Ham off the leg!

How often do you have a chance to see this in Tokyo?

A rare sight in Tokyo!

A rare sight in Tokyo!

I’d certainly never before! Raw ham can be very expensive in Japan, and so when you see it, it’s rarely an entire leg! One of our newest hosts, Fernando, managed to get a hold of this beauty for his first Tadaku session in Tokyo recently, which also proved to be a big success. Fernando is from Albacete in Spain, and has been teaching Japanese people how to cook Spanish food in Tokyo for the past 3 years.

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Knives from Fernando’s hometown

I was lucky enough to get a spot in Fernando’s class before it filled up, and I was quick to notice his passion for food and cooking! Fernando had clearly taught before, ensuring all of his guests had some way to help out at all times. He also holds great knowledge about Spanish food, culture and history, and so was a great person to learn from.

Helping chop potatoes

Helping chop the potatoes for the omelette.

We learnt that there are many things to keep in mind while slicing ham from the leg – the direction you should slice, the thickness of the slices, the best way to eat, and perhaps most importantly, to keep your spare hand out of the way!

There are many things to keep in mind when slicing raw ham.

There are many things to keep in mind when slicing raw ham.

Fernando also taught us a lot about the different types of ham in Spain.

Fernando loves ham!

Fernando loves ham!

We also learnt how to make Spanish omelettes. All of the guests were surprised at how it could taste so great with so few ingredients – just egg, potato, onion and salt!

Spanish omelette

Spanish omelette

All of the guests had a wonderful time despite the snow storm, and some were very happy to practice their Spanish with our enthusiastic host.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

Fernando’s session is available to book anytime in Tokyo.

Kaori’s home cuisine

If there is one Tadaku host who cooks homely food, it’s Kaori.

Our beloved Kaori.

Our beloved Kaori.

Her menus are very much what you would find if you were staying with a Japanese family: miso soup, a main dish (called okazu) and white rice, with the touch of a master chef, who trained at the prestigious Hattori Nutrition School and spent 15 years in restaurant kitchens.

menu

Kaori’s Autumn menu. In this case, sushi is served instead of plain white rice, and the okazu is salmon teriyaki.

Kaori was one of the first hosts to join Tadaku in Tokyo. She is constantly improving the cooking sessions she offers, adding new menus according to the season and improving her English. She even bought a new dining table, afraid that some of her guests would not be able to sit cross-legged on the floor, as is usual in Japan.

Local markets do exist in Japan (such as Tsukiji fish market), but they are not the line up of stands packed with vegetables and fruit everyone imagines. Markets in Japan are roofed alleys with a couple of grocery shops and dozens of Japanese produce shops selling fish of all varieties, crackers, pickles and prepared food.

Nishiki market (Kyoto)

Nishiki market in Kyoto – a perfect example of what a local market looks like in Japan.

Nowadays, if you want to do the shopping for your everyday meals, you just head to the nearest supermarket, which is where Kaori will take you before your cooking session with her. Supermarkets in Japan are an attraction in themselves. Besides the familiar tomato and cucumber, there are countless unrecognizable products for the non-Japanese.

Vegetables in a supermarket in Japan. Do you recognize any of them??

Vegetables in a supermarket in Japan. Do you recognize any of them??

Many visitors often cannot even tell whether a product is from an animal or a plant. If you don’t believe me, ask Kaori to show you konnyaku when you’re with her at the supermarket! The experience of exploring a supermarket is that much better if you have someone to guide you through the aisles of unusual products.

Konnyaku, the mystery food.

Konnyaku, the mystery food.

If you book a session with Kaori, give her a hug from us. We love her.

Seiko’s macrobiotic food

Have you ever heard of macrobiotic food? It is a kind of diet that originated in Japan in the beginning of the 20th century, and is based on seasonal, local and unprocessed food, especially grains, combined into meals according to the principle of balance. That is, the balance between ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ ingredients. Macrobiotic meals are often vegan, though sometimes they can include some types of fish or other animal products, and are said to have innumerable health benefits.

Seiko has been cooking macrobiotic food since she was in her early twenties. She lives in a spacious family house in the outskirts of Tokyo, in an area sprinkled with small vegetable patches and big parks. She and her husband Osamu, a painter, lived for several years in Europe before coming back and settling in Japan. One of their main motivations, she said, is to keep in touch with other cultures by meeting foreign travelers, since they rarely have the opportunity these days. Seiko is fluent in English, and Osamu also speaks some Spanish and Italian.

The Hirota family

The Hirota family in a nearby park 2 years ago.

Nearby park

In Machida, where Seiko lives, there are big wild parks and even some vegetable patches.

As a lover of macrobiotic food, Seiko was excited at the idea of teaching the basics of this philosophy to interested foreigners. She started by creating a macrobiotic menu for autumn, a season in which your body needs more nutritious food to cope with the colder weather, or in macrobiotic terms, more ‘yang’ food to balance the ‘yin’ cold weather. These include root vegetables, used in her konsai soup and the sweet potato and pumpkin salad, and heavier grains such as millet, used in her millet hamburger called takakibi. And voila, the result.

Autumn macrobiotic menu

Autumn macrobiotic menu: root vegetables (or konsai) soup, millet hamburger, sweet potato and pumpkin salad and brown rice.

The menu also includes black sesame tofu, not displayed in the photo above, which is one of my all time favorite Japanese dishes (and I can tell you I have tried it a lot in my 8 years in Japan). The name is misleading, because even though it’s called ‘tofu’, it doesn’t contain any soy beans. Sesame tofu is a jelly made with sesame paste and kuzu (a climbing plant) powder. It was created in the Buddhist monasteries in Japan, where only vegan food was served.

White sesame tofu

White sesame tofu with its usual miso paste sauce. Delllllicious.

If you decide to learn macrobiotic food from Seiko, you will have a great assistant in the kitchen: her 3 year old daughter Ryuju!

Ryuju

Your 3 year old assistant during Seiko’s cooking session!