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Your Pakoda, My Tempura
Juili Eklahare | Sunday, 19 March 2017 AT 08:22 PM IST
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Tokyo-based chef Shohei Nakajima, who was in the city to host a masterclass, talks about the similarities he finds between Japanese and Indian cuisine and chef de cuisine Sunil Joshi tell us how Indians like Japanese cuisine in its authentic form and it’s one of the healthiest.

When you speak of Japanese food, one would perhaps first instantly think of Sushi. But there’s much more to Japanese food than that. Like there’s Tempura, Chawanmushi (an appetiser), Shabu-shabu (a hotpot dish), Gyoza Dumplings (pan-fried chicken dumplings), Soba Noodles and many more. While most of these Japanese dishes include meat, there’s an option for the vegetarians too. For instance, one can go for vegetarian Tempura, vegetarian Sushi, vegetarian Teppanyaki and more. The recipe remains the same, but you can remove the meat, and try using other close alternatives, such as tofu, mushrooms, vegetables like bellpeppers, zucchini and so on.

“What makes Japanese food stand out is that it is very basic and in it’s most natural state. There is hardly any oil used and barely any spices too. That also makes Japanese cuisine a very healthy cuisine,” says guest chef Shohei Nakajima from Tokyo, who was in the city to host a  Japanese Masterclass along with chef de cuisine Sunil Joshi, held a masterclass at Baan Tao, Hyatt Pune.

He demonstrated how to hand-press a Nigiri Sushi, how to prepare  Misoshiru, a nutritious soup with fermented soyabean and stock, and how to make various types of Sashimi.

Despite the popular notion that Japanese and Indian cuisines are poles apart, Nakajima, who is on his second trip to India, claims that the Dal Makhani he has tried here is quite similar to the Japanese curry he has back home. He also points out how Pakoda is an Indian counterpart of Japanese Tempura as both are batter and deep fried.

“Also, the way there’s an Indian tradition to eat on banana leaves, there’s a similar tradition in Japan to use bamboo leaves instead of a plate, while eating Sushi and fresh cut off meat,” Joshi informs.

Besides, Japanese cuisine has changed a lot over the years through experimentation. Says Nakajima, “In the earlier years, the fish caught for food would be eaten immediately the very same day. But through experimentation now many prefer eating it after two or three days, as that makes it tastier. And then we have our main flavourings to add to it, like Mirin (a sweetened rice wine), Miso paste (a soyabean paste which is used for marination or in soup), or Wasabi (a horse raddish, which is used in Sushi), and lots of naturally brewed soya sauce.”

Joshi points out that the Indian clientèle who frequent his restaurant have developed a taste for Japanese cuisine. “To tell you the truth, the actual taste of Japanese food is picking up in India. People don’t want to change the original flavour of the food and want to experience it in its authentic form,” he says, adding that people can use sauces or chillies to spice things up according to their taste.

There is no debating that Japanese food is finding its way into people’s food choices across the world, and Nakajima thinks that in the coming years, people will only want to explore it more.

The author can be followed on Twitter @juilieklahare

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