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Last week after a hangover that made me feel like my head was in a blender, I made a conscious decision to give up drinking alcohol.
Not forever - wouldn't do that...
But certainly for a few weeks - for a few months - to see what positive effect it would have on my everyday life.
This week, my so-called friend Ryotaro surprises me with a trip to try a highly potent, illegal form of homemade sake.
Coincidence! I swear.
[CB]: Yeah, sure...
Once thing I promise you... is that you're gonna get a hangover again.
[CB]: Ohh, god.
It's worth it though.
As I've said before, drinking sake is a highly deceptive process.
It looks like purified water and it tastes like the meadows of Narnia - it has a highly delicate flavor.
But drink a bottle or two, and you will get the hangover to end all hangovers - not too dissimilar from drinking a bottle of wine.
The sake we're trying today is not only cloudy in appearance, but it's also highly illegal to produce throughout most of Japan
and we'll get on to why that is in a minute.
But perhaps, above all, it's an absolute nightmare to pronounce.
What is it again? D... Dubrovnik?
[CB]: Doburoku...
Yeah, that's right.
The easiest way to remember it is it sounds like 80's pop sensation New Kids on 'doburoku'.
[Ryotaro]: And you are a fan?
I can't say I am-- or!
Dwayne 'doburoku' Johnson!
[Ryotaro laughs]
Fun fact: I actually spoke with Dwayne the Rock Johnson last week! -- [R]: No fucking way!!
Yeah! I spoke with him the other day.
Ah, sounds like you've been drinking again.
[CB]: No......
Be prepared to be amazed over dinner, because I've got a story for you.
... Unless you follow me on Twitter in which case you already know.
[R]: And I'm not!!
[CB]: You don't follow me on Twitter??
No! Why do I have to?
All my friends follow me on Twitter.
--And that means I'm not your friend!
In a nutshell, doburoku is essentially unrefined sake that hasn't undergone filtering or pressing after fermentation,
giving it a cloudy, creamy-like appearance.
Before the 20th century, the drink was incredibly popular due to its simplicity and was home-brewed across the country.
However, after liquor taxation laws were introduced in the 1800s, home-brewed sake in Japan was completely outlawed.
The good news though is in recent years, home-brewing has reemerged in special zones,
with the Japanese government currently permitting about 150 towns and villages across the country
to brew, bottle and sell their very own doburoku.
And in order to get our greedy hands on this rare treat for the first time,
Ryotaro and I are travelling north to one such town called Tome,
hidden away in the Miyagi countryside about an hour north of Sendai.
But before we get to enjoy a bottle for ourselves,
first things first we're gonna pitch in and help brew a fresh batch of doburoku.
Given rice is the main ingredient in sake, it's essential to source nothing but the very best.
And here in Tome, they're not only blessed with having some of the largest rice fields in north Japan,
but they're also organic and free of chemicals for a pretty good reason.
In the winter months, over 100,000 migrating birds journey over from Siberia to have a bird holiday.
In effect, the rice fields of Tome become an enormous bird hotel.
By accommodating the birds and avoiding nasty chemicals,
the farmers of Tome have created a cheeky symbiotic relationship between nature and the local cuisine.
So the rice has been harvested, polished, just been cooked, and now we've gotta dry it
before it gets mixed with malt and yeast to begin the process of becoming sake.
This is where I come in.
Apparently you've gotta spread the rice out first.
... And all over the floor, in my case.
That's embarrassing... --[R]: I saw that.
[R]: 'Change'! Hehe! Change!
[R]: It's so funny, like you with two housewives, hehe.
So before the rice goes in the pot, it needs to be about 20ºC.
It's currently about 30ºC, but the temperature's going down very quick - it was steaming about 3 or 4 minutes ago,
and thanks to the fan, and these incredible hand movements, the temperature's gone down rapidly.
It's hard work.
It's hard work.
As doburoku is brewed in so few towns and villages, the essence of the drink is in its locality.
Historically, rice farmers labored for long hours and lived off little income.
And given refined sake is a pricey indulgence, instead of blowing all their pocket money, farmers started brewing their own.
And here in Tome, they've kept that tradition alive.
Every ingredient used in the brewing of doburoku, including the all-important yeast and lactic acid,
has been harvested and cultivated within the town.
It took over a year of trial and error to perfect and a relentless certification process from the government, but it paid off.
