Washoku is the Japanese word for Japanese cuisine. This blog will introduce Japanese food, the chefs, dishes, pottery, and Japanese culture. All photos are by Naoko Takagi, contributions from other individuals will be noted.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sujiko (Salted Salmon Ovary or Salted Trout Ovary, with Roe)

Photo of  sujiko, salmon roe
Sujiko,  筋子

Photo of  sujiko, salmon roe
Sujiko,  筋子

Sujiko (Salted Salmon Ovary or Salted Trout Ovary, with Roe)

Sujiko is bought by families and restaurants and comes in two varieties: salted and unsalted. The unsalted variety is called nama-sujiko. The chef prepares the sujiko by washing and straining it gently and repeatedly. Little by little, the connecting tissue breaks up and washes away leaving the delicate roe. This roe is then transformed into ikura, one of the most popular dishes in Japan and popular Japanese restaurants around the world.

The ikura is prepared by marinating in soy sauce and dashi. Depending on the chef, other seasonings like sake or mirin are added according to taste and preference. The total process is quite involved, but the resulting dish is a feast for the eyes. In addition, it's supple texture yields a soft popping texture when chewed, satisfying people who love roe.

Top chefs will tell you that when choosing a salmon to purchase, King Salmon is the best option for its meat, but for ikura, the better choice is to buy Chum Salmon. It is best to buy this when it is in its spawning season. Coincidentally, that time is now.




ニューヨークはSOHOにある日本料理店HirohisaのオーナーシェフであるHirohisa Hayashi氏曰く、「鮭はキングサーモンがダントツにおいしい。然し乍ら、いくらにして一番おいしいのは白鮭の卵。」とのこと。


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Chirasi-zushi with Salmon Roe and Snow Crabs

Chirasi-zushi with Salmon Roe and Snow Crabs

Chirasi-zushi is one of the sushi dishes in Tokyo, Japan. The many kinds of sashimi are put onto "sumeshi (white rice cooked for sushi)" and it looks like a gorgeous seafood rice bowl. However, people from other parts of Japan, and people from countries outside of Japan have begun to savor this meal.

This chirashi is made with salmon roe, snow crab meat, seaweed, shiso, mitsuba (Japanese parsley), sumeshi and shredded omelet (it's a complex dish that usually only chefs can master well). November to December is the best time to eat this dish.

It can be confusing to order this dish because people from other parts of Japan know Chirasi-zushi to mean "gomoku-zushi (several kinds of ingredients like eggs, lotus, shiitake mushroom, eel, carrots, kanpyo and, etc. are mixed with sumeshi)", a meal for a celebration. Be careful when you are ordering to avoid confusion.




Photo shoot at Hirohisa

Monday, November 23, 2015

Female Snow Crabs

Photo of female snow crabs せいこ蟹の写真 コッペ蟹

Female Snow Crabs (called "koppe-gani / seko-gani / seiko-gani in Japanese)

Usually, when people hear the word "snow crabs", we imagine plump, yummy legs and claws, but those are male snow crabs. The body size is significantly different between the two sexes of a snow crab. Female snow crabs are typically 1/3 of the size of a male snow crab.
In addition to size, around November, pregnant snow crabs carry "sotoko (fertilized eggs)" which have a similarly satisfying popping crunch as sea grapes when you chew them. "Uchiko (the ovary)" has a rich strong crab flavor. These flavors are quite different from the flavors of the male snow crab and as a result, the female snow crab is considered a signature dish during the winter feast known as Fuyu no mikaku. The unique flavor combination of the sotoko, uchiko and "kani-miso (the brown meat)" leads you to the next level as a gastronomist.

Pour sake to the shell when you finish enjoying the crab meat. The sake will take on a subtle flavor of the kani-miso--a deeply satisfying way to complete the meal.

Interesting fact, the brown bead-like formations on crabs shell are the eggs of a leech that commonly lives on crabs. There are many mysteries surrounding these parasites, but they don't harm crabs themselves. They only use the hard surface as a safe place to lay their eggs. They don't infect the crabs in anyway, so they are safe to eat.

