To receive a package from a place that you consider home is an incredible delight. It’s a chance to relive childhood memories or revisit a favorite season. Even if the package contains something that you’ve never tried before, it brings a certain nostalgia and leaves you feeling "natsukashii".
The latest Foods that Pair with Alcohol: "Otsumami" Care Package by Kokoro Care Packages offers some really fun drinking food and reminds me of izakaya nights when I lived in Okinawa, Japan. Oh, how I loved those nights of youthful immortality! Chopsticks in hand, our eyes would take in the mosaic of textures and flavors, anticipating what our next move would be.
The experience of consuming Japanese drinking food was about more than having a good time and getting drunk. We shared in the understanding that good food were gifts from nature, meticulously prepared by local farmers, fishermen and artisans. This appreciation underlined every gathering, making each dish even more appetizing and memorable.
Living in the U.S. now, I’m always looking for ways to recreate the experience at home for my family and friends. Planning a special dish or meal and preparing the table in a special way is how I express my affection and love for the special people in my life.
Otsumami Means “To Grab”
The first thing I reached for and snacked on was the fried brown rice mochi crackers from Chiba. It was packaged so well to maintain the crispy texture, and had a nice balance of sweet and salty. At first, I was looking forward to sharing this with my spouse, but after coming back several times, only two pieces remained, so I finished the rest myself. It was too good to share!
By then, my two daughters started to wonder what I was up to, so we tried the darship chips next. I could taste the rich dashi broth and was glad that my little one enjoyed it, too! I’m always pleased when we have a chance to share flavors from home with our daughters. These introductions are like mini-training sessions for their taste buds so they, too, will be able to partake and enjoy our cultural dining experiences when we make it back to Asia one day.
Pairing With Sake
The "Otsumami" Care Package comes with a detailed brochure that shows each specialty food plus pairing recommendations from sake, beer, and wine experts. Nihonshu (Japanese sake) is our go-to drink, so we were eager to try the sake we had at home with the food in the collection. Even though we didn’t have the exact sake from the brochure, we kept to the recommended styles (aged, genshu, junmai, etc.), and adding this layer made our meal more interesting.
The smoked daikon was our favorite. Because of its thin shape, brown hue and soft appearance, it looked like mushrooms. One bite revealed a pleasant and distinct crunch! That familiar daikon texture gave way to a slightly sweet and savory flavor that left us craving for more.
The smoked island tofu was very smooth, almost like slicing brie. I’d love to try it again in a caprese salad as the brochure suggests, but it’s also fine on its own. And the crunchy baked konbu had an intense flavor that left me wondering if it would produce a rich, umami broth if placed in a hot pot - an experiment for next time!
Enjoy Otsumami with Different Meals
One of the things we really liked about the "Otsumami" Care Package is that the contents are suitable for different mealtimes. We enjoyed some items as snacks, others with specific sake pairings in mind, and the rest as appetizers to our main dinner entrees.
The smoked mentaiko was delicious next to grilled garlic over steamed rice and kimoto sake. And we saved for last what we thought to be the most interesting otsumami dish, the teriyaki sardines. I had never tried teriyaki-flavored sardines before and wasn’t sure how to reconcile such two distinct flavors in my mind. Teriyaki and sardines didn’t seem like a natural combination, but to our surprise, it was quite tasty! We look forward to trying it again with congee.
The "Otsumami" Care Package was a perfect way to experience Japan’s flavors and add more flair to our snack time and meals. We were glad to see that we could buy many of our favorites as single items on their online store, too, and added a few more summer items like yuzu syrup to our cart. Nourishing food from a place we love touches the heart like no other, and it’s wonderful that Kokoro Care Packages can deliver these special items directly to our home.
About the author:
Louie Anne (@thesakemom) is a Certified Sake Sommelier, blog writer, and mom of two. She lived and worked in beautiful Okinawa and brings with her a deep appreciation for Japanese culture. Based in the DC area, she loves to #sharesakelove through sake tastings and events between family time and playdates with her daughters.