Today, they can legally prepare and sell their very own delicious local brew within the town.
So we've just put the rice into malt and yeast, and already it smells - it kinda smells like sake already.
It's got that sweet fragrance to it - that sweet aroma.
So this is left in the fridge for two weeks and it's stirred daily.
And at the end of the two weeks, you should be left with 12% alcohol.
It's not allowed to be called 'nihonshu', it's not allowed to be Japanese sake.
It's just labelled as an alcoholic beverage.
Nevertheless, it smells an awful lot like sake.
[R]: It does already.
[CB]: Chef Ryotaro.
Ryotaro's kitchen.
[C]: Ryotaro's kitchen... The most disappointing kitchen show to come out of Japan yet.
--[R]: So I'm going to make a bottle of my own.
So first of all, we need to put sake...
Oohh...! [CLANK]
I... I put too much in there!
[CB]: Did you just break the bottle?
No, I didn't!
Look at that.
So right now, I'm about to put the lid on the bottle.
But they let us practice first.
-- [CB]: This is... This is terrifying. -- There it goes!
[CB]: ... Look at your little face.
[CB]: Now stick your finger in there and see what happens.
[CB]: Hahahahaha!
[R]: I don't think so...
What could possibly go wrong?
[R]: Good timing - get the timing right!
-- I did it! Yayy. -- [R]: Looks alright! Looks alright.
I didn't lose any fingers either.
[CB]: Your sticker's a lot higher than the good one...
[CB]: Why is that?
I'm always higher than the others, that's why.
[CB]: Egotistical son of a...
[R]: Right!
[CB]: So it looks an awful lot like 'nigorizake', that kind of cloudy sake but,
the main difference is there are much more rice grains in it.
It's kind of a thick, pulpy sake.
You can feel the rice, actually.
You can feel the rice a bit.
'You can feel the rice...'
It looks a little bit like a pina colada.
I do quite like it.
It tastes more alcoholic than normal sake.
--[R]: It does indeed.
--[CB]: But it's got a real kick at the end of it.
In the same way whisky like hits the back the back of your throat.
--Right, right. --This feels like it's got a kick in the back of your throat.
Before coming to Japan, my image of sake was just, y'know, kind of a clear, water-like liquid.
So clear and pure.
But over the years, I've actually found that I prefer cloudy sake - it's got a lot more depth to it.
It tastes like I'm drinking a cocktail, almost.
It's quite good, I really like this. But, what about the other one?
[R]: Because they make the doburoku right there, right now,
they actually served us some doburoku - an unheated version, which is like raw doburoku.
--So it looks the same. --It's not for sale.
I mean, they actually served it for free.
[R]: Wow... [cough cough]
-- Wow... -- It tastes like being hit with a baseball bat in your mouth.
-- It's a little bit more bitter. -- Yeah.
-- And... -- It's for adults.
It's for adults...
I'm not an adult.
I may look like a 45-year-old man, but I am just 28-- 29.
-- Don't even know my own age... -- Ohh, come on.
That's what happens when you drink this - you forget your own age!
-- It's the miracle of doburoku... -- You just forget about everything...
So we've got shabu shabu pork here, which is pork you dip in boiling water to cook it.
But it's not normal shabu shabu pork -
they've got some sort of sake sauce that goes with it. -- Doburoku sauce with it.
Bloody hell... Doburoku everything.
So when you put the thinly sliced pork into the water, it boils in about what, 40 seconds?
-- [CB]: If that, it's cooked... -- [R]: Less, even. Less.
[CB]: 0 to 30 seconds, your pork goes from being raw to cooked,
which is great if you are as impatient as I am when it comes to eating.
[R]: Mm, can I just add - okay, this is like a sesame sauce, right?
And I'm going to add a little bit of the doburoku sauce into it.
So that it can change a bit of the flavor.
Isn't that nice? With the doburoku.
[CB]: That is such an annoyingly cumbersome word to say - 'doburoku'.
Yeah, like - well just say like 'dob-rock'.
-- 'Duh-brock' - the rock. -- Like dub - 'dub-rock'.
The rock... The Rock!
Speaking of The Rock, did you see he gave me a shoutout on Twitter?
No kidding.
I went to my friend's restaurant - he owns it - and he thinks he looks like The Rock.
