bento are combined together in limited space, they demand different considerations to standard plating of food. There must be little liquid left in the food prepared, and the taste and colour of the food must change very little, even after being refrigerated or left untouched for some time. Food that goes off easily is avoided, and ingredients that must be cooked before consumption must be well done. Food with a strong smell can fill the bento with their odour, giving off a strong smell when the bento is opened or even affecting the taste of other dishes, and is, therefore, often avoided as well. Rice can spoil if added while hot, and must be added after it has cooled. These and other techniques are crucial.


A BENTO FOR EVERY OCCASION

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Overseas in Australia and elsewhere, Japanese-style bento most commonly appear on the menu of Japanese restaurants.

In Japan, however, the bento was originally designed to provide a meal for those out for the day’s labour and unable to return to home to eat. As such, bento are found in many different places. Not only are bento commonly brought to the office or school for lunch, they are also commonly taken along on excursion, such as picnics or flower-viewing parties.

The bento is also often served as a type of boxed lunch combining both a main dish and side dishes during occasions, such as the celebration of a child’s first seasonal festival, Buddhist ceremonies, and even meetings at the office.


TYPES OF BENTO

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There are many types of bento in Japan, from bento made at home and taken to the office or school for lunch, to those sold at stores specialising in bento such as Hotto Motto, bento called “ekiben” that are made for long train rides, convenience store bento, chef-made bento served at restaurants, and more.

In particular, the “makunouchi” style of bento that combines rice formed into a rectangular shape with numerous side dishes has a long history. Designed as a meal served during the intermission to stage plays during the Edo period, this style of bento is one of the most common commercial bento today.

There are many unique variations on the bento nowadays, ranging from those arranged in the shape of popular characters and introduced alongside photographs on Instagram and other social media and blogs, to the sushi sandwich style called “onigirazu”. Bento are made not just to be eaten, but to be enjoyed and to give joy, and it is this sense of entertainment that marks the bento of today.

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