Sushi Rolling class on April 25th.

I have welcomed a beautiful lady from Singapore and her friend from Thailand on this day for Sushi Rolling experience. As is often the case with our classes, one of my guests turned out to be a very experienced and keen cook, while another had hardly ever done anything at kitchen!? so I was told.

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But they both did a great job and we successfully prepared Sushi rolls, Miso soup and 2 side dishes of spinach and eggplants.

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I prepared too much rice on this day so we ended up with a lot of rolls.

My guests said they were happy to get to see the smoked bonito before it was grated into thin flakes and packed. This is an ingredient indispensable for Japanese cooking, as it produces a good Dashi soup stock.  

A piece of smoked bonito looks like a wooden stick or branch.  Not a few of my guests think it is a Japanese traditional utensil for cooking, made with wood. So I let them feel it and smell it, then taste some freshly grated bonito flakes.  

My guest told me that it has an aroma like whisky and I was very impressed. Bonito fish does get smoked after steamed, so it has a nice smoky flavor and maybe that is something in common with whisky aged in smoked barrels. 

Many thanks for coming!

Akiko

Flower bud as a spring delicacy on April 24th Tempura class

I welcomed a couple from Quebec, Canada and the lady turned out to be a professional working at the culinary institute. Her husband had lived in Tokyo for some years before and very knowledgeable about our food culture so I was quite nervous not to disappoint them with my cookings. 

Both of them were such lovely foodies, who really enjoy cooking. We were chatting and chatting about all kinds of foods and it was such a fun time!

They liked Tempura and my easy side dish of crushed cucumbers very much, while they told me that sweet egg roll omelet was a little strange taste for them, as French omelet is always savory. It is truly interesting to know what is appealing and what is not so.

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 For this Tempura occasion, I picked up our popular spring delicacy, called ‘Fuki no Tou’ as one of the ingredients for deep frying. I googled up the English translation of Fuki, which was ‘butterbur scape’ or Petasites japonicas.  Does it make sense?  Maybe it is not eaten much outside Japan.  Here is a photo of Fuki no Tou.

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Fuki is a kind of vegetable and it looks like Rhubarb but the taste is totally different. Only around spring time, buds of Fuki flowers are available and I like to eat them as Tempura. It has some bitterness along freshness, appreciated as a sign of early spring nutrition.

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My guests from Quebec liked Fuki no Tou, as well as prawns, eggplants, Shiso leaves, Okura, Kabocha pumpkins etc. I hope they enjoyed their cooking experience at my kitchen as much as I did.

Many thanks for coming!

Akiko

Simple, fun and easy side dish with cucumbers on April18th.Class

On this class of Sushi Rolls, I picked up one of the easiest and fun side dish recipes. That is what we call Crushed Cucumber salad.IMG_5685

 As the name tells, the recipe is quite simple. You salt your cucumbers, crush them with a wooden pestle ( which we use for pounding tossed sesame etc.). The tip is DO NOT use a knife when you cut cucumbers.

Why? Because when you cut them with a sharp knife, the cut end will be very smooth. But if you crush them or break them with a good pressure, the cut end will be rugged and uneven, so the seasonings are likely to stay on surface and taste better.

I use fragrant sesame oil and salt for seasonings.  Maybe add a little bit of leek, finely sliced or chopped fresh coriander if you like. Toss them all and keep in a fridge for some time and that is the end of the recipe.

When you are looking for some cooking experience for small children but you are not sure to let them use knives, this recipe is ideal. But I have noticed big boys also love the cruching process of this recipe!

So simple that I feel sorry to call this a ‘dish’  but it is my family’s favorite menu specially in summer time after a hot and humid day. You will find this menu at many Izakaya (Japanese style bars) yet never at a classy restaurants.

The only concern is that cucumbers in Japan are quite thin, while some kind of cucumbers overseas are much bigger and thicker.  On April 18th. I welcomed guests form Australia, Swiss and USA.  I am wondering if my guests were able to crush their local cucumbers after getting back home and tried this recipe.

 Many thanks for coming!

Akiko

 

Potato cooking, German ways and Japanese ways / April 17th.

I have received a request for Teriyaki chicken again and this time from a German couple visiting Tokyo. As one of the side dishes I chose a Potato Mochi, as it is also finished with Teriyaki sauce so I figured out my guest may also like it. This is a local specialty from Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan known for its good potato harvest. 

At the cooking class, Potato Mochi recipe turns out to be very German by the way. Of course Germans are professional to cook potatoes and my guest showed me how she finds out if your potatoes are boiled enough or not ready yet.  

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First you hold your knife upside down, pointing to potatoes in the pot, then simply loosen your grip a bit and see if the knife cut into your potatoes or not!  I used to poke into my potatoes with chopsticks and make many holes but not any more! 