通の一品 せいこ蟹




Female Snow Crabs せいこ蟹 こっぺ蟹

Photo shoot at Hirohisa

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Suppon (a soft-shelled turtle)

Copyright 2015 by Naoko Takagi

Copyright 2015 by Naoko Takagi

Copyright 2015 by Naoko Takagi
Suppon from Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan  静岡産すっぽん


One of the famous Japanese dishes is Suppon (a soft-shelled turtle). The extract and the broth of suppon is well known as the most delicious flavor in the world.

Preparing suppons makes us feel thankful for the sacrifice they make by becoming our food. Japanese people have a ritual of saying, "Itadakimasu" before eating. This is a kind of greeting. "Itadakimasu" means "I'm going to eat," "thank you for the cooking," or "thank you for giving your life to me. "Killing suppons makes us re-realize that we take something's life away. The "Itadakimasu" spirit is one of the traditions that Japanese culture and culinary artists want to spread all over the world.



Photo shoot at Hirohisa

Saturday, November 7, 2015



Black truffles are often called a black diamond. Its strong odor is reminiscent of leaking gas oil. Although that may not sound appetizing, it is one of the most sought after ingredients for top quality restaurants in the world. The most popular farm for black truffles is in France, while white truffles are from Italy. The biggest export country, however, is China (a different variety of truffles). The truffle hunter always brings his partner- a female pig or dog. Pigs and dogs are also love to eat the truffles so when they find them, there is always a a great struggle to harvest them before the pig or dog does.

These truffles are best enjoyed with white miso in Japanese cuisine.



Photoshoot at Hirohisa

Monday, October 19, 2015



This photo shows one variety of the MATSUTAKE mushroom from Oregon in the United States. Every Autumn, Japanese people go wild for this mushroom. There are many recipes for this, but chef Hayashi at Hirohisa in New York recommends that this mushroom be grilled, deep fried with panko or put into a soup. This exquisite mushroom has captivated the attention of the Japanese people as well as mushroom connoisseurs. The smell alone drives people to spend exorbitant amounts of money for only a sliver of the matsutake.

Scientists have not been successful at growing it in an artificial setting. Despite decades of research, the only way to enjoy this mushroom is to pay for its foraging. It is so rare that foraging is a very expensive endeavor.



Photoshoot at Hirohisa

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Manabashi. (A type of long chopsticks used in the preparation of fish)

Today, using chopsticks is very popular all over the world but this time, I'd like to introduce you a specific type of chopsticks used just for cooking.

This is a one of Japanese people's necessary culinary tools. They are usually made with iron.
They have have been in existence since about 1500 a.c. in Japan according to official historical records. Once communities began forming in Japan, after the hunter-gatherers shifted to agricultural techniques, people cooked fish or meat (which have a fishy raw smell), and used these chopsticks to avoid cross-contamination with other ingredients.

The word "Manabashi " means fish that is put on the plates as "Mana" and "Bashi" means chopsticks in Japanese. For the vegetables, we use the chopsticks called "Saibashi" which are made with wood. "Sai" means vegetables.

In Japan, we have a unique sacred ceremony by using the Manabashi. The ceremony leader cuts the fish beautifully without touching it and dedicates the fish to the Gods. The leader uses a pair of manabashi in his left hand and a big knife in his right. We can still see it at some shrines even now. We call this ceremony "Hocho-shiki".

A chef told me that when he uses the manabashi, he feels his spirit awakening.

Great chefs and great tools are always together. Well maintained tools lead professionals to the next level in every field.





Contributer: Hiroshi Kitano
Photo shoot at Horohisa

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Transparent Tomato Soup

Transparent Tomato Soup

Tomato soup, is loved by many all over the world and comes in many varieties, depending on the region.

Traditionally, tomato soup is not a popular dish in Japanese food culture, and possibly even Asia. However, a skilled and highly creative Japanese chef can transform the dish to represent Japanese cuisine at its best. Please allow me to introduce you to a unique transparent tomato soup.

