The Nifty News site has an article on pairing sake with food - any food, not just Japanese.
The author points out that sake contains over 20 different amino acids, which can enhance savoury flavours in any dish. It also has an advantage over wine in terms of total amino acid content, with white wine having about one tenth as much per volume. This means sake is perfectly positioned to go with a variety of foods - Chinese, French, Italian, Spanish, you name it.
Pairing might seem complicated, but it's all about bringing similar flavours to the table together. If you have a sweet sake, go for a dish with some sweetness. Dry goes with spicy [the same character in Japanese is used for "dry" and "spicy"], and savoury with umami. The article gives some examples:
- Mushroom, vegetable and shrimp pasta with cream sauce paired with nigori for its rich mouthfeel
- Sushi with a dry sake with a short finish (perfect with take-away sushi for those days when you can't be bothered cooking after work, according to the author)
The author also recommends the Tokyo restaurant Chokotto, which serves up a menu of over 100 sake (plus hard-to-find seasonal specials) with creative food pairings in Ebisu. It recently held a pairing dinner for Uchigasaki, producers of the oldest sake label in Miyagi Prefecture. The makers of Hōyō have been brewing for 357 years, and their flagship brand was celebrated with a full set of courses in the tasting dinner.
The dinner featured:
- Daiginjō Hōyō Yamada Nishiki with Kii nankō-ume (local pickled plum or umeboshi) and ume-shu granita - the frozen ume-shu melts in the mouth with the fragrant, fruity daiginjō
- Hōyō Hiya with Nagasaki Prefecture grunt (a type of fish) and potato in pesto - the fresh basil and crisp cool sake go together perfectly
- Hōyō tokubetsu junmai Genji with seared Hokkaido shika deer thigh meat with coriander leaf - matching the savoury venison with a junmai draws out an even deeper level of flavour
- Junmai daiginjō Hōyō with grilled manganji peppers and horse neck fat - the rice-based umami from the junmai melds with the grilled fat
- Amakuchi junmai Hōyō Amairo with roast Hokkaido shika deer and yogurt and mascarpone sauce - the combination of sweet notes in the sauce and sake makes the flavour of the venison even more intense
- Cho-karakuchi junmai Hōyō with mackerel sushi - the combination of oily mackerel and crisp extra-dry junmai brings out the umami in the fish.