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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Kei's Kitchen Kaiseki Cooking Class

It's one thing to appreciate the delicious art of kaiseki.

It's another thing completely to get into the kitchen and help make it. Later, as you sit before the tray adorned with plates, dishes, bowls and saucers, you cannot help but slowly savour each mouthful with a new sense of enlightenment.

Ladling soup

So last weekend saw me aproned and ready in the kitchen of Kei Fukui, teacher of kaiseki-ryori for over 20 years. This elaborate multi-course meal originated as a small series of mouthfuls, served to monks after a traditional tea ceremony. Today it is more like a seasonal degustation, intricate in preparation, splendid in presentation.

Over the next two hours we watched, we chopped, we sliced, we garnished. We covered the basics, like making dashi, slicing sashimi and elements of Japanese plate presentation. Working as a team we each helped prepare elements of seven dishes that we would later feast on for lunch.

Sakizuke (the appetiser):
Dried fig deep-fried in white batter

Wanmono (the seasonal broth):
Crab meat ball, carrot flower and mizuna

The wanmono broth was clear and delightfully sweet, the crab meat ball was packed with generous shreds of crab flesh. The sprigs of mizuna added a wonderfully slightly bitter contrast.

Mukozuke (the cold dish/sashimi):
Hiramasa kingfish sashimi with shredded daikon,
shiso leaf,
lime and wasabi

We each had to slice our own hiramsa kingfish sashimi, carefully draping these against a shiso leaf backdrop. A tumble of daikon shreds was teased into a modest tower, a smidge of wasabi placed to the side.

Yakimono (the grilled dish):
Bite-sized wagyu steak with grated daikon and yuzu pepper sauce
with watercress garnish

The soft melting mouthfuls of wagyu steak, decadently ribboned with buttery fat, was my favourite dish of all. The dressing, minced daikon with lemon juice, rice vinegar, yuzu pepper and soy, was light and refreshing with a zingy citrus tang.

Agemono (the fried dish):
Taro coated and stuffed with sweet chicken mince,
deep-fried in a coat of arare rice crackers

To prepare the agemono, cooked taro (baby taro the size of your palm) was pounded between sheets of clingfilm then shaped around a spoonful of cooked chicken mince. Rolled in arare rice crackers, the ball was deep-fried until golden then served with sweet broth of dashi, mirin and soy. It's a soft comforting dish even though I would have preferred my ball dry and crunchy.

Aemono (the vinegared dish/salad):
Vegetables in a tofu dressing

I was primarily involved with the preparation of the sesame dressing for the aemono salad, a process that involved slowly toasting the sesame seeds in a pot over the stove, then grinding it to a fine powder in the traditional grooved suribachi bowl. To this was added drained and sieved fresh tofu, then julienned slices of carrot, mushroom, konnyaku and seasonings. Cool but creamy, the smooth sesame paste had a wonderful nuttiness.

Gohan (the final rice):
Rice with five flavours

"No rice grains on the side of the bowl," lectured Keiko as it was scooped and patted into the ceramic vessel.

The rice, cooked in a dashi broth flavoured with burdock root, sake, mirin and soy, was almost sticky in texture. Mixed through with julienned vegetables and tofu it provided a hearty conclusion to the meal.

Kei's Kitchen runs hands-on kaiseki lessons on the second weekend of every month.

Classes are generally restricted to eight people.
Each class is $95 and generally runs 10am-2pm.

Menus change each month according to the seasons as follows:

August 11-12 (Early Spring Menu初春)

September 8-9 (Spring Menu)

October 13-14 (Late Spring Menu 晩春)

November 10-11 (Early Summer Menu 初夏)

Further information here

18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/22/2007 08:21:00 pm


  • At 7/22/2007 11:00 pm, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    onya! that all looks so amazing! you're one step away from iron chefdom...

  • At 7/22/2007 11:09 pm, Blogger Chick Pea said…

    Hey Helen, that looks life fun - the perfect way to spend a winter weekend, too cool! Whereabouts in the North Shore is it, can you tell?

  • At 7/23/2007 1:45 pm, Blogger obachan said…

    Wonderful! And inspiring as well. I've got to try deep-frying dried fig. Sounds like a great idea.

  • At 7/23/2007 10:43 pm, Blogger sarynkay said…

    Wow!! I tried to make a booking to go for the July class but it was full. I now have to wait for the August class. Can't wait! I'll be sure to make a post in my blog too. It sure looks yummy~

  • At 7/24/2007 11:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a wonderful introduction to kaiseki - I didn't know about the different kinds of dishes previously. Thank you!

  • At 7/25/2007 11:09 pm, Blogger *kel said…

    Oh wow goodness this is hardcore. I was just in Tokyo few months back and have savored a few kaiseki. They're more like art than cuisine. Exquisite! Have yet to blog about my experiences..

  • At 7/26/2007 11:38 am, Blogger Julia said…

    Oh I've wanted to do this for ages. Great writeup!

  • At 7/26/2007 2:20 pm, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    Looks good. Can I book you for our next sushi extravaganza?

  • At 7/28/2007 3:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've always wanted to take a cooking class! This looked like SO much fun! Thanks for sharing!

  • At 7/29/2007 6:32 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi bowb - lol. I wish :) It has made me think about buying a suribachi though.

    Hi chick pea - It's in Chatswood, and only a short walk from the station. You should enrol. It's lots of fun.

    Hi obachan - The fig was an interesting idea. It was reshaped and pulled out so the fig was round again.

    Hi Saryn - There are only 8 per class so I can imagine they book out fairly quickly. I look forward to hearing about your experience (and seeing your pics too!).

    Hi Su-Lin - There is so much to learn about kaiseki. I found "Untangling My Chopsticks" a fairly interesting read.

    Hi *kel - We had kaiseki in Kyoto. It was totally amazing.

    Hi Julia - You should go. Kei is really lovely and it's so nice to eat the fruits of your labour at the end of it!

    Hi Veruca Salt - But of course. Maybe we should get some hiramasa kingfish next time :)

    Hi Hillary - Cooking classes are always fun. Who doesn't like hands-on and a meal to eat afterwards?

  • At 7/30/2007 2:44 pm, Blogger jess said…

    hi, i was just wondering where you can get the number to contact them or where are they located cause it doesn't seem to have it on the website.

  • At 7/30/2007 9:32 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jess - The phone number is at the bottom of this page, displayed as a picture presumably to avoid data harvesting.

  • At 8/03/2007 10:03 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great photos. And it's a good thing you didn't accept a lift from Mir on the way out. Inexplicably we managed to skirt Chatswood altogether and I found myself in the city, having to catch a train back to the North Shore!

  • At 8/04/2007 1:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Is this place really far from chatswood station? can you walk there? or?
    and does the cooking take 2 hrs and eating takes another 2?

  • At 8/05/2007 10:58 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Y - lol. I ended up spending the afternoon at Chatswood Westfield, and emerging a little lighter in the wallet for it :)

    Hi Anon - Yes you can walk from Chatswood station. We started eating at about 12.30pm and then pitched in with the washing up afterwards. For any further questions, I suggest you contact them directly in the link provided above.

  • At 6/13/2008 1:40 am, Blogger Audrey... said…

    hey, can i get the details of this cooking class??
    i think someone has hacked the website so i can't get the details. thanx a lot


  • At 6/14/2008 11:32 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Stephani - It looks like they've just changed some webpages. I've updated the links above. Hope you enjoy the class!

  • At 1/28/2009 5:08 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love kaiseki and would kill for an excuse to buy more lacquerware. I think I just found something to put on my anniversary wish list. - Amaya


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