Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

The history of Cooking Sake

A curious history

In Japan, people have been using sake since a very long time ago. Not only has it been a source for relaxation and entertainment but itfs taste properties and health benefits have been known for many years hence itfs long use in Japanese history. The reason for cooking sakefs existence is a curious one. In actual fact the only reason cooking sake exists as an ingredient in Japanese cooking is because of tax brackets introduced by the Japanese government on products containing alcohol. Cooking sake was made to avoid alcohol tax by adding in other ingredients such as salt and vinegar for reasons of product classification. For this reason it only came out around the 1870s but essentially both rice wine and cooking sake offer the same qualities to food. Letfs have a look at the history of rice wine which is the true key part of cooking sake.


Well, sake is made from fermented rice so without rice we couldnft make sake! Rice came in Japan from China about 2000 years ago. In the 780s AD, it is said that sake (rice wine) started being produced for special traditional events in honour of deities they believed in. After a while, they started expanding the technique and introducing it among the common people, that made sake very well known with people back then. Once it became commonly known, of course the temple and shrine started to use it first and then common people too gradually. Of course people loved drinking sake and used to it to celebrate every single opportunity and got drunk with it as you can imagine. Because of its popularity, sake became a business in the whole country, sake factories appeared and sake making techniques too. In the edo era, things were a lot different to the early years in Japan, people were enjoying cooking and gthe classic Japanese foods and ingredientsh were established already including ingredients such as soy sauce, mirin, miso paste, etc, thatfs when people started using sake in their dishes. In the Meiji era which followed, it became cooking sake due to the tax system and thatfs the start of cooking sake in Japan. Even though the reason was to avoid to get taxed, cooking sake was made properly for cooking so that it is good quality and is better than using the real sake as it isnft as strong and is designed to add additional helpful ingredients such as vinegar. So, cooking sake itself is not too old as it is only 147 years old.


Herefs just a little context on cooking sake and why it is such a great ingredient. Sake is really good for us when used in moderation in cooking, cooking sake helps the body to produce digestive fluids that the stomach needs. A really great health benefit about cooking sake is that it is really good at maintaining our digestive systems because of all the good bacterias in it. Because it goes through a process of fermentation, it creates some special properties. Foods such as miso and natto that are also fermented also offer similar health benefits as they undergo fermentation too so they contain large concentrations of bacteria that help to keep our digestive tract healthy. It helps to make our immune systems stronger and helps to maintain our stomachs. It is fantastic on many levels though as it also contains antioxidants which are very important for removing free radicals from our bodies. Free radicals are believed to be linked to diseases like diabetes, cancer as well as cardiovascular diseases. Some people believe that the antioxidants in cooking sake actually help to slow down the growth of cancerous cells in the body. Even a long time ago, these benefits were evident to people even if they couldnft exactly prove it with the modern technology we have today. So, itfs easy to see why is is and has been an integral part of Japanese cooking!

Practical history!

Here is an interesting look at sake and its use as an ingredient both now and a long time ago. Supposedly people used to dip sashimi in sake, not soy sauce! That means that they understood back then that sake was a good condiment. The practice is actually still here in the 21 century. You can easily and cheaply buy sashimi in Japan so people often buy more than enough for the family and usually end up with leftovers, what happens to the leftovers? Throw them in the bin? Well, they marinate them with some sake and soy sauce so that it lasts longer than just being left as raw sashimi. And the next day, they just either grill them or fry them in a pan, yumm! One, youfre not wasting good sashimi and two, you can enjoy it twice! Seriously, it makes sense though, as you know cooking sake is good for you, if you put leftover sashimi ingredients in sake and soy sauce and cook it the next day, a great umami flavour (the fifth taste sensation) comes out more and more amino acids too. Itfs even better!!


Remember, sake is good for preventing cancers, anti aging, while improving brain function and your memory. It could be why Japanese people are at the top of list for who lives the longest in the world, couldnft it. If you keep drinking and getting drunk with sake every day, of course itfs not good for your health but putting this ingredient in your dishes constantly every day must be good for you. One of the good things in terms of Japanese ingredients is it makes use of fermented ingredients a lot, not oil or sugar or any fatty foods like that.. adding some fatty food of course makes dishes yummier but adding something that makes sense like cooking sake better both in terms of flavours and nutrition, don't you think.


Well, itfs not cheap to get sashimi abroad but you can buy raw tuna steaks. Here is a recipe using the healthy Japanese way:) Put some soy sauce, mirin and cooking sake (using a ratio of 3:2:1) in a bowl and soak some fillets of tuna, leave it for 30 minutes in the fridge, thatfs it. If you could get some spring onions chopped in the bowl, that would be even better. All you have to do is that and just fry or grill the marinated tuna fillet. The Japanese historical way of tuna steak just like that!!!


Cooking sake and sake have a long history in Japan as key ingredients in food and itfs hard to imagine them not being so in the future!