On a brief trip back to Sydney in mid-May I took the chance to participate in the wonderful Japanese cooking class experience provided at Kei’s Kitchen, a mother and daughter team offering very interactive, high quality cooking lessons that culminate in a delightful shared eating experience.
The classes are run in suburban Chatswood and I first heard about them probably around 10 years ago via a flyer at Tokyomart in Northbridge (a Japanese-owned supermarket with a wide range of imported and local Japanese ingredients). It took me several years to get around to actually attending a class but I’m really glad I did. I think this was my fifth class and they have all been great. I am especially interested in the kaiseki classes – traditional multi-course meals with exquisite presentation that highlight seasonal produce and themes. (Kei and Masako also offer Japanese party food and home-style cooking classes that are arguably even more fun if albiet little less technical and indulgent.)
It was great to see some regulars who I had met before – some of whom have attended for several years more or less continuously – as well as new faces.
Kaiseki meals are comprised of a number of small dishes each delicately balanced and displayed. At Kei’s Kitchen the menu generally consists of around 7 dishes. Due to the constraints of being both chefs and diners, the meal is consumed in one sitting with all dishes presented simultanously, whereas traditionally kaiseki is served one dish at a time in a prescribed order.
Our autumn menu (fall for the non-Australians reading) was as follows:
Sakizuke (Appetiser or amuse-bouche) of Persimmon Sushi and Simmered Sweet Potato
Wanmono (Seasonal Borth) of “Dobinmushi” Fragrant Broth and Chicken, Mushrooms and Mitsuba Served in a Teapot (this was a contender for my favourite dish of the day, viying for the tile with the scallop dish, closely followed by the tuna sashimi…)
Mukōzuke (Cold dish / Sashimi) of Tuna “Yushimo” with Avocado, Shiso Leaf and Wasabi Garnish
Yakimono (Grilled or Broiled dish, most commonly fish) of Scallop Grilled in its shell with Golden Miso Topping and Lime Garnish
Takiawase (Simmered or Braised dish) of Quail Balls with Deep Fried Eggplant and Green Beans
Sunomono (Salad) of Prawn, Wakame seaweed and Cucumber in Mustard Miso Dressing
Gohan (Final rice or noodle dish) of “Odamakimushi” Egg Custard with Udon, Shittake Mushrooms, Gluten Flower and Mitsuba
Students each receive a full list of receipies for the days dishes, enabling us to endeavour to re-create them at home. In practice, making a full kaiseki meal is quite an arduous task. It takes 10 of us around three hours of chopping and cooking (and, ok, some chatting) to bring the whole meal together. So preparing a full meal on your own is quite a challenge. That hasn’t stopped me enjoying several of the dishes individually or throwing together a meal of, say, three of the dishes – not enough to qualify as a legitimate kaiseki dinner but a rewarding cooking and eating experience nonetheless.