Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Learn to Cook with NHK World-Japan

In this spring’s JIBTV feature program “Washoku World Challenge,” head judge and chef Yoshihiro Murata reported that approximately 118,000 Japanese restaurants are in operation worldwide. With data like this, the international appeal of 和食 (わしょく - washoku)—traditional Japanese cuisine—cannot be denied. Even people in Indianapolis, the landlocked midwestern city where I live, profess their love for sushi, tempura, and ramen on social media. For many of my friends, going out to a Japanese restaurant for dinner is a special occasion, popular for birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations. However, thanks to NHK World-Japan’s program “Dining with the Chef,” Japanese food need not be solely reserved for expensive meals out: by watching the hands-on techniques shared by the program’s knowledgeable hosts, home cooks of all skill levels and backgrounds can enjoy making authentic Japanese food in their own kitchens.

Typical vegetarian dinners I prepared while living in Tokyo
Part of the appeal of “Dining with the Chef” is the broad range of recipes shared, thanks to the unique format of the show. Whereas many cooking shows feature one main host, “Dining with the Chef” is actually a program in two parts: Chef Tatsuo Saito and Yu Hayami host the “Authentic Japanese Cooking” arm of the show, while Rika Yukimasa and Patrick Harlan host “Rika’s Tokyo Cuisine.” With decades of experience in the food industry, vivacious Chef Saito mainly shares washoku recipes and techniques á la haute cuisine; in contrast, Rika is a skilled home cook and mother who introduces her own unique take on popular Japanese staples, and offers practical suggestions for substitutions of ingredients that might be difficult to find outside of Japan. As a home cook myself, I have tried recipes from both Chef Saito and Rika with great success, and frequently apply the concepts I have learned to other types of cuisine.

Another invaluable aspect of “Dining with the Chef” is its online presence on NHK World-Japan’s website. Recipes introduced on the program are conveniently found there. It truly is a wealth of information, with a plethora of recipes organized into different categories. For someone with special dietary needs—I, for example, am a lacto-ovo vegetarian who has just recently started eating fish—this is a much-needed, helpful feature. I love browsing through the “Beans & Tofu” category and reading about new ways to try natto and tofu; the “Vegetables” category, with its colorful, mouth-watering photographs, is a feast for the eyes.

While cookbooks and magazines are a great tool for home cooks, actually watching a dish being prepared adds another layer of understanding to the process. “Dining with the Chef” takes the concept of Japanese cooking—a cuisine that, to me, once seemed too difficult and time-intensive to prepare—and makes it accessible for a global audience in an entertaining, fun way. Check it out today and dive into the delicious world of Japanese home cooking!