Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 45: Mission to Tokyo*

*Reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, hence the title.

So the week begins with 2 guest Chefs and a day of cooking Japanese food. 

But first we had a guest chef come in from Radha Yoga and Eatery. She spoke about nutrition, organic and sustainable food, and a few things she talked about struck home.

The first thing she spoke about was how wasteful the restaurant business is. It is wasteful. More food hits the bin than the table, more veggies go to compost than the farmers can handle. It's a wasteful business and one where our guest speaker had a hard time reconciling her beliefs in sustainable living and her work. I have had the same thoughts.

The second insightful thing she said was, "The last time I quit cooking forever....". How many times have I said, "The last time I quit teaching forever....."? But I've come to understand a few things about teaching being away from it a while.

1. Not everyone can teach.
2. It serves a very noble cause - and improves the fabric of society.
3. Some of my best memories abroad are of teaching Taiwanese kids. 

I knock teaching, but it is fulfilling, I like the idea that I'm improving someone's life, that if I take the time to help someone understand a concept or idea, I've added something to their life that can't be taken away, and in the process, they add something to my life that can't be taken away.

Words to think on.

On to the food!

We talked a lot about the yin and yang of food, and the Japanese philosophy of 5-5-5-5.
5 colours - red, yellow, green, black, white.
5 tastes - sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, salty
5 cooking methods  - steam, boil, fry, grill, poach
5 elements - earth, fire, water, metal, wood

I love the logic of Eastern thinking, I found it all really interesting. 
Step 1. Take package of tofu and plop it on a plate.
Step 2. Cut into 6 equal pieces.
step 3. Drizzle with soy sauce.
Step 4. Grate ginger and use it to cover up bad cutting job down the centre.
Step 5. Garnish with scallions.

Japanese pickles with little tiny dried white fish. 
One of my classmates was not impressed and thought they looked "like maggots".

Little white dried fish!

Have you seen these bowls in Chinatown?
They're for grinding sesame seeds!

New veggies I've never cooked with before, fresh bamboo shoots, (no picture), Burdock (above) which tastes like a really earthy carrot, and below yama-imo - the oddest veg I have ever seen. It looks pretty harmless there, right? Take a cheese grater to that baby and it grates into slime. Long stringy, snotty kind of slime. But it tastes good!

Our yama-imo got grated into our okonomiyaki, which is like a cabbage pancake. It was studded with sea food and fried and garnished with sauces (one being the ever-so-exotic Mayonnaise), and then topped with bonito flakes. The odd thing about the flakes is that they are very light and they move on the pancake because of the heat, they whole pancake is heaving back and forth when it arrives at your table!

Well this was too much for a few of my classmates. They were not into any food that moves on its own like that!


Tomorrow another guest chef comes to teach us the pleasures of one of my favorite cuisines - Thai Cookery! Break out the chilis and coconut milk!

1 comment:

  1. Okay this is weird, but I think I have eaten everything on your blog with Reiko and Sayuri. Not kidding! I didn't love it all though, I admit. But there is something I do love about Japanese food and that is generally it's simple and clean. Kind of how I like Hot pot for the same reason. When you get up you feel full but not gross. When I did my YTT we talked about foods that are good for you generally make you feel energized and healthy after, but foods that are bad sit heavy in your stomach. Meat apparently sits in your stomach for days because it's so hard to digest and begins to rot. Told to me by a large group of vegetarians. I'd love to know what your nutritionists think of that!