After adding some starch and making putties with boiled & mashed potatoes, my guest told me that Germans would boil them but we grill them on frying pan, then we finish up with sweet & savory teriyaki sauce. 

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I hope my guests liked our Hokkaido style potato dish, too.

Many thanks for coming! 

Akiko

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Teriyaki Chicken Class on April 10th.

One of the characteristics of Japanese cooking is that we use a lot of sugar even for savory dishes,  including Teriyaki sauce for chicken. 

To make a good Teriyaki sauce, Mirin plays an important role. This is actually a kind of Sake, with alcohol content of nearly 14%.  Mirin used to be drunk for certain ceremonial occasions but today mostly used as a seasoning.   

Mirin’s sweetness comes from a natural aging of Mochi rice, some over 60 days, others over 1 ~ 3 years. Like balsamic vinegar or cheese, taste is more complex when aged longer and price higher. Its sugar content is as high as 47%.

Mochi rice would get saccharized when mixed with the Koji (rice malt) mold. Mochi Rice is often used for sticky dumplings. It is rich in a special kind of starche (amylopectin)  that helps to produce more delicate sweetness.

Sometimes you may find a cheap alternative named ‘ Mirin-taste’ seasoning etc. At many cases they are using Sake or other alcohol with added sugar. They are not properly matured so its sweetness is nothing like Mirin’s. I would rather use Sake & sugar instead of such unkown sweet something. 

For cooking Teriyaki chicken, simply grill your piece of chicken and when the skin is crispy enough, add Mirin, soy sauce, sugar etc. Make sure your sauce is  nicely caramelized.

This sauce goes really nicely with steamed rice, too. Sometimes my kids love to eat just rice and Teriyaki sauce, leaving their chickens!  That is no good for nutrition so I will be cross with them, but I understand why they do thatIMG_5633. 

I hope my guest from UK also enjoyed their Teriyaki chicken and rice.

Many thanks for coming!

 Akiko

Ramen class in Cherry blossoms season, April 7th.

During the cherry blossoms season, we at the Musubi Cooking Tokyo receive much more customers than winter months. On this April 7th . class for Ramen cooking, I welcomed 3 groups of people from Sweden, Israel and Swiss.  

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For one of the ramen toppings, we cooked minced pork meat flavored with Miso and vegetables. You may add finely chopped ginger, leek, garlic, carrot or coriander as you like. This was a good accent to add to ramen as Miso is probably the most popular Japanese seasoning among my guests.

When you hear Miso, I wonder what type of miso you are thinking in your mind. Miso is a very old seasoning made with fermented soy beans. It was already used before century in China. In Japan, the oldest record of Miso is found in the writings of 8th.C and it has been used in cooking till today. There are many variety of Miso throughout Japan. We will let you taste some of them at our classes so find out your favorite one! 

All of my guests were talking about how gorgeous cherry blossoms were on this day, as they were in time for the full bloom. One of the questions I received was, do we eat cherry blossoms. Well we actually do!  We use salted leaves for wrapping sweet dumplings. We also salt pink flowers of cherry trees and make preserves. This salted cherry flowers look pretty but the taste is.. quite salty! You may also notice a faint touch of cherry blossoms fragrance.

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I happened to have a small jar of this salted cherry blossoms in my fridge so I let my curious guests taste some of this, expecting not much Wows. Yet I got a very interesting idea from my Swedish guest that it will make a great companion for a shot of rum and other hard liquors. Looks much prettier than salt, too! 

It is always so inspiring to cook and chat with food lovers from around the world!

Many thanks for coming to my kitchen. 

Akiko

Time for spring vegetables! Tempura class on March 16th.

Spring has come !  It means fresh and yummy spring vegetables only available at this time of the year and of course we won’t miss this opportunity at our cooking classes. One of my favorite is what we call ‘new onion’-very fresh onions harvested during March and April.

On this class of Tempura, I welcomed a university student son studying at Munich and his father from Wellington, NZ. They were flying into Japan from different corners of the world and somehow ended up at my kitchen.

They were here for skiing but they were also just in time for the new onion season and of course we cooked it as Tempura along with other vegetables and prawns.

What is the difference? Onions are available throughout a year but they are the ones dried for about a month after harvest for the sake of better storage. But only in spring months, fresh onions are available for reasonable prices. They arrive right after the harvest so the surface of the skins are not completely dried like regular ones.  We call them ‘Shin(new) Tamanegi(onion)’ in Japanese.

Shin Tamanegi contains much more moisture than regular ones and its taste is so sweet, not tangy or pungent at all. It is not good for stews or simmering dishes but it makes great fresh salad, and great Tempura,too!

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My guest said his Tempura of new onion was so yummy that he will forget about all freid onions he ever tasted before!  If you are an onion lover, please consider visiting Japan during March and April next year.

We have so much to offer other than Cherry Blossoms!

