Trends in Japanese Food and Drink

On Saturday, September 14 the JFC Sake Expo and Food Show opened a window into the world of the latest trends in Japanese food and drink. Sponsored by JFC International, a major wholesaler and distributor of Japanese and Asian food and beverage products, including Kikkoman, Nishiki Rice, House Foods, and Kewpie Mayonnaise. Fifty-three breweries and distilleries representing 31 prefectures in Japan and dozens of food-product vendors filled two ballrooms at the New Yorker Hotel.

The trade show introduced new products and innovations for familiar ones, appealing to retailers and those in the food service industry. Here are a few observations:

Fruit-Flavored Sake
Yes, umeshu (plum wine) has been around for one thousand years, but infusing fruit into sake is still somewhat of a novelty. Flavors such as yuzu and peach, which Western palates enjoy, were on the floor.

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Yamamoto Honke Brewery rep talks about Yuzu Omoi

 

Shochu and Awamori
As far as alcoholic beverages from Japan, sake is probably the most recognizable. But the Sake Expo wasn’t just about sake; it promoted shochu and awamori as well. During the last few years shochu has increased in popularity in major U.S. cities, and about ten distilleries poured their new products to gain a stronger foothold in New York. The lone awamori, which, like shochu, is a distilled alcoholic beverage, was Ryuyku Ohcho, made by Taragawa Brewery located on remote Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture.

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Tasting shochu from Komasa Jyozo

 

Calpico Cocktails
Perhaps the reason shochu and awamori aren’t household names is because they’re a bit strong. Calpico to the rescue! The uncarbonated soft drink manufacturers have been producing lactic acid drinks made from non-fat milk in Japan since 1919. With a yogurty taste, Calpico is enjoyable on its own, but the company suggests adding it to sake and shochu cut the intensity of the alcohol while enhancing the flavor.

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Calpico's table with shochu and sake cocktails

Calpico Cocktail Menu

With Sake:
1 oz Calpico
1.5 oz Sake
0.5 oz Lime Juice or 2 squeezes of a Lime Wedge
Shake ingredients together with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a glass filled with cubed ice. Garnish with the lime wedge.

With Shochu:
1.5 oz Calpico
1.5 oz Shochu
5 oz Soda Water
Build the shochu and Calpico into a highball glass almost filled with ice cubs and add the soda water. Stir well. Garnish with a cherry.

For more recipes, please visit Calpico’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ramune Cocktails
Ramune is a delightful Japanese carbonated drink with the marble sealed in the bottle. It’s synonymous with children and summer festivals, but Sangaria, the company that manufactures the sugary beverage, is trying to reach a more adult market. Assistant Manager Tung Nguyen says that Sangaria has recently joined forces with a restaurant at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, experimenting with mixing Ramune with shochu.

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Ramune

 

Hangover Cure
Drinking too much at night can lead to a big ol’ hangover in the morning. What better place to peddle a product that claims to cure hangovers than at a sake trade show? Ukon no Chikara (“the power of tumeric”) by House Foods was positioned at the entrance of the expo. When asked if Ukon no Chikara was an energy drink in the same vein as 5-Hour Energy, the rep responded enthusiastically, “No, it helps with hangovers, so drink all the sake here today!”

 

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Sake and cheese pairings

Sake and Cheese Pairings
Yes! For anyone who thinks sake should be consumed only with sushi or other Japanese cuisine, these pairings will convince you otherwise. Samples of junmai and yuzu sake with Roquefort and sparkling sake with yogurt (I know it’s not cheese, but it’s dairy) showed these pairings to be rich in umami.

Oh, there was beer at the expo, too. For some reason, the Sapporo Beer Guy makes me think of Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Sapporo Beer Guy

The food side of the JFC Sake Expo and Food Show was spectacular, bursting with umami-rich goodies coming soon to a restaurant near you.

Shio Koji and Miso Koji
We’ve discussed the fermentation agent koji at JapanCulture•NYC several times, and we’re seeing it more frequently. Sake company Ozeki displayed a line of fermented products, including a shio-koji kit and a sake kasu (lees, sediment from the sake fermentation process) paste with samples of chicken breast and salmon. Marukome also sampled foods seasoned with shio koji and shoyu (soy sauce) koji, including tofu that had been marinated for two weeks.

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Marukome's shio and shoyu koji marinated foods

 

Tiny Tako
Yes, it’s a baby. Yes, it’s cute. But it’s oh, so good.

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Baby octopus

 

Soft Shell Shrimp
One annoying part about eating shrimp is peeling it. With soft shell shrimp, you don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty. Go ahead, eat the whole thing.

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Soft shell shrimp

 

Vaccum Fried Vegetables
Okra that had fresh-out-of-the-garden texture and taste actually came from a resealable bag.

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Vacuum fried vegetables

 

Ramen Crunch
It’s Ramen Week 2013, so we must say something about ramen! Ramen Crunch is a snack made from dried ramen noodles. The package says it’s trans fat and cholesterol free, so it’s healthy, too, right?

JFC International, Japanese cuisine, Japanese beverages, Japanese alcohol, sake, shochu, awamori, Japan, food, shio koji, NYC, ramen

Ramen in chip form

To see more photos of the JFC Sake Expo and Food Show, please visit JapanCulture•NYC’s Flickr set.