Upcoming Gourmet Weekend in LA!
Dining With The Chef's Rika Yukimasa matchmakes a marriage of Japanese cuisine and Californian wine.
September 1, 2016
Interview with Chef Rika Yukimasa
Q1What do you find most appealing about Japanese cuisine?
Japanese cuisine is called washoku, which is written with the kanji characters for harmony (wa) and food (shoku). I believe that harmony is what defines Japanese cuisine; the harmony brought about by combining five basic colors and tastes, the diversity of ingredients, the pairing and presentation of food and tableware, and the nutritional balance. Japanese cuisine is not just about enjoying food for food’s sake. It’s all about appreciating the harmony of different tastes, presentation, health benefits and more.
Q2What challenges have you encountered in preparing Japanese cuisine outside Japan?
The main difference is in the water. Japan has abundant water and is one of the few countries in the world where it’s possible to enjoy really great tap water. Even simple dishes such as cooked rice or simmered vegetables taste so good in Japan for that reason. Western cuisine makes use of soup stock that takes hours to prepare, and you might add wine to enhance the flavor, whereas Japanese soup stock, dashi, can be made in just five minutes. The quality of water is what makes this possible. So the difference in water is probably the main obstacle I’ve encountered in preparing Japanese food overseas.
The best solution is to use soft water, which is so common in Japan. European water, for example, is often hard, but if you can use soft water then that alone will go a long way toward recreating authentic Japanese flavors at home. Another thing is to try using more seasonings and flavorings than are listed in the recipe.
Q3How would you like to see Japanese cuisine spread throughout the world?
It’s nice to see people dining out at Japanese restaurants. But what I’d really like to see is the spread of Japanese home cooking. It would also be great to see more and more photos of Japanese food on Instagram–photos uploaded by visitors to Japan who’ve enjoyed eating their way around the country, or people who’ve tried their hand at making Japanese food after watching Dining with the Chef or by referring to the JAPANESE FOOD website. I believe that sharing images of Japanese food and happy faces on social networks will go a long way toward promoting Japanese cuisine.
Q4Finally, what's your favorite Japanese food?
Definitely sushi! Coming home to Japan after traveling abroad, a meal of sushi makes me feel so happy. Sushi is all about eating seasonal ingredients. Eating sushi prepared with fish that's available for only a limited time is absolutely the best way to make me feel I’m back in Japan!
Another important dish for me is miso soup. I like to start the day with a healthy breakfast, and so I make a point of serving my family miso soup full of vegetables every morning.
Come to The Taste this weekend and meet Chef Rika in person. If you can’t make it, please do watch Dining with the Chef!