Japanese cuisine can range from simple and clean-tasting to rich and full of umami flavour. Be it healthy or decadent, even though Japanese food falls under the category of Asian cuisine, it can still be paired with wine to bring out the essence of each signature dish.
The delicate taste of sashimi, which is raw fish, is best brought out by sparkling wine like champagne. A light rosé or an acidic white like Albariño also works well with fish. Since there are different types of fish that can be eaten as sashimi, the wine choice is also dependent on the fattiness of the fish. Toro is a fatty cut of tuna belly and an elegant red wine like Pinot Noir can stand up nicely to it. Unagi, which is eel, is heavier in taste and often served glazed with a sweet soy sauce, hence a semi-sweet Riesling will match this dish perfectly. Besides fish, Japanese cuisine also features different types of raw or cooked seafood like crabs, scallops, sweet shrimps and sea urchin. A sparkling wine or a light white wine can be paired with these dishes to achieve the perfect balance.
Tempura is another popular dish in Japanese cuisine. Pieces of seafood and vegetables are battered and fried to create an airy, crunchy texture. A full-bodied white wine like Chardonnay or medium-bodied reds like Pinot Noir, Gamay or Grenache all work excellently with tempura. Taking the art of frying to another level is tonkatsu, which is deep-fried breaded pork cutlet. Pairing it with an an off-dry Riesling or an oaked Rioja Reserva can be deliciously satisfying.
Kushiyaki is the Japanese way of char-grilling meat and vegetables on a barbecue. Full-bodied white wines, especially a Burgundy Chardonnay, will go superbly with chicken skewers. For pork skewers, you can even opt for a medium to full-bodied red wine, like a Zinfandel.
When it comes to meat dishes in Japanese cooking, how can we forget the Wagyu beef? To savour the irresistible Wagyu steak cooked in a teppanyaki style on an iron griddle, nothing beats pairing it with a beautiful Bordeaux or a classic Barolo.
As one of the most revered cuisines in the world, Japanese food is a gastronomical delight. Pairing the various types of Japanese food with wine will certainly enhance the taste of each dish. The next time you are at a Japanese restaurant, instead of ordering your usual sake, go ahead and try out some of these suggestions!