In the past few years, a number of cooking classes have opened their doors to English speakers here in Japan. I’ve had the pleasure of cooking with Taro at Haru’s Cooking in Kyoto in with Ayuko at Buddha Bellies in Tokyo, but I finally managed to arrange a time to cook with Mari Nameshida of Mari’s Cooking Tokyo.
Unlike some cooking classes, Mari runs her course a bit differently. There are no menus to choose from, per se. You are free to peruse her website and pick a few dishes that look appealing to you, give her some general ideas, or leave things entirely up to her. As someone who is usually hyper organized, this structure originally threw me for a loop. I like to show up knowing exactly what I am cooking. But it also gave me the opportunity to learn a bit more about one of my favorite ingredients as I asked Mari to craft a class entirely around miso.
We met Mari and our cooking partners – two incredibly sweet Frenchmen – at the Shintomicho metro and took the 3 minute walk to Mari’s apartment. Compared to some of the homes in Tokyo, her kitchen and dining area is HUGE, giving us all ample space to move around and settle in. Our course began with an overview of miso and its various forms. I cook often with white miso (very mild and sweet) and the regular miso (good for miso soup) but Mari also had hatcho (red) miso on hand to show us. She even showed us the miso she had fermenting in the corner. We sniffed and taste tested and debated the various merits of each miso before getting down to the business of cooking.
Our menu revolved around three miso dishes – miso chanchanyaki, miso soup, and miso dengaku (eggplant slathered with miso). Miso chanchanyaki is a Hokkaido dish (Mari’s family originally hails from Hokkaido) composed of salmon and vegetables in a miso sauce. Together, we followed the clear instructions of the recipe, measuring amounts for the sauces and cutting up vegetables. We learned the process of making the dashi (seaweed and bonito broth used for miso soup) and kept a close eye on the cooking salmon and eggplant.
Of course, the best part of any cooking class is the eating and our meal did not disappoint. Mari poured us all small cups of sake and we toasted our success before digging in. I could have had thirds of the chanchanyaki and the broth for the miso soup was far and away better than what I’d been making at home. I loved that these were easy, accessible recipes and something I could handily replicate in my own kitchen here in Kumamoto.
Mari’s cooking class is different and in a very good way. It allows you the chance to learn about the food that interests you much from a passionate (bilingual) teacher with a vast amount of culinary knowledge. You can even create a long-term customized course, if you’d like to spend more of your vacation cooking. And since you get to eat everything you cook, who wouldn’t want that? 🙂
You can find more about Mari’s cooking class on her website.