Saturday, October 12, 2013

Salmon roses and carrot hearts: My foray in to Japanese cooking...

I finally had a chance to attend one of the Japanese cooking classes sponsored by the MCAS Iwakuni's Cultural Adaptation office. Our fearless tour guide, Akie, was at the helm again. I've been here for 15 months, but always managed to miss one of these great Japanese cooking opportunities! Friday we headed to a community center near downtown Iwakuni where our cooking instructor, Sachiko Tamura, walked us through the lesson.

The two dishes we made were Fish Broth Soup and a special occasion layered Sushi Cake. With Akie assisting, Sachiko demonstrated each o the steps to make the dishes, all of which she made look incredibly easy. The tilted mirror above the instructor's station made it even easier to see what she was doing. 

I have been in a few different Japanese community rooms, and most of them have rooms like this, with an instructors station, and then a number of students' stations. Our classroom had four student stations, so the 14 of us were divided in to four groups. In our group of three people, I was designated as the "cutting" person. I figured everyone would be safer if I wielded a knife, rather than attempted to cook on the tiny gas stove that was at about my knee-level. Any damage I might inflict would only happen to my own fingers that way.

As the "cutting person," I would be responsible for slicing vegetables, using cookie cutters to make kawaii (cute) flower and heart shapes, and creating a rose out of smoked salmon. The other two members of my group, Carolyn and Jessica, had other responsibilities. If you follow this blog, you may remember Jessica from my hike up Mt. Misen a week ago. Carolyn is a new acquaintance with a great attitude and our team was labeled as "harmonious" by Sachiko (whose name, by the way, means "happy child".) We then, of course, dubbed ourselves Team Harmony.

After Sachiko showed us how to make the very simple fish broth soup, Carolyn, the designated "soup and rice person" for our team, got to work on ours. Sachiko informed us that Japanese tofu must be cut with a knife in the palm of your hand. As "cutting person" for Team Harmony, I designated that task as part of the tasks for the "soup and rice person." Carolyn, the good sport that she is, just laughed and left me to my cookie cutters. She was very adept with the knife, and there was no bloody aftermath.

Carolyn, also responsible for the rice, mixed the vinegar with the rice (which was already cooker for us), and then scooped half of it in to the metal rice mold to make the cake's shape. She then layered marinated vegetables in between the two layers of rice.

Jessica was the "egg person." I think her job may have been the toughest. She had to pour very thin layers of egg sweetened with sugar in to a pan and cook them carefully without burning them. These eggs then got cut up into kinshi tomago... meaning beautifully sliced egg... to be placed as "icing" on the top of the sushi cake.

 My kawaii vegetables and smoked salmon rose:

Team Harmony:

 Our finished sushi cake, complete with vegetables, cooked shrimp, imitation crab and kinshi tomago.

These were the other groups' sushi cakes, with the final one being Sachiko's.

Team Harmony with our instructor:

October is Sachiko's birthday month, so Akie had brought her a gift from the Cultural Adaptation office. Really sweet!

The members of our cooking class with Sachiko!

 And me enjoying the finished products Team Harmony made... so tasty!

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