Tim Pawsey
Vancouver Courier

Friday, August 28, 2009

Last time the Hired Belly headed down Railspur Alley on Granville Island, sake maker Masa Shiroki had just bottled his first batch. Since then, the artisan sake maker has blossomed into a Canadian success story, with a string of feathers in his cap–including a Top 100 pick for Best Value in this year’s Vancouver Magazine Wine Awards for his richly textured Junmai Nama Genshu.

Like many B.C. small wine and spirit producers, Shiroki is finding that by the time the government takes its insatiable bite it’s almost impossible for the business to be viable.

However, there is a silver lining–literally. After each batch of sake is made, Shiroki removes the “must” from the tanks, which translates into approximately 200 kilograms every two months.

The sake maker says that in Japan the grey-white rice residue known as sake kasu is highly prized for a number of reasons.

First, thanks to its alcohol content, it’s valued as a preservative and marinade. Second, it has a high level of essential amino acids, including glutamic acid, which is a prime source of umami–that “fifth” taste experience (after sweet, sour, salty and bitter). Umami has long been appreciated by the Japanese but only recently understood by western palates, thanks in great part to wine educator Tim Hanni, who’s been nicknamed the “Swami of Umami.”

Last but not least, kasu is in demand as a skin moisturizer and anti-aging agent. Goodbye, Oil of Olay–Hello, Sake Kasu!

It truly is a multi-faceted item, says Shiroki Online Pokies, who pokies online free adds, “We use it at home for miso. By mixing it in about half in half, it adds tremendous flavour and texture. Plus it’s much lower in sodium and likely much more healthy.”

A handful of top Vancouver chefs have already latched onto the idea. Tojo, Andrea Carlson (Bishop’s) and Jeremy Bastien (Boneta) are using sake kasu not only as a marinade but also as a condiment, the area in which Shiroki has now expanded. Tangy and creamy (but not oily), Osake Citrus dressing is perfect for salads or even with oysters, while Osake Hot Sauce can be used for everything from satays to sushi. A couple of kasu-based soft drinks (apple and cherry flavoured) are also in the wings.

Another big kasu fan is Oyama Sausage’s John van der Leick, who came in one day for a sake tasting and left with four kilos of kasu. A while later he reappeared with tastes of kasu-cured prosciutto, which is the most moist and creamy tasting prosciutto you’ll ever encounter, and now a fixture at his Granville Island charcuterie.

Can kasu moisturizing face and hand cream be far behind for Shiroki?

Perhaps. “But the soap should be here within a few weeks,” the sake maker says.

Meanwhile, Shiroki continues to shape his sakes, which are always fresh on the palate and show increasing complexity. The newest is Sparkling Sake–gently effervescent, with a yeasty top, tropical tone a touch of anise (500 ml for $23.95). It’s a perfect partner for crab or smoked salmon.

[via Courier]