The Many Uses of Artisan Sake Maker’s Sakekasu

On January 15, Granville Island’s Artisan Sake Maker celebrated their 5th anniversary. Creator Masa Shiroki started this company out of a desire to be the first producer of “fresh premium” Junmai Sake in Canada, and developed Osake by hand-pressing and hand-bottling top quality Japanese sakami. To ensure absolute freshness and delicate fruit-like aromas and flavours, Shiroki’s Osake is left unfiltered, and unlike premium sakes imported from Japan, is produced in small batches several times a year rather than one batch only occurring in the winter months, resulting in full seasonal variation and scope.


But producing a seasonal type of sake isn’t Shiroki’s only departure from the traditional. The artisan sake maker has developed a series of products that use sakekasu (or simply “kasu”), the lees that remains after the fermented rice mash has been pressed during the sake-making process. Although this by-product has been used for centuries in Japan to marinade fish and meat and to pickle vegetables, it has generally been considered a humble home cooking tool, not gourmet fare. That is, until now.


Combining his innate understanding of Japanese cooking and a keen observation of western culinary practices, Shiroki saw an opportunity to utilize an otherwise discarded product. Making use of the kasu has provided a way to boost sales while reducing environmental waste.


Some of the kasu-based products Shiroki sells include a citrus dressing, hot sauce, and an apple or cherry flavoured drink. High profile local chefs such as Takashi Ito, the executive chef at The Inn at Laurel Point, and Garret Schack, the executive chef at the Chateau Victoria Hotel, have used his kasu in their dishes, and Shiroki has even been getting orders from executive chef Wylie Dufresne at WD-50, the New York City Michelin Star restaurant.


But what Shiroki is most excited for at the moment is their newly introduced Sakekasu Bon Bon. Through collaboration with Richmond’s La Chocolaterie, Shiroki has developed a truffle-like dessert that fully utilizes the savoury essence of kasu with the decadence of a rich dark chocolate shell. The strong bittersweet taste of the chocolate is balanced and enhanced by the kasu centre, the flavour of which is reminiscent to miso but with less sodium. Recognizing that the holidays are a popular time for special chocolates, Shiroki first introduced the Sakukasu Bon Bon right before Christmas and has enjoyed a successful month of sales since. Because of its popularity, Shiroki is eager to develop more flavours, including seasonal variations of salted cherry blossom for the spring, locally grown fruit flavours for the summer, and roasted hazelnut and chestnut infusions for the fall.


Another item Shiroki hopes to develop in future months isn’t even edible.  Shiroki has been speaking with local bath, body and cosmetic companies to develop beauty products that utilize the benefits of sakekasu. Jokingly noting that sake makers have “hands like babies,” Shiroki explains that sakekasu is high in essential amino acids and a multitude of vitamins that help smooth and moisturize skin and therefore lends itself very well to creams, soaps and face masks.


By proving that one man’s treasure can truly be another man’s gold, Masa Shiroki is transforming the sake making industry. From a single process, Shiroki’s customers can season salads and dishes, sample fine chocolates, and relax with a moisturizing facial, all the wile sipping on some premium sake. Sake for all the senses – kampai!


Artisan Sake Maker

1339 Railspur Alley, Vancouver, BC

(604) 685-7253


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