Looking for a great sake kasu recipe? This sake kasu marinated chicken is super delicious and melt-in-your-mouth tender. You will fall in love with this modernized sake kasu marinade. It is great on chicken, as well as other meats and fish to bring out big flavours while acting as a tenderizer.
Sake kasu, a traditional ingredient, has been regaining recognization in recent years in modern cooking. Sake kasu is appreciated for its nutritional values by the health enthusiasts, as well as praised for its rich umami flavour by the gourmet chefs. Meet this new ingredient that has the best of both worlds – nutrition and flavour. It will open a whole new world in your everyday cooking!
What is Sake Kasu?
At the completion of fermentation, sake is pressed in order to separate the finished sake from the residual rice particles, which are known as sake kasu (酒粕).
Saka kasu can be considered the equivalent of the lees produced in wine and beer making, but it is much more than a by-product to be discarded. Sake kasu can be used for both cooking and promoting health, as it contains high concentrations of vital amino acids, proteins, minerals, and vitamins, and functions to exfoliate and hydrate skin. The major beneficial components of sake kasu are:
- vitamin B6: antioxidant, relieves muscle and arthritis pain, skin protectant
- folic acid: promotes cell division and repair, particularly skin and reproductive cells, anti-anemic, stimulates immune function
- fiber: lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and gastrointestinal disorders, improves nutrient absorption, and promotes immune function
(The above is an excerpt from the brochure that came with the Sake Kasu I purchased.)
Not only sake kasu has been used in Japan as a valued ingredient for centuries if not millennia, similar rice wine lees called Jiu Zao (酒糟) has been around in China for even longer. It’s unclear but suspected that sake making was brought to Japan from China around 2000 years ago. Wine making in China can be traced back for more than 9000 years. The use of sake kasu is extended further back to the use of jiu zao in ancient China. As rice wine fermentation by-products, both sake kasu and jiu zao were used in similar ways in both cultures, from gourmet cooking, to beauty care, to animal feed and even as a medicine. It isn’t hard to see the long history of using rice wine lees in the traditional ways of life in the east.
In The Compendium of Materia Medica (16th century), known as the most complete and comprehensive medical classic ever written in the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the medicinal function of jiu zao was written, “rice wine lees is warm in nature, nutritious, and repels the toxins in cold and raw foods.”
Cooking with Sake Kasu
Sake kasu can be used for making soups, dressings, sauces, and baking, among numerous other dishes. Some examples of the most common traditional sake kasu recipe:
- kasujiru: a soup with miso and sake kasu soup base
- kasuzuke: marinated fish or pickled vegetables in a thick flavoured sake kasu paste
- amazake: a traditional Japanese sweet drink
Some examples of the modern sake kasu recipe:
- sake kasu pasta sauce
- sake kasu in bread making
- sake kasu cheesecake
- secret ingredient in many marinades and salad dressings by both Eastern and Western gourmet chefs
Instead of re-making one of the traditional recipes, I created a modernized sake kasu marinade with popular flavours that most of us already have in the kitchen. In this sake kasu recipe, I used quite a bit less of sake kasu compared to the amount in the traditional kasuzuke. I feel a little bit can go a long way in enriching the flavours and tenderizing the meat. On the plus side, I am avoiding a lot of wastage of the sake kasu that would have been thrown away after the pickling and marinating is done. Did I mention sake kasu is probably the best kept secret as a meat tenderizer!?!
This sake kasu recipe for marinated chicken appeared a few weeks ago on my first Facebook live when I was showing my new food experiments with sake kasu. I was so excited to try out the new ingredients and I wanted to introduce to my Facebook audience what sake kasu looked like. If you have a chance to take a look, please forgive me for stumbling over words. I was quite nervous on my first Live ever!
I will recap a bit here regarding sake kasu. The texture of sake kasu is much like a play dough – sticky and dense. It has a delicious savoury taste and aroma, also called umami, like what you find in other Asian fermented foods like miso and soy sauce. Note that because sake is made by fermenting rice with koji culture and yeast, sake kasu is naturally soy-free and gluten-free. There is no obvious salty or sweet taste in the sake kasu, but it does have a fair alcohol content remaining. The smell and taste of sake kasu is like a cross between miso and cooking wine. Because of the dense texture of sake kasu, you will most likely need to thin it out with other liquid.
Here is a little tip I learned from making my sake kasu marinade. If you try to break down the kasu paste in a lot of thin liquid (ie. soy sauce from this sake kasu recipe), it tends to break into smaller chunks, but won’t combine smoothly with rest of the ingredients in the marinade. Instead, if you break down the kasu paste in a small amount of thicker liquid (ie. maple syrup from this sake kasu recipe), it’s much easier to work into a smooth mixture. And then you can add the rest of the liquid and other ingredients. You can see in my picture below for this technique. The full sake kasu recipe for my marinated chicken is at the bottom of this post.
Where to buy Sake Kasu?
Finding sake kasu is probably the trickiest part. The best bets are Japanese stores in the fridge section, if you don’t live in Japan. You have a higher chance of finding them in the late winter as the sake making season approaching the end. They are also the most fresh around that time.
I am very lucky to be living in Toronto, where there is a cool local premium sake brewery in town. The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company is located in downtown Toronto’s Distillery Historic District. The brewery has a retail store right attached to it where you can buy all sorts of sake related goodies. I bought my sake kasu when I paid a visit to the store. A small tub of 250g of sake kasu costs me only $3. It will store in the fridge for a year. If you live in Toronto, I highly recommend you give them a visit and check out many other offerings they have. In addition to a variety of sake you can expect them to carry, they also have 2 kinds of made-in-house sake kasu salad dressings, and an all-natural sake kasu hand soup. During their sake making season, you can call in advance to pre-order koji rice if you are into making your own miso at home.
Sake Kasu Marinated Chicken
- 4 tbsp soya sauce (Gluten-free option: use gluten-free soya sauce or Tamari instead)
- 2 tbsp sake kasu
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tbsp ginger, finely grated
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp sriracha
- 1 lb skinless and boneless chicken thigh
- Finely mince 2 cloves of garlic.
- Combine sake kasu and maple syrup. It's much easier to mix sake kasu and maple syrup into a smooth paste, before adding rest of the ingredients. Add soya sauce, finely grated ginger, minced garlic, and Sriracha, mix well.
- Pour the marinade over skinless and boneless chicken thigh until the chicken thighs are well coated. You can store the chicken in a ziplock bag or a storage tub. Let the chicken marinate for 24-48 hours in the fridge.
- Grill the chicken thighs on medium to high heat, about 5-7 mins on each side, until the thickest parts are cooked through. Enjoy!
- This is a great prepare ahead of time dish for camping and BBQ.
- The sake kasu marinade is versatile, can be used on other meats such as pork and fish.
- The calorie calculation is based on 1 serving.
Have you experimented with sake kasu as a new ingredient? Or have you been cooking with it all along? I love to hear from you – what’s your favourite sake kasu recipe?