Chef's Blog

December 20, 2016

The Art of Japanese Tea Ceremonies

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As I mentioned in an earlier installment, my favorite type of cuisine to cook continuously changes, but one culture keeps me coming back to learn more— the art of Japanese cuisine.

There are many things about Japanese culinary culture that I really respect. From their carefully plated works of art— to their creative use of and respect for ingredients— Japanese cuisine commands attention to detail and perfection. I am no expert when it comes to Japanese cooking, but as I continue to learn, my passion grows. One of the many things we can admire about Japanese cuisine is the precision they put into their dining experience—particularly Japanese tea ceremonies.

Tea ceremonies date back centuries and Cha Ryori inspired a more refined and elaborate dining experience known as Kaiseki—made popular by aristocratic circles in the early 1300s. The Kaiseki tradition is a full course meal that is served very methodically in prescribed courses, and reflects upon the current season. Courses typically begin with an appetizer course of sashimi or vinegar marinated raw fish; followed by soup, a simmered dish, a grilled dish, a tray of assorted delicacies, an extra course of side dishes and finally, more rounds of sake and pickles. Emphasis is placed on subtle flavors, as well as local and seasonal ingredients. The same attention to detail used in Chanoyu is seen here, as well. The Chefs have great influence on what is served.

Kaiseki is regarded as a sophisticated culinary art that requires many, many years of training and considerable cultural knowledge. Kaiseki-style cuisine has adapted into what we see today in Japanese cuisine. Each dish is an art form and subtly flavored to enhance the delicate essence of each ingredient. The plates and bowls used are carefully chosen— and are considered just as important as the food itself— for all your senses to experience. The warmth you feel on your hands when you touch the ceramic bowl, the texture a wooden plate, and the utensils selected all add to the physical dining experience.

I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting Japan, but it is a trip I am planning on taking in the near future. My friend and colleague, Chef Greg Nelson, CEC for Minor’s on the West Coast, has been to Japan five times. He has great stories about his experiences there. Through his travels, he’s gained a great understanding of the cuisine. Below is his recipe for Fresh Ahi Tuna with a Clam Miso Broth. The flavors he developed in this dish are fantastic. Enjoy!

Fresh Ahi Tuna with a Clam Miso Broth
1 ½ C Minors Clam Base NAMSG, prepared (12 oz)
1-½ C White miso paste, prepared (12 oz)
2 oz Ramen noodles, blanched, prepared
1 oz Thin sliced fresh Ahi, or any other very fresh fish
1 Very thinly sliced jalapeno
1 Very thinly sliced bias cut scallion
2 Leaves of bok choy, blanched and shocked

Procedure
1. In a large Asian-style soup bowl, combine the hot clam broth and miso broth.
2. Add the prepared ramen noodles.
3. Float the fresh Ahi on top of the ramen.
4. Add the jalapeno, scallions and cilantro sprig and serve.

Serving Suggestions: This is a one pot meal. You have the broth, seafood, noodles and vegetables all in one bowl. It’s a true ramen meal.

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