MELT­ING POT

JA­PANESE CUI­SINE MAY BE POP­U­LAR, BUT IT’S FU­SION JA­PANESE THAT’S RE­ALLY CUT­TING EDGE,

India Today - - CONTENTS - SAYS CHEF GA­BOR SCHREINER

Fu­sion Ja­panese is giv­ing the cui­sine a de­li­cious face lift

For cen­turies Ja­pan was a closed so­ci­ety which in turn has a strong im­pact on its eat­ing habits and in­flu­enced the tenor of its cui­sine. In the late 19th cen­tury, how­ever, the West be­came a strong in­flu­ence and thus be­gan the im­port and use of in­gre­di­ents and tech­niques that drew on Euro­pean food and cus­toms. Even though Ja­panese cui­sine has been evolv­ing over the past 2,000 years with strong influences from both China and Korea, it is only in the last 300- 400 years that all the in­flu- ences have col­lab­o­rated to de­fine what we un­der­stand as Ja­panese cui­sine to­day. Western- style foods like meats have been steadily in­te­grated into Ja­panese eat­ing pat­terns for over 100 years, giv­ing way to wayo setchu: the fu­sion of Ja­panese and Western cuisines.

Given Ja­pan’s closed econ­omy, its cui­sine wasn’t ini­tially rich in in­gre­di­ents like food oils, red pep­per or gin­ger, but lo­cals were in­no­va­tive and worked hard to make ev­ery­day food ap­peal­ing. Tra­di­tional Ja­panese dishes were

del­i­cately flavoured but with the grow­ing in­flu­ence of Chi­nese and Korean dishes, the Ja­panese pal­ette trans­formed and soon chefs were ex­per­i­ment­ing with much stronger flavours. It was also the Meiji Restora­tion of 1868 that pro­voked a lot of dy­namic changes in Ja­panese cul­ture . No less af­fected was the cui­sine as it paved the way for a new key in­gre­di­ent in the tra­di­tional diet: beef.

Ob­tain­ing in­gre­di­ents for Western- style dishes was dif­fi­cult enough, as was un­der­stand­ing the new cook­ing meth­ods and man­ners of eat­ing, and so the eas­i­est way to eat this un­fa­mil­iar meat was through a

wayo setchu com­pro­mise: the gyu- nabe beef hot pot. The new cul­ture that re­sulted from the mix of tra­di­tional Ja­pan with new trends brought in from the West dur­ing the mid- nine­teenth cen­tury, lay the foun­da­tion for fu­sion Ja­panese food and cook­ing.

To cre­ate a fu­sion dish based on a tra­di­tional Ja­panese dish is sim­ple. Ja­panese cui­sine is deeply re­spect­ful about the qual­ity of the in­gre­di­ents used and en­sures that the core flavours of the meat or fish are not masked by strong spices. Given the vast num­ber of in­gre­di­ents used in cook­ing, seafood and veg­eta­bles eas­ily com­bine with flavours of other kitchens. But it is im­por­tant to let raw fish re­tain its sim­ple pu­rity even while adding a savoury or spicy touch. The dif­fer­ence be­tween fu­sion Ja­panese and tra­di­tional Ja­panese is quite huge. Show­ing a fu­sion dish to an old- fash­ioned, tra­di­tional Ja­panese chef or house­wife is tan­ta­mount to blas­phemy. Spices and flavour­ing can be as strange to them as it was at the be­gin­ning of the 80s. Tra­di­tional Ja­panese food, also, does not use much oil ex­cept when deep fried types of prepa­ra­tion, first in­tro­duced dur­ing the Edo Pe­riod, due to the in­creas­ing in­flu­ence of Western and Chi­nese foods, and as a re­sult of in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and oil yields.

Ja­panese dishes are mostly veg­etable and seafood­based, which at first blush, seem easy to cre­ate be­cause of min­i­mum use of the flavour­ing in­gre­di­ents. In fact the word ’ spice’ sounds un­usual in the Ja­panese kitchen. So, if you want to make a real dish you have to con­cen­trate on the taste of the ba­sic in­gre­di­ent and hence the use of sea­sonal and good qual­ity in­gre­di­ents. Veg­eta­bles are usu­ally sim­mered in a light fish stock called ‘ dashi’ which is made from dried kelp and lightly smoked, dried and shaved fish flakes as is tra­di­tion.

In high- end Ja­panese cui­sine called ‘ kaiseki’ they use light coloured soy sauce so that it does not darken the nat­u­ral colour of the veg­eta­bles. The seafood is usu­ally grilled, sim­mered in a pale soy stock base. It ap­pears that the Ja­panese dishes from their lightly tasted— or nat­u­ral raw fish dishes— are more eas­ily amenable to com­bine the char­ac­ter­is­tic flavours from other cuisines.

Renowned Ja­panese chef Nobu Mat­suhisa, who prac­ti­cally spear­headed the pop­u­lar­ity of Ja­panese fu­sion cui­sine be­gan his own ca­reer in Lima, Peru in the early 70 where. He ex­per­i­mented with the art of com­bin­ing tra­di­tional Ja­panese sashimi dishes with hot and re­fresh­ing sour flavours like in the case of yel­low tail jalapeno sashimi and found a per­fect fish in Alaska to mar­i­nate in fer­mented soy­bean paste. That of course, carved its ranks in his­tory with the global pop­u­lar­ity of the fa­mous dish: the black cod den miso.

The Tira­dito which is also known as “peru­vian sashimi” is tra­di­tion­ally a mar­i­nated seafood dish pre­pared by adding cit­rus juice, lots of co­rian­der and spicy pep­per. An in­no­va­tive way to do this is to keep the seafood raw like in a reg­u­lar sashimi and use min­i­mal flavours.

Rock shrimp tem­pura is equally savoured by Nobu loy­al­ists. Tem­pura, abu­raage, sat­sumaage are now part of es­tab­lished tra­di­tional Ja­panese cui­sine. The word tem­pura or hiry­ozu are said to be of Por­tuguese ori­gin. The tem­pura is tra­di­tion­ally deep fried, lightly bat­tered veg­eta­bles with gen­tly sweet­ened soy- based dip­ping sauce. The rock shrimp tem­pura is a spe­cial crunchy tem­pura mix­ing with gar­lic and chili- based creamy sauce. Ul­ti­mately, it’s the mar­i­na­tion of in­spi­ra­tion, in­no­va­tion and in­her­i­tance that cur­ries flavour with dis­cern­ing palates and ex­plains the suc­cess of fu­sion food, and more specif­i­cally Ja­panese fu­sion.

THE FACE OF NOBU: GLOB­ALLY FA­MOUS DISH— BLACK COD

DEN MISO

THE COLOUR­FUL TA­PES­TRY OF RAW JA­PANESE IN­GRE­DI­ENTS THAT ARE IN­TE­GRAL TO ITS FLAVOUR­FUL CUI­SINE ( ABOVE)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.