Sake Lees Pickle Recipe

Infuse your vegetable pickles with the deep umami richness of sake lees and watch as their color brightens naturally!


Sake Lees Pickle Recipe

I’m pretty excited to be writing about sake lees right now. Initially I was worried that you wouldn’t be able to get your hands on any and didn’t want to tease you with this. But sake lees is experiencing a true renaissance in Japan, where it has long been easily available in the fresh food section of any grocer. It is also widely available in parts of the US. Just like a SCOBY this is something you may or may not need to search for.

 Sake lees is a by-product in the sake (rice wine) making process, and has been used for flavour and cooking in Japan for a very long time. Sake lees will add a certain umami when used with other products, or can be used as a vehicle for further fermentation. Fresh sake smells pretty yeasty, like beer or brewer’s yeast. You may get it in sheet form, or the softer, handpressed kind. I can get the softer variety frozen and imported from our Japanese food shop, but the sheet style comes from a sake brewery just outside of Sydney. Sheet form is probably more common, but has been pressed by machinery rather than hand squeezed. The hand-pressed kind is called namakasu (raw lees).

 Sake lees is a great marinade – blend it with soy sauce, honey and a herb, such as thyme, and use as a marinade for duck, chicken or a dense fish such as mackerel. We’ve done this quite a bit with chicken pieces before putting them onto skewers. Leave coated in this marinade, covered and refrigerated for a full 24 hours. The flavours are deep and the meat tender.

Sake lees pickle bed (sake kasu)

 It’s not pretty, but I use a zip-lock bag and it sits on the top shelf in the fridge door, so I can easily give it a bit of a massage and a feel when I remember.

Preparation time: 15 minutes



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