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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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!
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.
Yes, it’s a baby. Yes, it’s cute. But it’s oh, so good.
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.
Vaccum Fried Vegetables
Okra that had fresh-out-of-the-garden texture and taste actually came from a resealable bag.
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?
To see more photos of the JFC Sake Expo and Food Show, please visit JapanCulture•NYC’s Flickr set.