eat in my kitchen

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Tag: curry

Meet In Your Kitchen | Masako Imura’s White Curry in the Heart of Tokyo

Kakura Curry Tokyo

It’s quite a surreal scene that Chef Masako Imura chose for her acclaimed Kakura restaurant: classical music playing in the street from invisible loudspeakers, no cars, but people riding bicycles or walking slowly listening to the gentle harmonies filling the city’s warm air. We’re in Tokyo, right in its vibrant heart, however, the peaceful scenery, the narrow house where the restaurant sits snugly speaks a different language. The green facade covered in ivy and sparkling little lights, pots of flowers, herbs, and leafy plants arranged in front of the restaurant’s window, create a vivid contrast to the city’s monotonous grey. Aromatic mint, basil, rosemary, and curry leaves grow right at the chef’s doorstep ready to be brought into the kitchen and turned into complex spiced dishes.

The outside couldn’t suit the inside any better, it’s a green oasis created for a restaurant that celebrates Japanese curry based on the old knowledge of Chinese medicine. Masako Imura’s creations are rich, colorful, and delicious. Her Kakura Curry, Black Curry, her seasonal vegetable, or fish curries are a pure pleasure to eat and caress and activate different parts and functions of the body. The nutritionist follows a holistic philosophy, in which mind and body, people and nature complete each other in harmony. The ingredients that she uses are organic, regionally and seasonally sourced, the chef knows how to treat each vegetable with respect and creativity. It’s about healthful food that gives you energy rather than taking it away from you.

Fans from all over world, many artists and musicians, love her beautiful cuisine, all those fascinating flavors that Masako brings to the table at her cozy restaurant that she opened in 2005. The food warms up your soul. When you get a chance to meet her in her kitchen for a few hours to chop and chat, and peek into her pots and pans, you get a glimpse of this universe that makes her creations so unique and special. Spices are her most important tool, the heart of every composition. She works with perfectly balanced curry mixtures, individually put together for each dish, like in the fish curry that she shares with us. The warming fragrance of mustard seeds and curry leaves sizzling in hot oil are the start, the tempting invitation, before the other parts follow to add more depth: Nam Pla (fish sauce), shrimp paste, ginger, and colorful spices, which she attentively arranges in little bowls next to the cooker. Lotus root, sticky Japanese potato, golden pumpkin and carrot, and various mushrooms lend freshness and flavors to a creamy sauce full of heat.

The love for the kitchen lies in the family, Masako Imura’s mother taught her daughter how to cook and use food for more wellbeing. Masako was the youngest, but physically the weakest, her mother paid a lot of attention to her girl’s diet. Nourishing, natural, and rich, using Chinese medicinal cuisine, it helped her to become the strong and inspiring woman that she is today, loved for her curry creations at the Kakura restaurant.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

Autumn White Curry with Salmon

By Masako Imura

Serves 3-4

3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
8 curry leaves
100g / 3.5 ounces onion, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
60g / 2 ounces radish, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
60g / 2 ounces carrot, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
100g / 3.5 ounces shimeji mushrooms, shredded
3-4 fresh cayenne peppers, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon grated garlic
40g / 1.5 ounces shrimp paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 tablespoon almond flour
5 g sweet radish root
500ml / 2 cups water
800ml / 3 1/3 cups milk
30g / 1 ounce lotus root, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
60g / 2 ounces yam, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
90g / 3 ounces pumpkin, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
10g / 1/3 ounce white cloud ear mushroom, soaked in water
300g / 10 ounces salmon filet, cut into bite size pieces

Boiled white rice, for serving

A handful fresh coriander leaves, for serving

In a large pot, heat the oil, mustard seeds, and curry leaves over medium-high heat for about 15 seconds or until the seeds start popping. Add the onion, radish, carrot, and shimeji mushrooms, turn the heat down to medium and sauté, stirring once in a while, until soft.

Stir in the cayenne peppers, ginger, garlic, shrimp paste, salt, and fish sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes; then add the garam masala, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, garlic powder, coconut powder, almond powder, and sweet radish root, stir and cook for 1 minute.

Pour in the water and milk, bring to a boil, and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes over medium heat. Add the lotus root, yam, and pumpkin and cook for about 5 minutes or until soft. Gently stir in the white cloud ear mushroom and salmon and cook for 5 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through; season with salt to taste.

Divide the rice and curry between bowls, sprinkle with fresh coriander, and serve immediately.

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

What is your most cherished childhood memory in the kitchen? 

I couldn’t eat carrots, so every day my mum would mash them up so they were easier for me to eat. Every single day without fail. Now I love them.

