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Cooking with Yuka

November 9, 2015

In the first few weeks after arriving in Japan I was looking for ways to get the kids out of the house. School hadn’t started yet and both Kira and I had to work. I was working at home so I may have had ulterior motives, but I did some research for activities in Setagaya-ku. They rejected all of my suggestions, but one of the items that caught my eye was a listing on TripAdvisor for “Yuka’s Japanese Cooking“. At the time we were struggling to migrate our menu away from the American meals we used to cook back in Minnesota and trying to find more ways to cook locally. We’ve gotten better in the last couple of months, but it is still something we are working on. I knew back in August that I wanted to take the class and I convinced my friend Chika to go with me. We signed up for a class in October because it was the first one available. Being in Japan and not have a lot of experience with cooking fish (other than pan searing and grilling) I elected to cook a meal with fish.

I’m going to let you know up front that the experience was pretty great. We started with a tour of a grocery store not too far from our apartment and Yuka answered questions on everything from what type of miso she recommended to why Mickey Mouse was pictured on the soy sauce. About halfway through the tour the store’s butcher introduced himself to our group and asked where everyone was from. He explained to Yuka that he liked to travel and visit butcher shops around the world. It sounded like a delicious, if slightly odd, hobby.

After the tour, Yuka purchased all the groceries including five whole Horse Mackerel (aji) that she informed us we would be filleting and frying. We then took a quick taxi ride (included in the cost of the class) back to her apartment and most importantly her kitchen. Joining Chika and me in the class was a couple of travelers who lived in Switzerland (I think), but he was originally from Great Britain and she was from Boliva and only spoke French and Spanish. Yet another example of the international city we are living in.

The menu for our class was as follows:

  • Fried Horse Mackerel (Aji furai)
  • Green Beans with Sesame Sauce (inban no goma-ae)
  • Miso Soup with homemade Dashi (soup stock)
  • Japanese Omelet (tomagoyaki)
  • and for dessert we made Mochi

This entire menu was made in less than two hours including the time Yuka spent on instruction, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the meal after we cooked it. I’m not going to go too far into the cooking in this post because I plan to blog about each recipe, but I’ll tell you a little more about the class and about filleting the fish.

I was very impressed with how efficient everything was and how Yuka got each of us to try each piece of the preparation.  We did not each cook our own omelet, but we all took turns rolling the eggs in the pan. I think everyone did some small part when making the miso soup and we took turns grinding the sesame seeds for the sauce used on the green beans.

But, we each had to fillet our own Horse Mackerel. Yuka showed us how an expert fillets a fish and then walked each of us through the same task on our own fish.IMG_0467 Some of us did better than others. Despite Yuka’s expert tutelage my fish fillets ended up more the size of fish sticks. but we still had enough for everyone to enjoy the meal you see below. When we put out the food we were given specific instructions on what dish went in which place on the tray. You can see my setting being built in the pictures. When we were done all of the settings looked identical. It turned the meal into almost a ritual.

In addition to showing us how to set a proper table Yuka gave us tips throughout the course. I’ve never taken a cooking class before and was pleased to get a lot of useful tips and tricks from just one lesson. It was clear she has made this dishes many times and admitted that she has learned some new techniques just from teaching others how to cook. And because this class was on “everday” Japanese cooking some of the advice was geared toward this. We made the Miso soup ahead of time and then reheated shortly before serving the meal. We ate some of the omelet warm so we could see the taste difference, but the rest we waited and ate with our meal. Same with the green beans. Staging things one at a time and not having to juggle getting everything off the stove at once was great and it will make it easy for me to add these dishes to our “everyday” meals.

It was a great class and if our budget allows i hope to learn some more dishes from Yuka while we are in Japan.

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One last thing. One the way out I noticed that there were Lego minifig magnets on the door. Yuka did not have any children old enough to play with Lego’s so I asked who they belonged to. She told me they were her husband’s and then asked if we were familiar with the movie, Back to the Future. We all said yes and she then told us that her husband had designed a Lego set for the Delorean from Back to the Future. He is a hobbyist that submitted a design on the Lego Ideas site. The way it works is that if enough people “like” your design it gets sent to Lego for approval (I think it is 2000, but he has 10,000 likes on the page so that might have been the number). The kit was for sale by Lego in 2013, but I think it might be sold out. Yuka’s husband’s name is on the box for the kit and she told us that a percentage of all sales were donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.


One Comment leave one →
  1. November 9, 2015 1:44 am

    Love taking cooking classes

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