This chilled soup, has an intense tomato flavor.
The tomatoes are strained over night, allowing the
tomato extract to drain through the strainer with perfect clarity. Then the chef adds kombu-dashi (kelp broth) and a dash of salt to complete the soup.
Tomatoes have glutamic acid, which is one of the ingredients used for creating the umami flavor.

By extracting this juice from the tomato slowly, we are able to enjoy the richest flavor that a tomato has to offer.




Photoshoot at Hirohisa

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cold Tomato Soup

Cold Tomato Soup

Would you like to have some cold refreshing tomato soup? And it's not gazpacho.
I'd like to introduce an unique Japanese variation of tomato soup. Strained over time and slowly ripened Momotaro tomatos are used to make a hearty and pure tomato extract. Then softly and gently boiled with dashi a fresh piece of lobster and abalone(Awabi in Japnese) are dropped into the soup. After that the chef adds some okra and red siso as an accent. Served with Nasturtium, an edible flower.

This cold luxury owan(soup), stuns us with it's looks, and cools us down
when we indulge. This is a soup that can be enjoyed around the world.




Photo shoot at Hirohisa

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Peach Dish

A Peach Dish

Delaware white peach compote with home made plum wine with tomato and red wine sherbet.



Peaches have a very rich, sweet, supple flavor and loved by most people around the world. The peach is harvested in the summer and the perfect time to compose a dish with the fruit.

1. The peaches are peeled by a chef very gently
2. They are stewed with a homemade plum wine (without being overcooked)
3. The peaches are placed into a summer glass dish and topped with the tomato and red wine sherbet
4. Finally, the dish is garnished with a small edible flower

It's a very crisp summer dish with a subtle sweetness that completes the meal.



Photo shoot at Hirohisa

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Snow Crab

Snow Crab

The Snow Crab is one of the dishes of the Winter Feast in Japan (snow crab is called "zuwai gani" in Japanese). However, summertime is the best season to fish for snow crab in North America. Most of them are found in Alaska. The best chefs in New York begin offering snow crab during this peak fishing season. Hirohisa Hayashi, owner and chef at the Japanese restaurant Hirohisa in SoHo NYC, introduced me to a dish with snow crab.

His dish is a mix of snow peas, purslane and kanimiso (miso-like paste found inside a crab's intestinal area) topped with snow crab legs, caviar and house made bottarga. The chef recommended that this dish be enjoyed as an appetizer for a summer course. The Alaskan snow crab is big and tasty but a more delicate flavor than Japanese variety, so he added caviar and bottarga to compliment the delicate meat, but also to create a richer, complex flavor combination.

His attention to detail and his skillful selection of ingredients allows him to offer outstanding dishes like Snow Crab. Its crisp summer flavor of the mixed vegetables, blended with the savory snow crab meat and the aroma of the caviar was accented by the bottarga. Anyone can make an excellent dish with these delicious snow crabs, but eating a dish prepared by a professional chef, like Mr. Hayashi, takes summer snow crab to another level all together. 



今回、ニューヨークはSoHoにある日本料理店ひろ久のオーナーシェフであるHirohisa Hayashiさんに旬のズワイガニを使った一品を紹介していただきました。





Monday, July 13, 2015

About Rice

We call steamed rice "gohan" in Japan. The way rice is prepared is reflected by what it is called in Japanese, rather than how in English "rice" is modified by an adjective. In many Asian countries rice is considered the main part of the meal. There are many regional varieties of rice wheat chosen for a meal, but when rice is eaten by itself, I think the Japanese brand "Koshihikari" is the most delicious variety. This brand of rice, shown in the photo, is grown and processed in Ikedacho, in the Fukui prefecture of Japan. This town is surrounded by wilderness and pure water from the area. The warm and humid climate is necessary for the production of high quality rice, but abundant clean water is the most important element. The environment of Japan is ideal for such high quality rice production and for that reason the people of Japan can enjoy some of the best rice in the world. Not only that, but in Japan, the traditional spices and seasonings like miso, shoyu (soy sauce), sake (YES!) and nuka (rice bran) are made from rice. Higher quality rice makes higher quality seasonings. I am sure that many arguments could be made about which rice is the best in Japan since it largely depends on where you were raised and happy childhood memories associated with a certain variety, but there are many excellent varieties to choose from in Japan. Everyone enjoys their rice in the end.



