Okay we know, we can’t seem to stop talking about Japanese food. ‘But you’re travelling in Europe!’ we hear you say. Tell that to our stomachs. They can’t seem to decide what they want.
In Asia we dreamed of the days we could eat fresh baguettes, soft cheeses and spicy salami. Now we’re in the middle of Italy, birthplace of pizza, pasta and incredible paninos and all our stomachs can do is pine for the days of slurping noodles, cooking with chopsticks and being constantly surprised by weird and wonderful foods that we’d never tried before.
We’ve gotta get this out of our system somehow. So, here’s what we promise (pinky swear?) will be our last post about Japanese food, well, for a little while at least. 😉 Our awesome Japanese Cooking Class Osaka Extravaganza with Yoshiko!
Japanese cuisine is known for its oddities when it comes to ingredients, at least for those who’ve grown up with European flavours.
From seaweed to sea urchins, miso to natto, there’s so much out there for the adventurous tastebuds to discover. In fact it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start
So we thought we’d recruit some expert help to guide us on our journey through Japanese cuisine.
During our first visit to Japan we were looking up fun things to do and came across Yoshiko Nakakura, a wonderful lady who runs a cooking school from her home just outside of Osaka in the hilly town of Ikeda. Cooking with Yoshiko was so much fun that we just knew we’d have to go back and visit again.
This time she shared with us a few more delicious Japanese recipes that had never come up on our radar before; each bursting with more flavour than the last.
Eagerly we scanned through the ingredients lists to see what she had in store. Dashi stock – check. Soy sauce and miso paste – check. Classic ingredients with that uniquely Japanese flavour that we’ve come to love.
But hold on a second. Marinated cod roe? Semi-dried baby sardines? What would we be doing with them?
(And those baby fish are really creepy looking!)
Who could have known just how much we’d come to love them?
After donning our aprons we jumped straight into preparing each dish. Yoshiko quickly had us chopping, slicing, mixing and frying…
A splash of sesame oil here, a sprinkle of cheese there. In a flick of our chopsticks we had prepared four incredibly tasty dishes, plated to perfection by Yoshiko and ready to eat.
Time to sink our teeth into these new flavours and see what they’re all about.
First up were some artistically challenging yet downright delicious pork gyoza dumplings fried to crispy golden perfection.
A small secret was to infuse the meat with some homemade garlic infused soy sauce (divine) and miso paste.
The real secret is mastering the technique of folding the dumpling skin into that classic gyoza shape.
Next, a curious sounding gelatinous tomato and orange salad. This one had us scratching our heads. How would that turn out? What would it taste like?
Turns out it was a refreshingly light and tangy salad with a strange yet pleasant jelly-like texture.
This one has to be tried to be believed.
Our third dish for the day featured fried green peppers and young sardines. These are two ingredients we’ve never thought to put together (and one ingredient we’d never thought to try at all). Yet we have to say, it totally works, and made for a tasty side dish to the spread before us.
Known as chirimen jako, these innocent looking little fishies are almost everywhere, popping up left right and centre in Japanese cuisine if you know what to look for.
Once your eyes get over the anticipation, your tastebuds take over and realise they lend a really nice salty flavour to the dish without being too in your face about it.
Plus if you’re a westerner, you get to feel a bit accomplished about eating something others would think was a little bit weird.
And now we get to our personal favourite dish of the day, the tofu gratin with marinated cod roe.
Don’t let the name trick you, this little dish is a powerhouse of flavour and will have you hooked from the first bite. The best part was learning how to remove the cod roe from the… well… egg sack (okay that sounds gross).
This was another dish where we would never have considered mixing its ingredients. Tofu, cod roe, cottage cheese and mayonnaise, topped off with some tasty cheese on top and baked in the oven.
In 15 minutes you can get stuck into a dish you’ll wonder how you ever lived without.
By this time we had some seriously satisfied stomachs. (Now do you understand?). All that remained was to wash everything down with a glass or two of our favourite umeshu plum liqueur and Japanese green tea while chatting for ages with Yoshiko about everything we’d been up to since our last catch up.
It was the perfect way to spend a rainy morning in Japan.
If you have adventurous tastebuds and a growling stomach like us then we thoroughly recommend throwing yourself into some cooking classes. And if you go to Japan, we can’t recommend Yoshiko highly enough.
In around three hours you’ll not only learn heaps about Japanese cuisine and learn some recipes to try at home but of course, eat everything you just cooked. Much more fun than eating at a restaurant and much more authentic too.
How to get there (from Osaka)
From Osaka Station take the Hankyu line to Kawanishi Noseguchi (Hankyu Takarazuka line). If you prefer to go by JR, you’ll need to switch trains at Amagasaki Station and jump off at Kawanishi Ikeda Station (JR Takarazuka line). Yoshiko will pick you up at the station to take you to her house and drop you back at the station when it’s time to head back.