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For our sake

From the traditional rice wine to rarer offerings like furikake rice seasoning and miso soup, Japanese products have launched a food invasion in the city.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2011 13:53 IST
Rochelle Pinto

To most people, knowledge of Oriental cuisine ends with Chicken Manchurian, a wholly Indian creation. And while in recent times Thai food has been gaining popularity, Japan is still associated with only cameras and cars.

But with the launch of Japanese ready-to-eat food products and sauces in high-end supermarkets across the city, you could be whipping up a mean dinner with ease.

Chef Ananda Solomon, executive chef, Taj President, says that perfecting Japanese cuisine might not be as easy as it seems. “While the ingredients are available, what makes this cooking form so difficult, is the techniques involved. Chefs train for many years to get it right,” warns Solomon.

“But just like we’ve improvised Chinese cuisine to include dishes like Paneer and Gobi Manchurian, very soon, Japanese cuisine will also be adapted to suit the Indian palate.” Solomon does admit that the cuisine has health benefits, saying, “Despite eating so much rice, their food is healthy and doesn’t have any cholesterol. The focus is mainly on rice and seasoning.”

He also mentions the key use of tubers, which have a longer shelf life. “They use tubers like wasabi to add taste, and also incorporate a lot of seaweed.”

Check out Solomon’s dummy guide to a quick fix Japanese meal Teriyaki sauce
This serves as a good marinade for meats. “Take a chicken from the market, cut it into small pieces and marinate it in the sauce,” advises the chef. “You can cook it on a charcoal grill in the same manner that you cook Indian tikka. The sauce has a woody flavour, which complements even vegetables like mushrooms and tomatoes.”

Furikake rice seasoning
Solomon advises you to add the seasoning when cooking rice in a special Japanese cooker (if available). “It adds a sour taste to the rice. The rice is then used for sushi, where you can roll it with asparagus or prawn tempura. Adding a little Tobanjan Chilli paste will make this dish dramatically different,” he adds. The Japanese also pour green tea into a bowl of rice flavoured with Furikake. Udon Noodles: Solomon recommends using Tsuyu fish stock to flavour the noodles. “You can add a few vegetables and pepper sauce for a complete meal,” he says.

Kinkon Sake
The popular rice wine, according to Solomon, is a good way to start the evening. “Serve them in tea cups if you don’t have the appropriate cutlery. You can also use it to marinate food,” he says.