How old were you when you decided to become a chef?

It was actually quite late, I was 25. Actually, I used to be a cooking instructor, but I was 25 when I wanted to work in a real restaurant as a chef.

What makes Japanese cuisine so special? 

It has to be the culture of using dashi. Western cuisine uses stock but in Japan we use kelp and bonito and have the custom of using dashi instead. Staple Japanese food will almost always harness dashi, giving them a subtle undertone of flavour. I would say that’s what makes Japanese cuisine special.

What kind of dashi do you use in your restaurant?

I use dashi made from kelp and dried shiitake mushrooms.

Which role does curry play in Japanese cooking?

I would say it’s similar to Japanese miso soup, each family will have their own curry. Mum’s curry will always taste like mum’s curry. We’ve always had miso soup, but lots of Japanese people say their favourite curry is their mum’s curry. But each Japanese family will have their own Japanese curry. Normally.

Do you have a close relationship with the suppliers of your restaurant?

There are suppliers I’m close to and those I’m not so close to, but I buy products from them because I trust them, because they’re people I know.

Are organic and local products important to you?  

Very, very important!

Is there a rising interest in Japan for organic food?

It’s incredibly popular.

Do you think that the people – over the last few years – became more critical with their food?

I’ve found that lately more and more people are concerned about their health, and so I’ve been getting a lot more customers who express interest in organic and chemical free food, as well as cuisine that incorporates Chinese medicine.

What fascinates you about Chinese medicine? 

The more I learn about Chinese medicine the more it makes sense, so I study more and more. Of course, each person is different so I have to learn what that means. There are things that will work for someone but not for others, so I diagnose each individual and carefully select the Chinese medicine that works best for them. I love it that, what each person has to eat, is always going to be different.

Where did you learn about Chinese medicine?    

I studied at the Japanese branch of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

What made you so interested in Chinese medicine?

I’d have to say it was when I was young, my mum used natural things. She actually used natural Chinese medicine more than conventional medicine. Well, we went to the doctors when we were sick, but if we had to take medicine, had to put something in our bodies, we took Chinese medicine. Yeah, that was it. Ever since I was really small, we went to a Western hospital for treatments, but if we had to take anything she always used these really old, traditional Chinese medicines because she thought they were safer. That’s how I was brought up. Then I learned a little about macrobiotics and all sorts of other things. But it wasn’t because I thought “people have to eat these”, it was because each person’s biological makeup is different. And so, I started to make food using Chinese medicine for individuals to match their individual makeup. I slowly realized that I didn’t just have an interest in this, that this was real cooking. There are foods that can be good for certain people but not good for others. There are all kinds of medicinal diets that are good, but finding the right ones for each person can be a challenge.

What’s the clients’ feedback? Do the people come because they want healthy food? Or do they just come because they find it’s delicious?

I think they come because it’s delicious and healthy. Because they want to be healthy in a delicious way.

What’s your association with the cherry blossom season?

It’s the season students start the new school year so it’s seen as the season of new beginnings. It makes me feel really optimistic. This area here called Nakameguro is famous for a lot of cherry blossoms, it’s also called a town of cherry blossoms.

Can you use the blossoms for your cooking?

Yes, I use them a lot. I put them into the rice, ice cream, and pudding. The ingredients I use will vary depending on the season, but they’re all good for you.

Thank you very much, Masako Imura!

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

Meet In Your Kitchen | Nik Sharma’s Goan Coconut Curry

Nik Sharma

Spices, aromas, and flavors, and a great portion of tradition paired with curiosity create an exciting mix in Nik Sharma’s kitchen. Two worlds woven into his life feed the man’s inexhaustible creativity: India and the USA. The first country marks his roots, the land where he was born and raised, the latter represents his life since he was 19 and decided to leave the known behind and start an adventure that lasts till today.

Nik established a renowned food blog over the past few years, standing out from the start, visually and culinarily. A Brown Table  is loved for its eclectic recipes and stunning pictures. As a cook, Nik makes you hungry, as a photographer, he creates a unique mood that is captivating, appealing in a way that you want to frame his photograph and hang it on the wall and at the same time go straight to your kitchen and cook and eat the dish. He won Best Photo Based Culinary Blog awarded by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) two years in a row, quite an astonishing career for someone who only grabbed the camera professionally in his mid twenties.

