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.

Romanian Ruxy

I can’t say I was that familiar with Romanian cuisine a week ago, nor do I think many of those residing in Japan are, which is why we took up the opportunity to organise a special cooking session with one of our newest hosts, Ruxandra, on her trip to Tokyo last week.

Ruxandra is an entrepreneur living and working on her own “interactive business planning” startup in the Romanian capital of Bucharest. She and her Italian partner Manu joined forces to teach some of the more common traditional Romanian dishes to 7 local guests.

Ruxandra grilling the eggplant.

Ruxandra grilling the eggplant.

Ruxandra started by introducing herself and explaining a little about her cuisine before entering the kitchen. While she’d never taught cooking before, everyone found learning about a new cuisine fascinating, particularly one they knew very little about!

Everyone got involved!

Everyone got involved!

The first dish we learnt to make was called sarmale, which is minced meat, rice and parsley wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves. Originally found in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, sarmale is now considered Romania’s national dish.

The sarmale complete and ready to eat!

The sarmale complete and ready to eat!

Next on the menu was mamaliga, which is a yellow maize flour porridge, similar to Italian polenta, and often served together with sour cream and goat’s cheese. The dish often accompanies sarmale.

The mamaliga!

The mamaliga!

Finally, we made the appetizer of eggplant salad, which is made of grilled, peeled and finely chopped eggplant, onions and mayonnaise, and served on bread, often with sliced tomato.

The eggplant salad on bread with tomato slices

The eggplant salad on bread with tomato slices

Romanian food is known to take a particularly long time to prepare, but with Ruxandra’s pre-preparation of a couple of items, we spent about two hours cooking together, before sitting down and enjoying the lovely meal together. The hard work was well worth the efforts!

Time to dine!

Time to dine!

It was wonderful to have Ruxy in town, and we will gladly welcome her back next time! Ruxandra’s menu is available for guests in Bucharest anytime, so book a session on your next trip!

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.