Module 1 | Washoku Basics
The traditional Japanese cuisine and food culture or Washoku has gained international recognition as a healthful way of eating in harmony with the seasons and nature. In this introductory class we will reveal the essence of Washoku and some of the basic elements that contribute to a balanced way of eating. Included in the discussion will be the different styles of Japanese cuisine including every-day home cooking or “kate-ryori”, refined cuisine usually served in restaurants and hotels or “kaiseki-ryori”, and vegetarian cuisine developed in temples or “shojin-ryori”. In addition, the participants will experience and taste a complete Japanese meal or “tei-shoku”.
Module 2 | Rice and Rice Products
A fundamental aspect of Washoku are meals centered around rice, the quintessential of Japanese cuisine and way of eating. This class will focus on learning about various aspects of rice including the way of farming, the different varieties, the different ways of eating it (unrefined or “genmai”, partially polished or “buzuki-mai” and polished or “hakumai”), the nutritional characteristics, the different ways to cook it, and different ways of serving it (including onigiri, the different styles of sushi, takikomi-gohan, maze-gohan and donburi). In addition to rice, we will also introduce and taste a variety of rice products such as mochi, amasake, and senbei.
Module 3 | Dashi, Miso Soup and Noodles
Another vital aspect of Japanese cuisine is the use of “dashi” or stock used not only in soups but also for cooking. In this class we will discover some of the secrets for making delicious “dashi” including the importance of choosing the right ingredients, how to make it properly and also taste different variations. We will make miso soup, a traditional daily staple at Japanese homes with many health benefits attributed to it. In addition we will also introduce and taste a variety of Japanese noodles, including somen, udon and soba, along with different ways of serving it.
Module 4 | Seasonings and Condiments
Japanese cuisine makes use of a wide range of unique seasonings and condiments. Many of them, including shoyu, miso, shio-koji, shoyu-koji, rice vinegar, umeboshi, umeboshi vinegar, mirin, or sake, are made using age-old ways of natural fermentation that sometimes require months or even years to develop the right taste. In this class we will explore and get to taste a wide range of seasonings and condiments and learn more about how they are made, how to choose the best quality ones, and their different uses in the kitchen. We will also discuss their nutritional characteristics and health benefits, such as containing beneficial bacteria and enzymes known as probiotics.
Module 5 | Vegetables
Something that everyone notices when visiting Japan is the wide range of seasonal vegetables available and the multiple, exquisite ways in which they are served. In this class we will examine some commonly used Japanese vegetables, including wild vegetables or “sansai” when in season, and learn traditional ways of cutting, cooking and serving them, including kinpira, nimono, tempura, ohitashi and aemono. In addition, we will also learn about the art of pickling or fermenting vegetables, a popular accompaniment to rice and a way to enhance digestion and the absorption of nutrients due to natural enzymes and beneficial bacteria present in the vegetables.
Module 6 | Tofu and Soy Products
The traditional Japanese way of eating included very limited amounts of meat and no milk or dairy products. Instead soybeans and their products played an important role supplying important nutrients such as protein containing all the essential amino acids and a wide range minerals such as calcium and iron, comparable to those found in meat and dairy products. That’s why soybeans are sometimes referred to as the meat from the fields or “hatake no niku”. There is a wide range of soy products to choose from and their versatility in the kitchen provides endless uses and possibilities. Delving in and getting to know about the different varieties of soy products available, including tofu, soymilk, aburage, atsuage, natto, koya-dofu, and yuba, and exploring exiting ways of cooking with them will be the theme for this class.
Module 7 | Sea Vegetables
Being an island nation, Japanese have relied on the ocean to supply a considerable part of their nourishment and sea vegetables have been an important part of their diet since ancient times. In recent years sea vegetables are catching the attention of both individuals and scientists around the world because of their nutritional characteristics, being rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and particularly a wide range of minerals, but also for their health promoting qualities. In this class we will explore the wonderful world of sea vegetables and get to cook and taste a wide range of unique Japanese sea vegetables, including kombu, wakame, hijiki, nori, kanten, arame and others.
Module 8 | Fish and Seafood
Besides consuming animal food in moderation, Japanese have traditionally eaten fish and seafood as the main source of animal food. And this is also in line with current nutritional awareness because fish and seafood contain healthier fats, is lower in saturated fat and is easier to digest and assimilate compared to other types of animal food. For those who are not familiar, cooking with fish and seafood can be intimidating. However, because fish and seafood is eaten regularly in Japan, there are many simple ways to serve it that are both delicious and require little cooking time.
Module 9 | Japanese Tea and Wagashi
Japanese teas are a world of its own and there are many varieties and ways to enjoy them, both as a daily beverage and also for especial occasions. In this class we will taste a few of the different teas and appreciate their flavors while learning some of their traditional uses. In addition this class will also focus on wagashi or Japanese sweets. Especial attention will be given to making and tasting healthful sweets using traditional and natural quality ingredients such as azuki beans, kanten and sweet rice flour as well as unrefined sweeteners such as rice syrup.
Module 10 | Prospects for Washoku
In an age of fast food, mass produced foods and declining health due to nutritional and lifestyle-related diseases, Washoku can be a guide and source of inspiration for helping improve dietary habits and strengthen our health. In addition, Washoku is also associated with an essential spirit of harmony and respect for nature that is closely related to the sustainable use of natural resources. For these and other reasons, Washoku is an important cultural and way of life asset not only for Japanese people but for all of us. That is the message behind UNESCO’s decision to inscribe Washoku on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. With that in mind, we will take a look at some of the prospects for Washoku and potential for contributing towards a healthier, more sustainable world. The cooking and menu will include Japanese traditional foods arranged in international ways as we fuse Japanese cuisine with flavors and styles of cooking from around the world.
Classes are held on Tuesdays from 11am to 2pm and include one hour theory, another one hour cooking demonstration or hands-on-cooking, followed by tasting and discussion.