The fact that his dad was a successful photographer in advertising might have influenced the young man’s feel for light and compositions, but Nik says there wasn’t that much of an exchange about his work between father and son, he only learned how to use a camera after he left home. But despite his parents’ warnings – they told him not to follow their footsteps – the photographer, blogger, and soon to be cookbook author did what many kids do: he did it anyway. His mother worked in hotel and restaurant management, she didn’t like cooking, but she had a huge folder full of recipes collected from newspapers and magazines. Nik was fascinated by the world of cooking and baking at an early age, he loved spending hours reading through Indian and western creations, he joined the family’s cook in the kitchen, and eagerly followed his maternal grandmother’s culinary activities. Her Goan heritage is still very present in many of his own recipes.

Reading the titles of Nik Sharma’s recipes makes your mouth water, you can literarily smell the warm aroma of cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and rosewater filling the kitchen: Imagine Masala Chai Pumpkin Cake, Khasta Kachori (Edamame-stuffed Fried Indian Bread), Honey Sage Turmeric Wings, Goan Coconut Cake, Cherry Black Pepper Cake, or his Toasted Pistachio Cake with Blood Orange Sauce. The recipe he shares with us for our Meet In Your Kitchen feature is a vibrant explosion framed in comfort food: Goan coconut curry with tender game hen and aromatic spiced rice.

The cook’s approach to food is scientific, Nik has an analytic mind and way to think about dishes, but at the same time he looks at things from a “feminine standpoint”, he likes curves and his styling reflects that. “I always think of ballet dancers when I shoot, I envision the dish being a solo dance performer on stage, the light’s only focused on the dance and everything else is dark. I always think of dance and curves, I find them very sensual, I find straight lines and diagonals a little harsh. Even if I do introduce them in my composition, you’ll see that there’s a circle cutting through, like a tangent. Again, I bring math into it because I’m a geneticist by training”.

You can be a gourmet, an aesthete, and share the beauty of life, but if you’re a critical mind, you know that there’s always more to talk about at the table: You can often see Nik’s hands in his photographs, to show the technique of a recipe, the preparation and instructions, but also to showcase that there are people from different backgrounds, that there is diversity behind the scenes of a restaurant. Nik says “We don’t really see them because they are never brought to the front”. There’s an imbalance in our society, a hierarchy in the way who works in the front or the back of a restaurant, and in the way people are paid and it’s our responsibility to talk about this imbalance and solve it.

Every Sunday you can find one of Nik’s beautiful recipes in his A Brown Kitchen column printed in the San Francisco Chronicle (if you don’t happen to live in the Bay area you can also grab some inspiration online on the newspaper’s website) and on October 2nd, 2018, his first cookbook Season will come out. Reflecting Nik’s unique style, the book combines the author’s roots and fascination for flavors with his journey as an immigrant in the US who lived in different states and experienced the culinary heritage from people coming to this country from all over the world.

And if you also want to eat in Nik’s kitchen, check out his supper club!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Nik Sharma

 

Nik Sharma

Nik Sharma’s Goan Coconut Curry

Serves 4

2 medium red onions, peeled
2 cups grated coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup (240ml) boiling water
1 inch-piece (2.5cm) peeled ginger root
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
8 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
6 cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
2 whole garlic pods
2 Cornish game hens, patted dry
Kosher salt as needed
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Boiled rice or bread (to serve)

Cut one onion into thin slices and keep aside until ready to use. Take the second onion and cut it into quarters.

Place coconut, water, ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, and the quartered onion in a blender and pulse on high speed until smooth and combined.

Melt the ghee in a medium-Dutch oven (or a heavy pot) on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté until golden brown for about 8 to 12 minutes. Peel any extra paper off the garlic pods and trim about ½ inch (1 cm) off the top to expose the garlic. Add the trimmed garlic pods to the onion and cook for about 1 minute. Then add the ground coconut spice mixture into the pan and cook stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Place the two Cornish game hens in the pan snuggly and fill the pan with enough water to just cover the two birds. Increase the heat to high and bring the contents of the pan to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the birds are completely cooked and tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice or bread.

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma11

 

Watch my interview with Nik in San Fransisco in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Nik!

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma10

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma13

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma14

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma12

 

Nik Sharma

 

Nik Sharma

Crispy Latke with Curry and Orange Cream

Pumpkin Hash Brown

It’s been a beautiful January morning. Blue sky, the air is crisp and clean and much to my surprise glowing with sunshine! I went to the park to enjoy the first sunny morning in 2014 and it felt like spring. This calls for a celebration, something equally warming and shiny on my plate: fried golden latke. I make mine with Hokkaido pumpkin and potatoes, a home made curry mixture and an orange, cinnamon flavoured cream.

