When I visit a new country, I like to take a cooking class, so while on vacation in Tokyo, we arranged to do just that.
We met the class teacher at a nearby train station, and walked to the nearby studio. It was generous sized space on the second floor of a low rise industrial building. Inside was a large working table for food preparation (and for eating), as well as a small but well equipped kitchen, and a tatami mat covered area to one side for conducting non-cooking classes (presumably).
We settled in, washed our hands and got right down to work.
Today’s lesson plan was tomago, fresh made-from-scratch udon noodles, tempura, plus a tea ceremony, and some caligraphy.
We started by preparing some Dashi broth. Masako’s assistants brought out a portable induction burner and a steel pot, filled with water. To that, they added some kombu (dried kelp), and handed us a pouch filled with bonito flakes (bonito is a large fish in the mackerel family, which is dried, and sliced into paper thin shavings). We added several handfuls of bonito flakes to the water and kombu, and allowed it to simmer.
In the mean time, we started preparing the ingredients for tempura. Masako did provide a written recipe for tempura batter, but because of mitigating time constraints, today we were using a commercially made dry mix.
Masako’s assistants provided a large platter of sliced vegetables and proteins for tempura frying, including carrots, pumpkin, green peppers, burdock, fish cakes, shiso leaves.
Without going into the minutiae of the process, we ended up with quite a large platter of tempura resting atop a wire rack.
At the some time, as some of us were frying tempura, Masako took other students through the steps of making Tamago. This is the japanese style omlette that sometimes served as sushi, and sometimes as a dish in it’s own right.
It’s a blended mixture eggs, water, sugar, salt and/or miso paste. The trick appears to be a specially made frying pan with square corners and straight (as opposed to angled) walls.
It looks like this:
The omelette mixture cooked in the pan over medium low heat, and as it sets, it’s rolled into a log, and more omelette mixture is added. This process continues until there’s a thick roll like below:
With the tempura and tamago done, we moved on to making Udon noodles from scratch.
It’s actually deceptively simple. Water, flour, salt, mixed gently.
It’s rolled on a floured surface into it forms an tight ball.
We let it rest, then placed the dough into a durable plastic bag, then placed the plastic bag into a larger heavy duty plastic bag. Then we step on the big bag (with the dough inside) repeatedly for several minutes (basically kneading the dough). We set the dough aside and let it rest. Repeated the step/knead, followed by rest, a total of three times over a two hours.
We rolled the dough using a rolling pin into a thin flat square, folded it upon itself, and sliced into thin strips.
Then we boiled the fresh noodles in hot water
Once done, let the noodles cool, dressed them and served them as cold noodles
And we also warmed the noodles in dashi broth (made at the beginning) with fresh scallions
We also proceeded to a demonstration of a match tea ceremony. And Masako took the students names and wrote our names out on a paper fan, using Japanese calligraphy.