Taste of Culture – The Tohoku Kitchen Workshop

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Elizabeth Andoh’s school, Taste of Culture, is a wonder school in Tokyo for learning about Japanese cuisine and food culture. This class was on the cuisine of Tohoku. My mother is from Yamagata and I still have family there. It is always so impressive to see that the cuisine is so rich in Japan as there are always new ingredients and dishes to study. The Tohoku region has been affected by the events of March 11th, and Elizabeth’s e-cookbook, Kibō, introduces many recipes from Tohoku.

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Hoshigiku, dried chrysanthemum petals, are a sheet of flower petals, almost like nori. We actually use this in our home when we make pressed sushi with unagi. In this class we used it with enoki mushrooms in a vinegar dressing. The hoshigiku here comes from Aomori prefecture, on the northernmost tip of Honshu, Japan’s main island.

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Elizabeth is demonstrating how to roll a sweet miso paste into fresh shiso leaves that will later be skewered and then pan fried. This is a dish I came to know visiting family in Yamagata.

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The pickles in Tohoku are some of my favorite, perhaps because they are so familiar. The packet on the left are Kinkon-zuké and on the right is iburigakoIburigakko is somewhat similar to takuan, pickled daikon, except that this has been smoked. It has a very unique flavor with the smoking of the daikon. We eat this at home, often sliced thin and with some cream cheese sandwiched in between.

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Here are all of the dishes that we as a group made. A taste of the local dishes of Tohoku. I highly recommend taking a class with Elizabeth if you are visiting Tokyo, better yet if you live here. I have taken many classes throughout the year, and continue to learn from her. She is very generous with her knowledge and she is great at empowering students to take what they learn home so that the dishes continue to live. Elizabeth also offers 3-day intensive workshops if you really want to immerse yourself in Japanese cuisine. I have spoken with friends who have taken the class and they speak very highly of the program.

Taste of Culture

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Taste of Tohoku at A Taste of Culture

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Tohoku, in northern Japan, has a rich food culture. My mother is from Yamagata and growing up I was eating many of the regional dishes like shiso maki, a nutty miso that is rolled into a fresh shiso leaf and then sauteed in sesame oil. After the triple disaster of March 11th, Elizabeth Andoh wrote Kibō, a great collection of recipes from the Tohoku region.

Today Andoh Sensei taught a class on the cuisine of Tohoku at her school, A Taste of Culture. And, as always, I walked away with new knowledge on Japanese cuisine, and inspired to push myself and study more about this Japanese food.
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Elizabeth talked about the use of dried flowers and nuts and seeds in Tohoku cuisine. Today we made a dish with dried chrysanthemum petals (hoshigiku). We also used walnuts, sesame seeds, and pine nuts. Pine nuts was a big surprise, but as Elizabeth pointed out, look at all of the pine trees in Japan. The pine nuts were toasted and chopped in a food processor and then added to a tōfu dressing (shirae) that was later used as a dressing for mitsuba and loquats (biwa).

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The class is part demonstration, part hands-on. Here is Elizabeth in her kitchen getting us started on making harako meshi, a rice dish made with salmon and ikura (salmon roe).
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Here are the shiso maki sauteeing in some sesame oil. This is the dish I have known since I was very young. Although, I have to admit that I think my cousins in Yamagata make theirs with a bit more sugar in the nutty miso.

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We were also able to try some pickles from Tohoku. One the left is a beautiful pickle, kinkon-zuké, that is made with carrots, burdock root, and cucumber rolled into kombu, that is then squeezed into a gourd and then pickled. On the right is iburigakko, a dried pickled daikon that is smoked and pickled in tamari. Both are very rich and intense in flavor.

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A Taste of Tohoku

Walnut-Miso Stuffed Shiso Leaves

Dried Chrysanthemum Petals and Enoki Mushrooms in a Vinegar Dressing

Loquats and Trefoil in Pine Nut Tōfu Sauce

Kinkon-Zuké “Mosaic” Pickle and Iburikgakko Smoked Daikon Pickle

Salmon and Ikura (Parent and Child) Rice

Miso Soup with Eggplant, Wakame, and Scallions

Urakasumi Zen Junmai Ginjō

A Taste of Culture’s Website

Kibō Website