BLOGJapanese food column2018.12.03

Appreciate Washoku (Japanese cuisine) essence with your five senses Part 1

ByYoshihiro Murata

Recall the dishes you ate and the seasons when you had them by fragrances

In the previous feature, I briefly talked about surprises that I got from the fragrances and textures of the dishes. In this feature, I would like to talk in more depth about fragrances and textures of dishes.
First of all, fragrances are essential element in Washoku. When we have a dish, the first thing that kept in our mind is its fragrance. For example, you feel like eating Barazushi (a kind of sushi with a lot of vegetables mixed in) that your grandmother made. Your mother used her recipe and made it with the same ingredients. However, the Barazushi your mother made was almost the same as your grandmother's one but something was different. That is the fragrance of your grandmother's house that have been kept in your mind. You remember the fragrance of the sushi right after it was served in front of you as well as the sounds and fragrances when she made Barazushi in her kitchen, such as her footsteps, voices, and vinegar, and her smiles. The point is that the integration of three senses: sight, hearing, and smell remains in your mind but taste hardly does. Among these three senses, smell is the most important. You will instantly sense the fragrances wafting from the house, kitchen, and vinegar-marinated rice. These fragrances will be a key to recall your memories of the sushi.


Fragrances are often connected with seasons too. Don't you feel more like autumn when you smell sweet olive? You can feel seasons according to the fragrance, such as the leaf of sakura mochi (sweet sticky rice wrapped with a cherry blossom leaf), broth, matsutake mushroom, and when grilling mochi (sticky rice). Don't you think a specific fragrance will be linked to the season? Therefore, when I cook and serve dishes, I cherish to make my guests enjoy their fragrances such as when opening the lid of a bowl, and yozu (citrus fruit) skin and shansho pepper placed on the side of grilled food.

Crunchy texture will make Kyuri Momi (salt-massaged cucumber) premium.

The same applies to textures. For example, think of Kyuri Momi. Massage cucumber slices with salt, squeeze them, and add a hint of ginger juice. You will say, "Very yummy." after having crunchy Kyuri Mori. However, if it doesn't have a crunchy texture, you don't taste it such delicious, because a cucumber itself has a grassy and light flavor and almost zero calories. (Laugh)
A combination of refreshing fragrance of the cucumber and the ginger and crunchy texture of the cucumber will make the dish delicious. Human beings are the only living creatures who can appreciate food like this and Japanese people are the only people who appreciate deliciousness of Kyuri Momi.
Fragrances and textures are the first element of dishes and tableware and arrangements are the next. Adding various elements to them will bring you a surprise.

Magical power of dishes that take you to go beyond time, space, and distance.


The other day, I served grilled chestnut to a 70-year-old male guest. It was a very simple dish, just like a grilled chestnut was rolling over the plate. However, he was very pleased with its pleasant fragrance and round shape.
He wasn't just impressed not on sweet flavor when he ate the chestnut. He nostalgically talked about the memory of his childhood, "Well, when I was a child, I often went hunting chestnuts and grilled them over a bonfire". "I usually did with my grandfather. It was so much fun. The chestnuts I hunted at that time was not big like this. They were small, stiff, and not sweet. However, they became delicious after grilling them over the bonfire." I thought a man of his age could be a grandfather too. He felt like he was a seven-year-old child again at that moment.

Isn't it wonderful that you can travel back to decades ago with a single dish? Fresh, plump red snapper can remind you of your summer memories. You will recall that you had the red snapper at a seaside restaurant when your family visited the ocean in summer decades ago. Dishes have a special power that can easily take you to go beyond time, space, and distance.
Everyone was surprised when they could recall forgotten memories. I believe that my creativity will be inspired by their surprises. A surprise derives from single dish. This surprise can also give me wings so that I can explore new ideas. Fragrances and textures of dishes are key elements to bring back those memories.

In the next feature, Appreciate Washoku (Japanese cuisine) essence with your five senses Part 2, I'm going to talk about the space when having Washoku.



■ Kikunoi (main restaurant)

459 Shimokawara-cho, Yasakatoriimae-sagaru,
Shimokawara-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Yoshihiro Murata

Awarded with "Gendai no Meiko" ("Contemporary Master Craftsman") and "Kyoto-fu Sangyo Korosha" ("Kyoto Prefecture Industry Distinguished Service") in 2012, "Kyoto-fu Bunka Korosho" ("Kyoto Prefecture Culture Distinguished Service Award") in 2013, and with "Chiiki Bunka Korosha" ("Regional Person of Cultural Merit ") in 2014.

Editors' Choice

Editors' Choice

At ryotei, it is possible to experience the aesthetic beauty of “quiet” with the five senses in each space, including the decorations in both tatami-mat rooms and floored rooms, the garden scenery, the movements of the hostess and waitresses, and the colors of seasonal moods. With regard to “cuisine,” it is possible to experience the aesthetic beauty of “movement” as you watch the food preparation and presentation process before your eyes while you sit at the counter, observing the actions of the head chef and his first and second assistants. In this segment, we introduce ryotei and cuisine selected from among restaurants that Kyoto CHISHIN editing staff have actually visited and where we can guarantee you will be able to “experience the beauty aesthetic of quiet and movement.”