Photo shoot at Horohisa

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Footwear in the Kitchen

Footwear in the Kitchen

Takageta (tall wooden clogs) were worn by chefs around Japan and especially in Kyoto to protect their feet from being chilled to the bone by the cold temperatures permeating the floor of the kitchen. The height of the takageta allowed the chefs to work more comfortably, despite having more limited mobility.

Today, chefs choose comfortable rubber sandals instead.



Chefs' Geta (photo credit:amazon.co.jp) 

Photo shoot at Hirohisa

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dashi (Japanese Broth)

Bonito broth (Katsuo dashi) and Kelp broth (Kombu dashi) are two of the most important flavors for Japanese cuisine. In Japanese food, dashi is the base. Then we add soy sauce, miso or salt. The quality of the dashi determines the quality of the food and is the essence of Japanese cuisine. In basic dashi, various types of kombu and katsuobushi (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna) are chosen to create this important flavor.

Makombu is a type of kombu from Hokkaido, Japan. This kind kombu has thicker flavor and it tends to be preferred by the people of other world cultures. However, at really excellent Japanese restaurants in Japan, especially Kyoto, chefs prefer to use "rishiri kombu". It has a clearer color and a delicate flavor and is preferred by Japanese people who grow up in Japan.

The preferred Katsuobushi abroad has a rich red color because the flavor is thicker than the other one. The other variety is preferred by restaurants in Kyoto usually. Much like the higher quality kombu, this more delicate flavor is preferred by the locals. For people from other cultures, who feel "umami' is the new taste, the more common varieties of katsuobushi and kombu are a good combination to understand the umami flavor.


この昆布は北海道・道南産 真昆布。味が濃く出る種類です。欧米ではこちらの品種が好まれる傾向にあります。京都の料亭などでは、出汁で育つ日本人に対して利尻昆布のような上品で澄んだ味わいの昆布が使われます。

Japanese people grow up with the spirit of "mottainai" which means to avoid waste. This influences cooking as well. We use everything as much as we can. We use everything edible in vegetables, fish and meat. From one end to the other, including bones and meats, roots and flowers, nothing is wasted. For example, a fish head and bones are used in preparation of Japanese food. They are grilled lightly then used as broth. When they are grilled, the fishy smell dissipates, the water is removed and taste has been thickened. The dashi made from these saved and usually unwanted parts in other cultures is really delicious.


Photoshoot at Hirohisa

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Lightly Roasted Bonito (Katsuo no Tataki)

Lightly Roasted Bonito (Katsuo no Tataki)

For the Japanese, the words "Katsuo no tataki" conjure images of a breezy early summer and fresh green foliage.
The bonito season in Japan is from early summer to autumn because of the ocean currents around the islands of Japan. During the season, bonitos North from the South, and then return. When they return south, their bodies are fattened because of their time spent in the frigid ocean current. Their really delicious and aromatic fat changes the taste of bonito. Some people prefer the light early summer flavor of bonito and others prefer the fatty bonito. However, bonito are all over the world and we can catch them throughout the year, so we can enjoy their subtle and varied tastes depending on the location and season.

Japanese culture has had a deep and enduring relationship with bonito. Early on, people have offered bonito to the shrines as food for the spirits. Also the people of the Edo era, in Tokyo, competed with others in buying early summer bonito. They even sold their wives and kids to eat them. Still today, bonito flakes are the most important ingredient of Washoku (Japanese cuisine).
Bonito are 20 to 40 inches long. It's a wonder how ancient people caught these fish with their hefty weight and large size presenting a considerable challenge to fisherman with simple techniques.

