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Chefs from Aramark Higher Education and Business & Industry, gathered at Boston University on January 23, 2017 to learn about Washoku, cooking traditional Japanese cuisine. The seminar was sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. Chefs from Japan, including Chefs Makoto Takano, Takuya Sakamoto and Takayuki Moriya, shared their knowledge of Japanese cuisine and food culture and methods for using Japanese products in authenic cookery. 

Fundamentals of Japanese Cuisine

The fundamentals of traditional Japanese cuisine lie in meals that combine cooked rice, barley or grains as a main dish, then seafood, vegetables or seaweed with fermented seasoning, and side dishes that feature dashi. Side dishes are principally chosen for their richness in protein, so fish, meat, and tofu are common, and accompaniments primarily feature vegetables, potatoes and so on that are not present in the main dish, with a soup prepared to go with the main dish. Menus following this framework are called "Ichiju-sansai" - three dishes with one soup. The most distinctive feature of the Ichiju-sansai menu is that the soup and vegetables all exist to enable the rice to be eaten. Ichiju-sansai should be thought of as having rice as the main dish, with the other components as side dishes. These meals can be considered exceptionally healthy. 

Cooking Methods

There are various cooking methods and techniques used in main or side dishes in Japanese cuisine such as simmering, grilling or frying, steaming, boiling, dressing and deep-frying. By mixing and matching these over many different ingredients such as seasonal vegetables or mountain vegetables, seafood or seaweed, a rich assortment of dishes can be chosen to create a lively table setting full of variety.

Raw Food and Sashimi

One method of food preparation that is quite particular to Japanese cookery is raw food and sashimi. Ingredients are sliced raw then arranged on a plate and garnished with Japanese seasonings, condiments, and accompaniments. Seafood is mainly used, and much care and attention are put into its selection, the manner of slicing, and the arrangements employed, even in this modern age. The techniques involved in keeping ingredients in their freshest state, coupled with the skill involved in arranging them, create dishes that can be considered true accomplishments. Sashimi is garnished with condiments such as wasabi or ginger, along with
accompaniments such as shredded daikon radish and perilla leaves that are called "tsuma" and "ken" respectively, but balancing all the elements including compatibility with the fish, the prevention of microbes, and simple beauty, is a labor of love.

Grilled Dishes ("Yakimono")

Fish "shioyaki" is made following a traditional process of sprinkling salt on fish then carefully grilling it on an open flame.

Simmered Dishes ("Nimono")

This is a very popular method of food preparation worldwide, but in Japan, there are many soy-based fermented seasonings such as soy sauce or miso that are used to enhance the taste while making the most of the natural flavor of the ingredients.

Dressed Dishes

Ingredients that are boiled and seasoned, such as greens with bonito, follow a process hereby they are boiled, then the froth is removed, and they are rinsed with water to preserve the texture.

Stir-Fried Dishes

Cooking with heat and oil is known as stir-frying. This technique is rarely seen in traditional dishes but is frequently used nowadays and is breadthening the scope of Japanese cuisine.

Noodles

There are many staple foods that involve turning wheat, buckwheat or grain into flour then cooking it. Typical examples are noodles such as udon and soba.

Dashi

Dashi, in Western food, would be "bouillon" - and in Chinese food, it is known as "soup." The fundamental difference to the sweetness, sourness bitterness and spiciness found in cookery, it is used to add the "fifth taste" - umami - that comes from ingredients such as meat and vegetables or mushrooms and seaweed. Dashi does not just add the umami component to dishes but also contains nutrients and delivers aroma. It has gained its place as a fundamental flavor of Japanese cuisine. Typical examples are katsuo (bonito) and konbu (kelp), but there are many types of dashi including ingredients such as shiitake mushrooms, vegetables, fish bones or niboshi (dried sardines). The work involved in preparing dashi requires a great deal of time, care and attention, so even in Japan, a high percentage of dashi uses granulated dashi
(hondashi, etc) as a substitute.

 Making traditional Dashi, with kombu & bonito 

Making traditional Dashi, with kombu & bonito 

Primary Japanese Seasonings

The primary Japanese seasonings include salt, sugar, miso, soy cause, vinegar, sake and mirin.

Soy sauce: Koji (malt) mold is added to steamed soya beans and toasted wheat and this is then mixed into a saline solution to produce "moromi" - the unrefined fermenting mash - and when
fermentation is complete, the liquid is filtered and pasteurized to produce the final product.

Miso: Steam soya beans, add salt to the mash, decompose with koji mold and allow to age. Miso is generally prepared from late spring to early summer and can be left to ferment throughout the summer.

Mirin: Using rice, malted rice, and shochu or cooking alcohol as the raw materials for fermentation, mirin is around 14% alcohol and has a sugar content of around 40-50%.

Vinegar: Acetic acid bacteria is added to a base of grain, such as wheat or corn, and the mixture is allowed to ferment. It has a characteristic clear, refined taste and is used in sushi, pickles, dressings and so on.® Shiokoji: Take koji mold and add salt and water then allow to ferment for around a week to create this traditional Japanese seasoning. Primarily used as a pickling bed for vegetables or fish, but since around 2011, more diverse uses have gained popularity.

Chefs then applied their knowledge of cuisine and seasoning to create the following dishes:

 Shrimp & Scallop Teriyaki

Shrimp & Scallop Teriyaki

 Stirfried Miso Eggplant

Stirfried Miso Eggplant

 Chawanmushi (Savory Soft Egg Custard)

Chawanmushi (Savory Soft Egg Custard)

 Kakiage (Mixed Seafood & Vegetable Tempura) Served with Tare Sauce 

Kakiage (Mixed Seafood & Vegetable Tempura) Served with Tare Sauce 

 Stirfired Shiokoki Pork & Vegetables

Stirfired Shiokoki Pork & Vegetables

 Vegetable Miso Soup

Vegetable Miso Soup

The following day, Chefs from Boston University partnered with the Japanese Chefs prepare a Japanese Food Fair featured at the GSU Dining location.