One of my great finds on returning to Japan after 15 years away is the Kitchen Nippon Cooking Class.
I lived in Japan in my early 20’s in the late 80’S through the 90’s. It was the bubble economy, the yen was almighty and I had no interest in cooking. It was party time.
2012 arrives and I find myself back in Japan, older, possibly wiser and with different interests and priorities than my younger wilder days. The major thing I struggled with on my return was how to make a new social circle of acquaintances and friends outside of work. Most of friends from back in the day have moved on.
A New Zealand friend introduced me to a website called Meetup.com. This site is mutual interest groups that run various events, functions, gatherings and classes. You can sign up and join these events as you like.
I joined 4 or 5 but the lasting one is the Kitchen Nippon meet up
Kitchen Nippon offers excellent lessons on cooking and understanding Japanese food. The classes are conducted both in Japanese and English. They are usually held on a Saturday or Sunday at the Tsukishima Community Centre which has an awesome kitchen facility. There are usually 2 or 3 classes or events a month. There are so many things I love and enjoy about this class. It combines so many things. It`s fun, interesting, social and practical. It is so well organized and a joy to attend.
I have attended about 19 classes so far and every one has been memorable. I am always hopeful there will be a class on when I have guests visiting from abroad so I can take them along. They have all loved the experience and want to come back for more. If you are planning a trip to Japan check out the meet up site and see if there is a class on. Newcomers are always welcome! Pretty much everything is provided, you just need to get yourself along. The pictures in this particular post are many of the classes I have attended. I hope they make your mouth water!
Himono Class Himono is dried fish. We also made a dish from dried daikon and used some dried seaweed.
They have alot of foods like this from the agricultural and isolated days of Japan when food had to be preserved so they had something to get through the long winter months
Kaoru Shibata and Naoko Tsunoda organize the class. They are so helpful and friendly. I can`t imagine how much time and effort they put into this class. It is always seems a seamless operation. They communicate so well, any queries about the class are responded to promptly and nothing ever seems to be a problem for these super foodies!
We used the whole Daikon from the greens at the top to peel. The top half of the daikon is sweeter and good for salads while the bottom half is good for cooking. Daikon is very high in Vitamin C.
Our chef tutors are fabulous. They all have impressive professional resumes with backgrounds in nutrition, restaurants and publishing.
I try to and attend to attend 2 classes a month where possible. Most of the classes I have attended have been taught by the delightful Machiko Tateno. I really enjoy Machiko`s classes as they have a theme such as a seasonal vegetable, an upcoming festival, a food group or a common Japanese ingredient such as Miso or Shiokoji. Machiko takes basic recipes but often adds her own little twist or variation which is always fun.
The Miso Class
All the recipes used Miso as an ingredient. I also did a great class where we made our own Miso from Soya beans and salt. Mine has been fermenting for the last 7 months and I just cracked it open last week. Very Exciting! Apparently everybody’s tastes different because of the microbes on your hands. Not as disgusting as it sounds!!!!
Recipes are given to us in Japanese or English. I have saved them all and now have my own Nippon-GO cookbook. It is unusual to have a recipe book that you have cooked every single thing in. And testament to the class is I use it regularly and cook many of the dishes again at home. Machiko takes us through the dishes and demonstrates. During the demonstration I often pick up some clever tip on how to achieve some special effect or prepare something that looks tricky with relative ease. Kaoru translates into English. Questions are always welcome. We head back to our work stations and the chaos begins!
The Kimichi Class
While this is a Korean import, The Japanese love it and it can always be found in the supermarket. I am not a huge fan. I thought I would end up giving it to friends but have to say this was delicious and no one saw any of it as I scoffed the lot! It was a spicy wee number.
We usually work groups of 3 or 4. Preparing the food is very social. I have met lovely people from France, Canada, Singapore, America, Scotland, Japan of course and more. The room bubbles away with lots of laughter and chatter in various languages. People get to practice their English or Japanese. We not only learn new dishes but we learn about different people, where they are from and why they like to cook.
The Spring Vegetable Class
We used ingredients I had never tried before. The result was beautiful in terms of presentation and taste.
The thing I find so impressive about the actually cooking we do is it always looks very impressive at the end but it is actually simple home style cooking. We are not only shown how to cook it we are taken through the ingredients , they are always things readily available in the supermarket, they keep packages so we can snap a shot on the phone and know what we are looking for when we go to the supermarket ourselves. I am able to reproduce these dishes at home after I have attended a class.
Kazari Sushi Class
This was great fun. Kazari sushi is decorative sushi. As you can see it is not traditional as we used ham to create a rose. Fun and creative.
We are taught about the basic stock staples that go into creating those very subtle Japanese flavours that when blended together give a taste with real depth. It has helped me set up my cupboard at home with basics like dashi packs, shoyu, mirin, vinegar, miso (made by me in a class!!!) etc.
This class really enforced the value of a great stock. This oden was delicious. Again up till now not something I have raved about but this was very delicate yet at the same time a taste explosion. It made me rethink my feelings towards oden!
We learn things about presentation and Japanese customs when it comes to things like table setting. Food and culture are so intertwined, I don’t think you can have one without the other. As our tutors work their magic they explain why things are done certain ways and how certain things came about.
The nutritional value of different foods is explained and balance is explained not only in terms of nutrition but in terms of presentation, the need to have different colours and tastes.
I have attended 3 of these. Presentation, colours and nutritional value are thought out here and it seems to be a competitive world among the mums and the wives! Seasons are thought of too.
The world of Character obentou or kyara ben is huge and if you google it you will see lots of amazing creations. The Kyara ben class was a heap of fun, very creative. I can’t see myself doing it everyday but loved the class!
I am amazed to date that most things have turned out looking pretty good and tasty. There haven’t been too many “nailed it” moments. Although I have to admit I had my first major fail a while back. Ironically it was with a rather western stylish garnish! All I had to do was cut apple into chunks and cook them in the microwave and they ended up rather swiveled and a little bit on the burnt side. Whoops!
Buri Shabu Nabe Class
This was a feast! A true Goochisou! We had amazing fresh fish delivered from Tsukiji Market on the day. Buri is Yellow tail. The vegetables were delivered by Hideki san and were made on his organic farm. We had fresh Sanma or mackerel which I learnt how to fillet and gut, surprisingly easy!
The price is usually about 4000 yen which includes all the ingredients, tuition, printed recipes, the facility, and a lovely meal at the end of the class. I think it is very reasonable, if I went to a flashy cooking school it would easily be 2 or 3 times the price. For 4000 yen, it is a great day out, I meet wonderful people, I learn new skills, recipes and things about Japanese culture and I get to eat a lovely meal at the end in a very social atmosphere.
Oyako Don Class
This is real Mum homestyle cooking. A don refers to a topping served on top of rice. Oyako means parent and child and in this case the topping is egg and chicken. I took my kiwi friends and their 10 year old daughter to this class.
Thank you so much Kaoru, Naoko, Machiko and all the other wonderful tutors. Nippon-GO is one of my most favourite things about living in Japan! Gochisousama deshita!
Yoroshiku Onegai shimasu