At this time of the year, I often cook with my own curry mixtures. I guess it’s the cold, my body appreciates warming spices like cayenne and turmeric. For my pumpkin – potato mixture, I prepare a curry mixture that is not too hot, despite the inclusion of cayenne. I want strong flavours, but more on the sweet side, like cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. The cream gives a lighter feel to this meal, its milky sourness is a refreshing counterpoint to the fried latkes, the orange zest and spices reinforce it.

Pumpkin Hash Brown

Spicy Pumpkin and Potato Latke with an Orange Cream

I use around 600g / 21 ounces peeled potatoes and 400g / 14 ounces pumpkin for my latke mixture which is enough for 3 – 4 people:

For the latke

Hokkaido pumpkin (or any other pumpkin), grated, 400g / 14 ounces
(with peel, just scoop out the seeds and fibre)
potatoes, peeled, grated, 600g / 21 ounces
onion, peeled, grated, 2
plain flour 12 tablespoons plus more for mixing
organic eggs 3
salt 3 teaspoons
vegetable oil for frying

for the curry mixture (for the latke)
cayenne pepper, ground, 1/4 teaspoon
coriander seeds, ground, 1/2 teaspoon
black pepper, ground, 1/2 teaspoon
turmeric, ground, 1/2 teaspoon
cumin, ground, 1/4 teaspoon
cardamom, ground, 1/4 teaspoon
cinnamon, ground, 1/4 teaspoon
3 cloves, ground in a mortar

 For the cream

cream cheese 150g / 5 ounces
heavy cream 4 tablespoons
plain yoghurt 4 tablespoons
orange zest 3 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper (ground)
a pinch of cinnamon (ground)
a pinch of cardamom (ground)

Mix all the ingredients for the cream and season to taste.

Squeeze out the grated potatoes, pumpkin and onions and dry between kitchen paper (in batches) until you get most of the liquid out. Mix all the ingredients for the latke, add more flour if the mixture is too moist.

Heat a good amount of oil in a large cast iron pan. Form pancake shaped latkes and fry them in the hot oil, 1-1 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Take down the heat if they get too dark. When the latke is done, remove excess oil with kitchen paper and keep in a warm oven until you finish your last batch. Serve together with the cream.

Couscous with Orange, Ginger and 6 Spices

6 Spice Couscous

Two days ago I filmed a live session at a recording studio with electronic artist Jim Hickey . As there were five of us and we had to work till late, I wanted to prepare something nice for us to eat to feed the energetic mood.

I didn’t have much time to prepare, so a box of couscous caught my attention (5 minutes and it’s done!). My mother had just sent it to me a couple days before because, I think, something that has to sit rather than cook for just a few minutes didn’t quite satisfy her idea of cooking. I had half an hour to enhance it a bit so I decided to mix it with slices of leek and carrot and to add some strong exotic flavors – a homemade curry mixture with orange zest, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. I mixed in some raisins to add some sweetness to the fruity spiciness of the curry mixture. Quick and easy – perfect food to wake you up (exactly what we needed at 11pm)!

6 Spice Couscous

 A Couscous with Orange, Ginger and 6 Spices

For 6 people you need

couscous 360g / 12.5 ounces
salty water 540ml (with 1 teaspoon of salt)
1/2 a medium sized leek, thinly sliced
spring onion, thinly sliced, 2
carrots, cut in small cubes, 4
raisins, a handful
olive oil, 3 tablespoons plus more for frying
butter, 2 tablespoons
sour cream, 3 tablespoons

Curry mixture

ginger, grated, 2 teaspoons
zest of an orange, 2 teaspoons
turmeric, ground, 1 teaspoon
black pepper, ground, 1 teaspoon
cinnamon, ground, 1 teaspoon
cardamom, ground, 1 teaspoon
cayenne pepper, ground, 1 teaspoon
cumin, ground, 1 teaspoon

Let the raisins soak in a cup of hot water.

Bring the salty water to the boil. Take the pot off the heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the water, add the couscous and mix immediately, close the lid (leave it off the heat). Let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the butter, mix and separate the grains with a fork.

Mix all your spices for the curry mixture (including the ginger and orange zest) and grind in a mortar. Warm some olive oil in a large pan and add the leek, spring onions and the carrots. Push the vegetables to the side after a couple minutes, pour some more oil in the middle of the pan and fry 3 teaspoons of your curry mixture for a minute on medium heat. Mix everything together and fry for another 1o minutes (keep in mind that the carrots shouldn’t become too soft). Season with salt.

Mix the couscous and the fried vegetables in a big bowl, add the sour cream and more of your curry mixture until you find the right balance of spiciness (I added another 3 teaspoons of the spices at that point, so 6 teaspoons in all). When you are happy with the result, take the raisins out of the water and sprinkle on top of your couscous.

6 Spice Couscous

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