Good drinking, good eating!

Shochu is a distilled alcoholic beverage special to Japan made from a variety of ingredients, the most typical ones being sweet potatoes and grains like rice and barley. Recently, shochu has been gaining popularity in leaps and bounds in the U.S. and other countries. Its popularity can be said to be due to the fact that shochu is low in sugar, low in calories, pairs well with a number of other ingredients, such as juices, teas etc. and is available in a variety of different tastes, so you can prepare endless cocktails and fun drinks. Also, shochu contains several chemical components that are said to have a positive impact on our health.
For those of you who haven't yet tried shochu wouldn't now be a great time to see what all the fuss is about? You won't be sorry!

Promoting Good Health with Shochu

The main reason that shochu is said to help promote good health is because it is said to help keep the blood moving freely within our bodies' blood vessels. We are all familiar with the fact that blood clots inside such vessels can lead to heart attacks and strokes by blocking the flow of blood to the heart or the brain. In order to prevent these clots in the vessels, it is of primary importance that the blood must flow freely though the vessels. And everyone probably has some idea that imbibing in moderation is beneficial in this regard. But what is really quite surprising is the fact that among all the other alcoholic beverages, honkaku shochu (single distilled shochu) contains more of the blood clot dissolving enzyme urokinase than other alcoholic beverages. "Healthy alcoholic beverages" is not as much of a misnomer as you might think.

Red wine, celebrated as being a "healthy alcoholic beverage," also contains clot-busting properties and polyphenols, but the amount of clot dissolving urokinase in the type of shochu called honkaku shochu which is produced using the single distillation method shochu, is 1.5 times the amount in red wine. Healthy blood flow means healthy blood vessels, more oxygenated blood to the cells resulting in, among other positive effects, healthy skin and healthy appearance. It also helps to invigorate the brain and help prevent signs of aging.

In short, honkaku shochu, enjoyed in moderation, can help us to maintain good health. These results are not dependent on the alcohol content, so for those who aren't keen on ingesting alcohol, cooking with shochu provides the same benefits, and the alcohol will be burned off when the shochu is heated for a few minutes.

Types of Honkaku Shochu and Dishes to Enjoy Them With

Barley Shochu
This is a type of shochu that retains the characteristic aroma of barley and has a dry, crisp flavor. This refreshing taste allows it to go well with almost all types of dishes. Shellfish, grilled fish, sashimi, salt-seasoned grilled chicken or chicken wings are typical Japanese dishes that pair well; for western style dishes, beef, seafood meuniere, BBQ chicken, etc. are all delicious matches.

Rice Shochu
Characteristic of rice shochu is its mild, smooth flavor and delicate aroma. Even those folks who aren't wild about shochu will find rice shochu a pleasing beverage and one that brings out the flavors of the ingredients. Simple, uncomplicated flavors go best with rice shochu, such as braised vegetables, pickled vegetables, lightly vinegared dishes, sashimi, grilled fish seasoned with miso, etc. for Japanese foods, and for western style dishes, mushroom sauté, lightly seasoned seafood dishes, etc.

Sweet Potato Shochu
The distinctly sweet and robust flavor is the hallmark of sweet potato shochu. If you're fond of these flavors after one sip, you will find yourself returning to imo shochu again and again—it's positively addicting! The foods it pairs best with are rich and/or on the sweet side. For Japanese foods, tempura, fried chicken, braised mackerel seasoned with miso, braised pork belly, etc.; for western style dishes, spare ribs, roast beef, cheeses or rich Italian pasta dishes pair wonderfully.

Brown Sugar Shochu
This shochu is known for its caramel-like rich, sweet aroma, yet not overpowering flavor profile. Regardless of its sweet taste, it is low in sugar and calories, and therefore is quite popular with the ladies. It pairs well with rich, mildly heavy dishes with sweet flavors, such as stewed flounder, kebabs of deep-fried meat, seafood or vegetables, sukiyaki, yellowtail teriyaki, grilled chicken with sweet sauce marinade, sweet and sour pork, etc.

There is no other alcoholic beverage that can be enjoyed in so many different ways as shochu. Straight, on the rocks, mixed with cold or hot water, it is incredibly versatile. It's also delicious blended with soda, fruit juice, oolong or green tea—almost anything you can think of, any way you can think of, for a tasty beverage.

This month at Marukai, we've amassed a top quality line-up of shochu at great prices. Slowly sipping your favorite shochu while enjoying some tasty dishes made with shochu sure sounds to me like a fine way to spend the lengthening nights of autumn! Cheers!

To reap the health benefits of shochu, it is recommended that a daily serving of 25% alcohol shochu should be limited to 120 ml; 35% alcohol shochu should be 85 ml or less.