Monday, May 30, 2011
Kasu snacks are the pork scratchings of sake production, industrial by-products that have become beloved foodstuffs in their own right. When sake has fully fermented, it can be filtered to remove the starchy solids. There are a couple of different methods for squeezing the lees or kasu to extract most of the precious alcohol; hand-wrung kasu comes in soft lumps and contains more residual alcohol, while machine-pressed kasu looks like thick sheets of paper and is less alcoholic.
Kasu has a range of uses. It can be added to winter soups or used to pickle vegetables. Sake manju are sweet buns flavored with kasu, and an almost-instant version of the fortifying winter drink amazake can be made by those who want a similar flavor without the 3-day process of making amazake from scratch (simply dissolve kasu in hot water and add grated ginger and sugar or honey to taste).
I had also heard that you could grill sheets of sugared kasu, so when I found raw kasu for sale at Uwajimaya, I decided to try. I don't have a grill and I didn't have any real recipe, so there is probably a method that would be better/or more authentic. I just sprinkled a sheet of kasu with a thick layer of sugar and stuck it under the grill until the caramel bubbled and the edges crisped. The result was sticky, chewy, sweet, and surprisingly boozy--like butterscotch's exotic and intense cousin. One of my odder experiments, but something I'd definitely try again.