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The Thing I Learned Today MAY-JUN 2022

Why yes, that mold IS a National Living Treasure: Everything you ever wanted to know about making sake

Kanpai Plant host Mac shaking koji mold over sake rice
This is where the magic happens

Japanese sake is surging in popularity as restaurants outside of Japan discover that it makes dishes from all over the world taste even better. My friend Mac—the Kanpai Planet YouTube channel host who delves into All Things Alcoholic in Japan—actually went to Sado Island (which is famous for their brews) and spent a week making sake with the masters. And he made these videos so we can come along too!

Kanpai Plant host Mac turning turning steamed rice with a huge wooden paddle
Kanpai Planet’s Mac puts on his sake brewer’s hat

If you’d like to wow your next dinner guests with primo sake trivia or understand just what an insane amount of labor and science goes into making Japan’s native tipple, this is the hands-on guide for you.

DAY 1: Rice cookers so huge, they use garden shovels instead of rice paddles to shift it

The strangest thing I learned: why sake makers are banned from eating nattō (those stinky, slimy, fermented soy beans that separate the men from the boys when it comes to foreigners going native)…

DAY 2: Elbow deep in mold, and why you can’t DIY your own garage sake from that ancient box of Uncle Ben’s in your cupboard.

The strangest thing I learned: what does moldy rice taste like? Mac takes one for the team, so we don’t have to (runners-up: what makes sake rice different from regular rice and a visit to the Sado gold mines, replete with animatronic miners)

DAY 3: How to grow the Mother Of All Sake

The strangest things I learned: who buys all those acrylic furry blankets printed with blue roses and how to pan for gold

DAY 4: Making sake is not for the weak

Kanpai Plant host Mac assisting in rolling a wave of steamed rice during the sake making process
If you want to surf that wave, do not skip arm day at the gym

The strangest thing I learned: the finer points of hand-turning hot rice krispies at midnight

DAY 5: Squeezing the good stuff from fermented rice water balloons

The strangest thing I learned: why you need cedar blocks with a precisely milled slot in them to if you want to turn fermented rice soup into Japan’s best drink

DAY 6: Sake tasting fight to the death

The strangest thing I learned: the “five tastes” used to judge sake (sooo different from wine!)

DAY 7: Overview of the entire 7-day sake making process

(This is a good one to suggest your guests watch before you do a sake tasting, if they want to understand the basics of how it’s made)

The strangest thing I learned: sake makers are famous for baby-soft skin well into old age. Close second: all the things that sake lees (the dregs left over after it’s filtered) are used for…

If you enjoyed Mac’s ever-so-knowlegeable—but irreverent—deep dive videos, subscribe to his Kanpai Planet YouTube channel and learn everything you ever wanted to know about Japanese sake, whiskey and craft beers!

My idea of a perfect Mother’s Day…

For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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