When you think of Japanese food, what comes into your mind? A glistening red and white striped prawn draped over a wedge of vinegared rice? Or perhaps a bowl of cloudy miso soup with tofu cubes settled at the bottom? When Japanese food is concerned, sushi, ramen or tempura have become clichés in the Western world. That doesn’t always communicate the depth of the Japanese cuisine and doesn’t answer the following question: why foodies and chefs from around the world have been so inspired by the Japanese cooking traditions?
I was first attracted to Japan for its exquisite food, but my enduring attachment developed through a passion for the country’s culture, language and people. As I discovered different elements of Japanese cuisine, I realized that what fascinated me as much as the food were the people behind it, and their hard work and dedication. Like Masaharu Morimoto says, “Japanese chefs believe our soul goes into our knives once we start using them.” I’ve come to believe that all good cooking is a reflection of the chef’s spirit. Likewise, every restaurant, every dish and every ingredient has a human story behind it.
In this 5th edition of the Luxeat Insider we are exploring the every day Japanese cuisine and what is really cooking in the kitchens of the country of the Rising Sun. We are talking about her rural life in Japan with the legendary chef and author Nancy Singleton Hachisu, unveiling every day cooking secrets by Tokyo food guide and author Yukari Sakamoto as well as diving into the world of secret Tokyo with journalist Shinji Nohara and food enthusiast Roni Xu. In this newsletter, Pablo Salvioni is inviting us to enjoy sake season, while I’m listing my favourite books about Japan and chef Yoshinori Ishii is showing how to prepare Chirashi sushi at home for cold Autumn days.
Nancy Singleton Hachisu: The Essence of Japanese Cooking
James Beard Award winner, Nancy Singleton Hachisu is an expert of unique and authentic Japanese cuisine. Born and raised in California, she first went to Japan over 32-years ago where she now lives on a farm with her Japanese husband and their family. On a quest to advocate for Japan’s disappearing food traditions, Nancy has written a series of books…
Yukari Sakamoto: The Secrets of Japanese Home cooking
Author of Food, Sake, Tokyo, an exploration of Tokyo’s food scene, Yukari Sakamoto is on a mission to demystify Japanese cuisine. Trained at the French Culinary Institute and the American Sommelier Association, she also passed the rigorous exam to become a certified shochu adviser. She teaches classes on food, wine, and shochu, and conducts culinary tours of Tokyo’s shops and markets. Born in Tokyo and raised in Minnesota, Yukari brings insights from both cultures to shed light on Japanese cuisine.
Dining out in Tokyo doesn’t always adhere to Western expectations. The customer is not always right and sometimes not always welcome. There are secret spots from the old-world kissaten coffee shops where you can still find people smoking, to restaurants with no-signage that operate on the second floor of a backstreet apartment block. But even the more prominent restaurants often require an introduction to be able to reserve.
The best season to enjoy Sake
More than a month has passed since SAKE DAY, a yearly celebration of sake that takes place on the first of October. This observance marks the beginning of the brewing year thanks to the newly harvested rice. Autumn is undoubtedly sake season.
My must-have books about Japan
Here’s a list of my favourite books about Japan. They have influenced me and taught me a lot about Japanese culture: cooking, travel, design and art. Check them out. A great way to spend those cool Autumn evenings.
Chirashi Sushi at Home
I had the pleasure of learning how to cook the best ‘Chirashi Sushi’ from the master Yoshinori Ishi. I hope you enjoy cooking this special recipe in your own home!