Toshio Tana­hashi needs lit­tle to cook – ex­cept lots of sieves

The Guardian - Cook - - To Finish -

a tem­po­rary one. I’m liv­ing in Ok­i­nawa in my girl­friend’s apart­ment, and most of my things are in stor­age. I don’t need much to be able to cook, though. It’s a small space and ev­ery­thing in it is im­por­tant. The two changes I made when I moved in were to re­move the mi­crowave and re­place the rice cooker with a tra­di­tional ca­st­iron cook­ing pot. From my ex­pe­ri­ence cast iron makes the best plain white rice. Also, the iron is like a nat­u­ral ad­di­tive. I don’t like elec­tric­ity much.

My kitchen is … My favourite kitchen tools are …

tra­di­tional ones: an oroshi­gane (a fine grater), an uragoshiki (a sieve made of bam­boo with horse-hair mesh­ing) and a fine metal sieve – I nor­mally use about 10 when I’m cook­ing. Also, cook­ing chop­sticks, and a surib­achi and surikogi (a Ja­panese mortar and pes­tle). The surib­achi I use is 30cm wide – any­thing smaller feels like a child’s toy. I usu­ally take at least a few tools with me when I go abroad to cook. The surikogi is made from san­sho (Ja­panese pep­per) wood, which sea­sons what­ever you grind with it. San­sho wood has all sorts of ben­e­fi­cial prop­er­ties – peo­ple in the olden days re­ally knew what they were do­ing when they came up with this kind of tool.

rice, white sesame seeds, konbu (sea­weed), kuzu starch (a thick­ener made from kuzu root, a moun­tain plant) and kan­ten (agar). I al­ways have a tin of sweet kan­ten jelly in the fridge for my girl­friend – not too much sugar, lots of fruit.

My store­cup­board sta­ples are …

have oni­giri rice balls, most of­ten with miso. For me, miso has medic­i­nal pur­poses – if I have di­ges­tive prob­lems, I’ll have a spoon­ful of miso; it is so cleans­ing. My favourite is bar­ley miso, from Ku­mamoto.

When I’m starv­ing I … My culi­nary in­spi­ra­tion is …

veg­eta­bles. When­ever I go to cook some­where, I first go to the mar­ket. I don’t have a menu in mind – I first need to meet the pro­duce. Say hello, see what looks happy, or what speaks to me.

to make sure the kitchen is com­pletely clean and tidy by the time I’m ready to eat. Tidy­ing up as you go and hav­ing noth­ing more to do makes the ex­pe­ri­ence of eat­ing so much bet­ter.

My best-kept kitchen se­cret is … When I’m in­vited to din­ner I al­ways take …

sesame tofu. It takes quite a long time to make and peo­ple re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fort – it’s not some­thing most peo­ple are able to do, and it isn’t some­thing you can buy ei­ther. In Ok­i­nawa, peo­ple use peanuts in­stead of sesame, so I’ve been mak­ing a lot of that. It makes ev­ery­one so happy.

ponzu (cit­rus-flavoured soy sauce). A friend of mine in the Wakayama re­gion pro­duces his own – it’s a small-scale ar­ti­sanal pro­duc­tion, with daidai and yuzu and kankitsu cit­rus juices … I was amazed to find bot­tles of his ponzu on the ta­bles at Alain Du­casse in Paris a cou­ple years ago.

Ev­ery­thing tastes bet­ter with …

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