Do they look the same? I don't know.
Nevertheless, we tweeted The Rock himself, and he said, 'Well, where's the restaurant? I have to drop by the next time I'm around.'
And, besides that, I've got a friend who looks like The Rock.
Did you get a shoutout from The Rock on Twitter? -- No, no, no - you have to do it again!
Y'know, it's like 'I found another guy who looks like you'.
'Oh look, The Rock! It's another person that looks like you from Japan...'
He'll be like, 'yeah, the joke's wearing thin, Ryotaro. Get out.'
[CB]: What's the verdict on dubroku then?
Well, the heated version - the ones they're selling...
The one they're selling, unsurprisingly, it's quite good. -- It's pretty good, it's pretty good.
150 villages across Japan that are allowed to produce doburoku.
Getting there.
Yeah, you're getting there. -- Now I can pronounce it.
Do you know what's really hard to pronounce?
Have you ever tried to say 'cold brew coffee' in Japanese?
Koro blyuhd-- [shock]
There you go!!
[Chris slowly saying 'cold brew coffee' in Japanese]
Is that 'brew' or 'blue'?
[Cold brew coffee in Japanese again]
Ah, blue- Is that blue coffee?
Brew - like brewed.
Ah, like blue... as in blue? -- Not blue - not blue coffee.
Some sort of zombie version of coffee. -- I thought it--
So before you come to Japan, those are the two phrases - the two words - you need to know:
cold brew coffee, and doburoku.
The only way I can get over a hangover these days is if I have a nice big lie in until 2 o'clock in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, that's not happening mate.
What do you mean?
Well, I mean, we need to wake up early tomorrow to see the birds.
And for that, we are waking up at, say... four.
You mean 4 in the evening?
No. Four in the bloody morning.
When you...
When you said we were gonna go look at the birds at 4, I thought 'oh yeah, in the afternoon'.
Why would a bird get up a 4 o'clock in the morning?
No, they get up at 5:30 in the morning.
Why would a bird get up at 5:30 in the morning?!
But Chris Broad...
'Nice and shine'...
How am I gonna get up at 4 o'clock in the morning after drinking 4 or 5 of doburoku?
-- Oh my god... -- [Ryotaro laughing]
It should be illegal to get up this early.
[R]: Lazy bastard.
You call me lazy, but I get up at 9am and I go to bed at 2 or 3am 'cause I usually edit really early into the morning.
Abroad in excuses.
'Abroad in excuses'......
[CB]: Well, this bird better be bloody spectacular.
It's not 'a bird'.
It's 'bird-s'.
Whatever. Whatever...--
-- [R]: Got it? -- [CB]: Mhm......
[CB]: It's so loud. It's incredibly loud.
Thousands of birds - apparently there's 100,000 birds on this lake, and it's almost deafening how loud they are.
To live around here would be nothing short of a nightmare.
Unless you like birds, in which case, best place to be in north Japan.
This actually reminds me a little bit of climbing Mount Fuji,
because I think that's the last time I got up this early and saw the sunrise. And it is beautiful.
Not that I expect to see it again for a long time.
Hah. This is a one-off.
[R]: This area - they try to keep the water on the surface of the rice field,
which they don't normally have in other places,
so that when these migrating birds come all the way from Siberia, they always have things to eat on that rice paddy.
That's how they keep the birds coming back every year.
[CB]: And free coupons.
Not gonna lie, it takes a lot of courage standing here without an umbrella.
[CB]: You know what I feel like?
I feel a little bit like David Attenborough.
Who's that?
Get out. Get out. -- I have no idea...
[CB]: Not even the grumpy, sarcastic persona that I have can deny that that is one hell of a view.
Doburoku is the alcoholic drink I never knew I needed in my life,
with the sweetness of sake, the milkiness of a pina colada, and the kick of vodka.
Though it can be hard to find towns designated to brew the drink throughout Japan,
if you're interested in brewing, bottling and tasting doburoku as well as escaping to the countryside,
I've left the details to where we visited in Tome in the description box below.
Well I'm frozen, tired and I'm mildly hungover, but I think it was worth it.
That's all for now though, guys. As always, many thanks for watching,
we'll see you next time.
--Thank you! -- I'm off to get some much needed cold brew coffee.
[they both try pronouncing cold brew coffee in Japanese]
Oh, just... muppet.