Mission Europe 2: Japanese Fermentation

Anytime I do not know the meaning of something such as a title or name, chances are I am going to try it and probably like it or at least be interested.  I have a curious nature, can’t help it.  Such was the case with the Salone del Gusto taste workshop Hakko no Sato.

The panel was composed of Italian and Japanese representatives.  The host was a charming Japanese woman, petite, kimono-clad and full of cute giggles.  The class was about Japanese fermentations with a focus on a koji base which can be turned into sake, soy sauce or miso paste.

We were served a variety of interesting sakes from Terada Honke in Chiba, Japan.  The sakes are all made using pesticide free wild rice koji.  Some were cloudy, some clear, some sweet, some with a bite…  I learned that one of the most important parts of fermentation is the aroma and what it tells you.

Our first plate was more of a sample platter; composed of a gindara kasuzuke (fermented fish), salad with a miso and soy sauce dressing, fermented vegetables and narazuke pumpkin which is a technique that involves brining said vegetable in sake residue over the course of a year.

The flavors were arresting.  I expected many of the preparations to be bold in taste, but was pleasantly surprised at the subtle nuances showcased through different fermentation methods.  The second dish was fascinating, at least for me.  Italian deer meat was cooked with sake residue at a controlled temperature and resulted in a rich flavor and soft texture that I found very appealing.

I regretted not having a video camera at the end of class as the Japanese panel contributors rose to grace us with a beautiful song that they traditionally sing after a day of work.  Japan has a culture that is hard to comprehend for many who live in other parts of the world.  I know one thing for sure though; the Japanese can cook and I need to find a sake residue supplier.


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