Monday, 26 November 2007

Jipango Dinner

Japanese cuisine in a cooking class with a variety of different specialties including a succulent fresh crab "stew"

Friends and family have requested that I branch out on my blog, so I am going to start to add other countries and cuisines to my repertoire.

I love Japan and have travelled there twice. I have been studying Japanese for five years now and although I find it hard to understand when people speak quickly, I can make myself understood. I went to Japan alone last year, and was able to get around and communicate without a problem.

In Paris, I belong to the Jipango Club among other Japanese cultural organizations. I have had many cooking classes with my favorite chef, Bin Muto and have learned the basics of Japanese cuisine. Far beyond sushi and sashimi, there are many different types of cooking to master.

Yesterday, I was fortunate to have attended a class for a seafood banquet. We had king crab and kintara (a type of rich codfish that tastes as velvety as Chilean Sea Bass). For a starter was an angel hair salad with vegetables and seaweed along with jumbo (raw) shrimp sushi. All this was washed down with two different types of wonderful sake.

Bin showed us how to prepare the meal which included making the dashi, a broth that is the base of all Japanese cuisine, Add orange juice and other ingredients like mirin (really a sweet sake) and you have ponzu sauce. If you combine that with mayonnaise, you have a wonderful sauce for your sushi rolls.

The menu did not disappoint. We started with the angel hair salad and the shrimp sashimi. Next were the packets of Chinese cabbage and carrots, tofu, the crab, and the velvety codfish. Once the ingredients are cooked, you spoon out your portion into a small soup bowl which is filled with some ponzu sauce. Mmm Mmm. This is a very convivial meal, which is ideal for six people seated around a table. As you eat your portion, you add more and more of the ingredients, cook them, and eat some more.

I thought that the nabe was the main course but I was wrong. After about three helpings each, we had the codfish (which was rich and delicious) cooked in a teriyaki or sweet soy sauce. Most meals end with rice and miso soup in that order but we were treated to udon (thick chewy noodles) served in more warm dashi in our nabe bowls.

For dessert there were two types of yokan (a jellied rectangular cube) flavored with green tea and with sesame. This was a wonderful meal. The Jipango meals are always very relaxed and fun. It is a great occasion to meet new people who are interested in Japan and Japanese culture.

Through my membership in Jipango I have learned about the authentic and traditional Japanese restaurants in Paris. And I am able to translate this talent into my forays to other places I visit. I have found authentic outposts in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and New York.