As the third gen­er­a­tion of Ja­panese de­scen­dants in Peru, Ha­jime Ka­suga has a strong pas­sion for Nikkei cui­sine, a fu­sion of Ja­panese and Peru­vian flavours. In 2005, he opened his first restau­rant Hanzo, and now he’s here in In­done­sia to fur­ther in­tro­duce

Exquisite Taste - - Up Close & Personal - – By Amanda O'Con­nor and Runi In­drani

: How did you first learn to cook? Ha­jime: In north­ern Peru, there was a new school from Switzer­land where we could learn and work in a hotel. I thought this was in­ter­est­ing and I trav­elled there to study – it was very tough. It was a hotel univer­sity and we had to work to look after all the stu­dents. We had to cook for all of us, we did the house­keep­ing for all of us, but the tough­est work was in the kitchen. I loved it. If you were in house­keep­ing or re­cep­tion, you re­ceived feed­back some time later, but in the kitchen, you re­ceive im­me­di­ate feed­back, es­pe­cially if the food is not good. Ev­ery week, it was the same food, but I liked it when peo­ple com­mented on my cook­ing.

: Where did your culi­nary jour­ney take you?

H: I worked my very first job in a tra­di­tional Peru­vian restau­rant in Lima. I lived in Ja­pan for a while when I was still sin­gle in 1995 so I could study. It was hard, I felt like I was very ju­nior, you know? The work ethic there is very strong, it feels like they only think about work.

: Do you en­joy Jakarta so far?

H: I en­joy it very much. The peo­ple are kind. My wife and child are with me, so it’s im­por­tant to me that we all feel com­fort­able and wel­come. We are all happy here.

: How would you ex­plain about Nikkei cui­sine to those who are not fa­mil­iar with it?

H: Nikkei is a com­bi­na­tion of Ja­panese and Peru­vian, but Peru­vian food is dif­fer­ent from Nikkei. Peru­vian food is very spicy and has a lot of chill­ies and flavours. While

in Nikkei cui­sine, we look for bal­ance in the in­gre­di­ents and specif­i­cally for umami. I learned in Ja­pan from the renowned Yoshi­hiro Mu­rata and he taught me that the first taste should be gen­tle flavours, while the sec­ond flavour should al­ways be umami. I saw how much peo­ple en­joyed this and have fol­lowed this in my own cook­ing.

: How do you think the dis­cern­ing din­ers in In­done­sia will re­spond to the ar­rival of Nikkei cui­sine in the coun­try?

H: Ac­tu­ally In­done­sia has many sim­i­lar­i­ties with Peru, in terms of the cli­mate, the in­gre­di­ents pro­duced and the favoured flavours. We can find fish of very good qual­ity here, which is im­por­tant to make ce­viche. We al­ways use fresh fish, not frozen. Some va­ri­eties, like the bar­ra­mundi I source from Lom­bok, are re­ally good qual­ity. I mari­nade it and make ce­viche from it. I think the com­bi­na­tion of fresh spicy, sweet and sour flavours in Nikkei food will eas­ily make it a favourite for In­done­sian palates.

: What’s your se­cret in cre­at­ing de­lec­ta­ble dishes?

H: The in­gre­di­ents are great, but I also have a great team that has been work­ing with me since 2005 in my restau­rant. They’re the creative guys, not me. We work to­gether to de­cide what’s good or not.

: What should the guests try when they visit Hen­shin?

H: Ev­ery­thing! [laughs] From the ce­viche sec­tion, we have the Nikkei Ce­viche as the sig­na­ture dish. Mean­while, from the sushi se­lec­tion, I think the Nikkei Bomb will be in­ter­est­ing. It’s a spe­cial sushi with un­agi, foie gras and truf­fle in one roll. We also have a re­ally de­li­cious duck carpac­cio.


Ha­jime Ka­suga

Clas­sic ce­viche

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