Katsuo no tataki is famous in the Kouchi prefecture as the representative food, especially since it is served as "Sawachi ryori" (a big one plate meal). The history of Katsuo no tataki is very old, but vary around the country with conflicting claims. Being served katsuo no tataki sawachi ryori is a very heart warming happy feast.
Bonito is very delicate fish, like tuna. They spoil quickly. Usually, when we eat bonito raw, we serve it with condiments (shred ginger, garlic, scallions...etc), as toppings. However, these are no longer just "condiments", they add a a mouth-watering, complex flavor. The best way to smoke this dish is by burning rice straw. Served best with cold sake.






Photoshoot at Hirohisa

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Spring Vegetables 2






Spring Vegetables 2

 Sprouts of Aralia Elata (We call it Tara no me), Ground Ivy (Katakuri), Licorice (Kanzo no ne), Dandelion (Tanpopo), Japanese Knotweed (Itadori), Garlic Mustard, Pepper Cress, Toront Lily and Shepherd's Purse (Nazuna).

 "Wild Plants" represent the food of Spring, we call these wild plants "Sansai".

 When did people begin to eat the wild plants? Perhaps this practice began in early human history while people hunted; they might have also gathered these wild plants. Some wild plants are edible, but some of them are not. There are many poisonous plants among them and some of them look edible. Early humans had to experiment to learn which one is edible and which one is not by eating the plants themselves, discovering along the way which are the most delicious of the edible plants. Thanks go to our ancestors!

 "Ishokudougen" is a way of thinking about eating, which Japanese people commonly do, is healing illness or injuries by yourself through a balanced delicious meal each day. It goes without saying that eating healthily improves the body's ability to resist illness and repair itself more rapidly. This lifestyle has been spreading to first world countries recently. Highly perceptive chefs have started to use this style for their work and has been introduced by many media outlets. The use of wild plants as food will gradually become more recognized.

Photoshoot at Hirohisa

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring Vegetables 1



Spring Vegetables.
Oyster Mushroom (We call it Awabi take), Morel (Amigasa take), Broccoli Rabe (Nanohana), Asparagus, Ramp (Gyoja ninniku) and Fiddle Head (Kogomi).

Japanese people have been eating seasonal food from a long long time ago. They love to feel the season through food. Seasonal ingredients are not only delicious, but they also have the highest nutritional value of the year. Eating seasonally allows a certain harmony between people and nature.

Photoshoot at Hirohisa

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A chef's knives.

日本料理店ひろ久のオーナーシェフ・Hirohisa Hayashi氏の包丁。

Chef Hirohisa Hayashi's (at Hirohisa) knives.


Cutting is the first step for cooking. Taking care of a chef's equipment and having deep knowledge of it is also very important work for professional chef.

Made by Tamahagane, a steel made from iron sand or black sand using the Honyaki technique (used only with the Tamahagane material). This knife is made by the same process and material as Japanese swords, weapons renowned for their strength and sharpness. This knife was given to chef Hayashi from his father. If someone touches the blade even slightly he would be cut very deeply.



This knife shown here is made by high-speed steel cutting technique. This technique produces the hardest strength steel. It is finished with a beautifully textured design using the Damascus steel technique making a flexible blade with an extremely hard edge. Chef Hayashi said this is very important for a chef's knives.
Made by Takamurahamono.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring Tilefish with Sakura (guji no sakura mushi) by Hirohisa Hayashi

ぐじ(甘鯛)の桜蒸し (シェフ:Hirohisa Hayashi at ひろ久




Spring Tilefish with Sakura (guji no sakura mushi) by Hirohisa Hayashi at Hirohisa

A traditional dish representing the Spring season in Japanese culture, Spring Tilefish with Sakura is a Japanese cherry blossom leaf wrapped around spring tilefish, which is then wrapped around sticky rice and steamed. Served in thick, warm dash broth and accented by small crunchy rice crackers. Sophisticated textures are complimented by the delicate scent of the cherry blossom which surprises when first opening the lid to this dish and, in Japanese culture, brings the joy of Spring to the table.

Bowl and Lid: Kutani ware