I went down to the Koriyama City Sogo Fukushi Center today with a fellow colleague, Lee san, to learn Japanese cooking (日本料理)!!!
At the class, I recognised many familar faces from the regular activities organised by the Koriyama International Exchange Association (KIEA). We are split into 5 groups with around 4 to 5 people per group. The international students are divided equally among the different groups.
We got the instructions menu for today. We are supposed to prepare 3 dishes: Garnished Sushi(ちらし寿し), Hard-shell Clam Clear Soup(はまぐりの吸いもの) and White Salad(白あえ). The second dish is one of my favorites, having tried it everytime when I went to Tokyo's Tsujiki Fish Market. So we started with the instructor briefing us on the preparation of the broth for the dishes. She prepared a large pot for all of us to share.
Thereafter we are off to our different groups in preparing the meals. I was actually getting ready to just observe how the rest go into preparing the meals. But my partner, Rika-san, wouldn't want me to lose the opportunity of having hands-on, so the first task delegated to me is to prepare the eggs. Ok. This seems quite an alright task. Cracking the eggs and throwing it into a pot. The first 3 is fine but the 4th kind of went off target. But the situation was salvaged and off we go into preparing omelette.
In the photo below, Rika-san is the one on the far right in green. The lady next to me is Yuri-san, she is actually quite a good cook from the way she prepare the ingredients. Later towards the end of the course, I heard that Yuri-san is actually a singer who has appeared on NHK a few times. So the first one egg was prepared by Rika-san, the second one by me and the third is prepared by Yuri-san. It really takes quite a bit of skill in preparing omelette.
In the photo below we have lee-san and his partner, Akiko-san.
Well, there is actually quite a lot of things to prepare. There are the vegetables, the prawns, the clams and the garnishings. We pretty much seems to be running around the table getting the utensils, favourings and ingredients in place.
I find some of the favourings to be quite a huge amount. One of it is to have 95g of sugar. So we used a weighing machine and took out 95g of sugar. It is like one coffee cup full of sugar! And it is thrown into the ingredients used to prepare the garnished sushi.
We go on through our tasks and time really flies. When the rice is served, I realised it is already 12noon. We started at 10am. A snapshot is taken at this moment when the rice and the vegetables are laid out on the table. I'm doing some washing concurrently.
We are the first group to finish with our meal arrangement while the other groups are about halfway through their preparation. The other 4 groups are shown in the photo below:
My partner, Rika-san and I trying to sort out some of the utensils.
And here is the fruits of our labour. A complete spread for all 5 of us. We started having our meals from 1pm. Itadakimasu!!
There is actually a way in which the Japanese place their plates before their meals. The soup is to the right, the rice on the left with salad and drinks at the top. No wonder Yoshinoya have their meals serve in this arrangement. Everytime I go for a set meal in Yoshinoya, I will always move the soup out of the way to the left and have the rice placed in the middle. Think the next time I will just keep the arrangement as it is.
The Garnished sushi actually follows the tradition of the Kanto plains. That means these kind of sushi is normally taken by Kyoto and Osaka people. The sushi we know overseas comes in the smaller form of squashed rice with sea weeds, topped with seafood. Well the latter actually originated from Tokyo. So these are two different regions of sushi.
At the end of the day, I really appreciated the long hours it take to prepare a good meal. We spent two and a half hours in all in just preparing lunch! Two hours non stop standing, and lots of running around the kitchen. It is quite high time physical training. Over all, it is fun in learning how to prepare Japanese culinary as a group.
My colleague buddies invited a few of us over to their place for party at 6pm. They prepared their special Indian crusine for us. Heard they started preparing since 3pm. Oh man, it really reminded me of the morning cooking. To prepare a really good meal will takes time.
We were invited to sample the Indian crusine using the traditional method of eating: by hands. Well, there were some difficulty initially. Cos according to human physical design, either we place the rice on our hands and we eat it up from there (which is similar to just eating straight from the plate) OR we turn our head over and drop the rice down. This is the result of being too used to chopsticks, spoons and forks. Anyway we were shown the right technique of eating it, it involves squeezing the rice into rice balls.
And here are the guests: We have Lee-san to the left, Mark in the middle and me to the right. After meal, we have an old friends chat.
Here are our hosts: Joemon and Binu.
They are really great cooks. The curry reminded me of back home Indian curry.