Such a coincidence! I’m writing about the miso making workshop almost two months after it happened and then, the day after the blog entry, I went on a bike trip with a friend. And guess what I was able to buy?
Yay! It’s now waiting in my fridge and next weekend I will try to prepare the miso – sake kasu – ramen we ate after the workshop.
And that’s how I ended up getting sake kasu. I met a friend at Higashimurayama, a town about 30 minutes west of Shinjuku, for a bike trip. As you cannot take your bike into trains in Tokyo, we first went to the underground bike parking of the train station where they also rent bikes. I got a bike for the whole day for 200 Yen which is less than CHF 2. It was a very basic one. No gears. But still, what a price…!
First we rode to Kitayama park and hoped to see the water irises in full bloom. Unfortunately, we were too early and only a few of the 8000 irises were already in bloom. We’ll try again at the beginning of June.
From there we rode through residential area to a green tea producer. Normally you can pick green tea leaves at this time of the year, but due to Corona…. Even their café was closed. Fortunately, the shop was open and we were able to taste some green tea. One made only from the tips of the leaves. Another one made with whole leaves including some stems. Interesting to taste the difference. Both were very aromatic, but the first one was much richer in taste. So rich you cannot really drink a lot of it. Maybe that’s why the Japanese tea cups are so little :-)
We continued our ride to Sayama Park where we found a nice spot for a rest and chat. Then off to a late lunch at a little soba restaurant. I had cold soba with tenpura. Yummy yummy. Some digestive cycling later we decided to visit the store of a sake brewery where I could try to buy sake kasu. My friend has already visited this store a few times and thought that they were a bit unfriendly. Of course she didn’t tell me that beforehand. When we arrived there, we were the only customers and I had her ask for sake kasu. I was delighted that they had some in a fridge. And then this guy working there asked us if we wanted to taste sake. We were a bit hesitant first but then thought why not. So he led us to a bar at the back of the room and placed four bottles of sake in front of us.
The brewery was founded in 1596 but they definitely adapted to modern times. They like to experiment with sake and he had us try some of their non classical limited edition concoctions. I must admit I was impressed. The first two (NEON PINK Junmai Daiginjo and NEON BLUE Junmai Ginjo) had fruity flavours. Then we tasted a summer sake (Junmai-Nama-Genshu). Not quite bubbly but you felt some carbonation on your tongue. The fourth one (NEW RAINBOW Kijoshu) was sweetish, like a dessert wine. But that was not the end of it. He came up with another bottle of sake for which they use not only water but also sake to brew it (Kijoshu). Kind of a double-brew. It smelled quite strange, the taste however was fine. He somehow compared it to a type of Chinese alcoholic beverage I didn’t know. And last but not least he served us mirin. Mirin is sake for cooking. Very sweet. But you can also drink it like a liqueur. Super yummy. This one was made without adding any sugar. The sweetness fully originates from breaking down the rice starch during the fermentation process.
I ended up buying some mirin with my sake kasu and a fresh cheese made with sake kasu and soaked in miso. Not much, but somehow the guy seemed in a good mood and he offered us to show us through the brewery. My friend couldn’t believe it. When she visited the store previously she had asked several times for a tasting or a tour through the brewery. But they had always refused. Well, sometimes it seems helpful to be with a foreigner :-)
Another great day and I already look forward to the next trip. With hopefully the irises in full bloom.
PS: The green cutie I used as the theme picture of this blog entry is the official mascot of Higashimurayama. Somewhere I read, that it is a Zelkova tree fairy. It’s called “Higasshi” or in short “Gussie” and even has its own activity diary on the official website of the city :-)