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Many Thanks for coming!

Akiko

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maguro steak with teriyaki sauce on March 13th Class.

I have received a request from a German couple visiting Tokyo that they would like to try Japanese Maguro (tuna) cooked as a steak. They also wrote that they are interested to see how to prepare Teriyaki sauce. So the menu was decided to be Maguro steak with Teriyaki sauce for their cooking class. 

My son and daughters all love to eat Maguro but we mostly eat it as Sashimi, so our Maguro is always rare, or more precisely un-cooked. Therefore, to me,  Maguro is naturally something to be tasted as rare as possible and even as a steak, it was to be done very rare or medium rare, with bright rose pink colour inside.  If it is cooked well-done, then it would taste like canned tuna, which is not really something for guests travelling all the way from Europe to Japan! 

For Teriyaki sauce, I usually use Sake, Mirin, soy sauce and sugar. This sweet & savory sauce is well known for chicken. But as a companion for Maguro, a little bit of Wasabi paste may also be good as it helps to reduce the fishiness. Of course Sashimi quality Maguro is never really fishy (at least for us Japanese) but just in case, as some of my guests are not used to eating lots of seafood.

 Before serving, we sliced Maguro steak like a modest sized roast beef so its nice rosy meat is visible on the plate. Then we chopped some green onions and sprinkled them on top of our Maguro.

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The couple said they do not eat much seafood at home but finished all of their very rare Maguro steak. It is always my pleasure to see empty plates at the end of the class! 

Many thanks for coming!

Akiko

Tempura Class with MBA youngsters on March 10th.

Tempura is one of my family’s favorite menus for gathering. Depending on the season, a variety of ingredients changes but the common ones I eat often are eggplants, Kabocha pumpkins, mushrooms like Shiitake and Maitake, Onions, Carrots, Okura(Gambo), Shiso leaves and prawns.

It may be similar to fish & chips or fritto, fritter, or beignet. I think the difference exists in what ingredients are used for batter. The best Tempura should be crispy outside and juicy inside. Ingredients must be fully covered with batter but as thinly as possible. If the batter is too rich and thick, Tempura will be too filling and you cannot eat much.

There are some tips to cook tasty Tempura. One of which is to chill the batter in the fridge before you start frying or simply use a chilled water for your batter. If you use a soda water, Tempura will be very crispy and I like that.

And of course, we use Dashi for Tempura, too! Dashi is a soup stock we make with Konbu seaweed and smoked Bonito fish. It is used in the savory sauce you dip your Tempura. Sometimes grated Daikon radish and ginger can be also put in this sauce. Daikon has a nutrition that helps to digest food well, so when you eat a lot of fried food, it can be a good companion.

My favorite way to eat Tempura is with lemon and salt, especially for Maitake mushrooms this is definitely the way to try!  Some gourmet people prepare Matcha green tea or Yuzu lime flavored salt and that is elegant for entertainig. You must come to Tokyo and find out your favorite way to enjoy Tempura!

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On March 10th, I welcomed a group of MBA students from east-coast USA for Tempura class.  Some of them had very interesting information about Indian cookery so I wished I could have them talk more about Indian food instead of me showing how to prepare Tempura but we ran out of time.  I hope they liked our food too and enjoyed their time at my kitchen as much as I did!

Many thanks for coming!

Akiko

Roll Sushi Class on March 9th.

One of the best seafood dishes on earth is Sushi, at least, for me. It takes so many years of training to become a decent sushi master but thankfully there are alternative ways to enjoy sushi at family dinner or gathering with friends, that is, Roll Sushi.

Roll sushi is like sandwich.  You can roll anything except sand & witch!?  Well maybe.  But if you are visiting Japan, I think you should definitely try rolling our beautiful fatty tuna and salmon.

All you need to cook is some short grain rice.  Usually you put as much rice as water when you start boiling rice. But for sushi rice, water should be a little less than rice, as you are going to add some vinegar, salt and sugar later when it is cooked. 

For some stuff to roll, sashimi quality tuna(Maguro) or salmon, greens such as cucumbers, shiso leaves, spring onion or avocado. Avocado was never used in traditional Japanese sushi cooking before but it is changing. I honestly  respect the person who discovered the combination of raw tuna and avocado. It is just so delicious in roll sushi!

You  need a little bamboo mat to shape your roll sushi into a nice log figure. It may seem a little complicated process but once you start rolling, rice naturally sticks to each other and a sheet of black seaweed will cover up everything beautifully. 

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Here is my class of sushi rolls on March 9th . I welcomed 4 guests from USA. Some of them are already visiting Japan many times and some are 1st timers but ALL sushi rolled up perfectly. It was literally a hands-on experience (lots of rice on your fingers!) and tasted good, too, as you can see on their big smiles!

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Many thanks for coming!

Akiko