Michel Bras on Japanese cuisine – 2

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A spectacular range of elaborate techniques

Whether you take the heat control, fermentation, aging process or cutting skills, every single cooking technique is perfectly mastered in Japanese cuisine, with utmost precision. When I say “technique” I don’t mean it in the way we tend to use it these days. I am not talking about technique for the sake of technique, that is too often used at the expenses of the food. The techniques I’m referring to all have a solid backbone that is built upon experience, observation, and a profound, almost spiritual respect for the ingredient.

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A traditional soy sauce factory. Soy beans are being fermented in wooden barrels to produce that essential condiment of Japanese cuisine. 

Take for exemple tempura, this traditional deep-fried dish cooked with shrimp, fish and vegetables. Not only does it offer a wonderful crispy texture, it also manages to preserve the flavor and the color of the original ingredient as well, and that is a real tour de force. It is made possible thanks to an elaborate technique where timing is key, between the frozen cold to the fry’s 180℃. This is one of the most difficult techniques to achieve, while it is also the most digest.

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The art of producing miso paste, used to prepare miso soup,  is another fascinating tradition. Here is another complex know how that is as important in Japan as cheese or wine making in Europe. Each family, each producer has its own kôji or fungus, which is preciously kept over generations, and defines the character of their own unique miso paste.06_味噌.png

Soy beans are fermented in various ways to produce different types of miso.

The standards of freshness for fish and seafood is outstanding in Japan, and the technique to preserve that freshness by applying the ikejime method achieves a quality that is simply mind-blowing.

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And how about the dexterity and skills in cutting fish and seafood for sushi! This is an extraordinary art of its own that is also essential to deliver all the subtleness of authentic sushi. An accomplished sushi chef means years of practice to reach a point where the hands know exactly the right balance between proportion, size, shape, density,  and temperature.

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What I would like to emphasize on here is the fact that technique is dedicated to elevate food and cuisine, and not the other way around, which is an essential point to me.

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