There’s something to be said about Japanese food. After all, there’s a reason why the Japanese people have the longest life expectancy in the world. The portions are small and delicate, and the cuisine is refined and elegant. Chef Raita Noda seems to be a direct manifestation of these Japanese attributes. He’s gentle and softly spoken – there’s no Gordon Ramsey rambunctiousness here. Perhaps best known for his eponymous restaurant in Surry Hills called Raita Noda, he is also one of several chefs who contribute to the Washoku Lovers project, an initiative aimed at promoting the Japanese food culture in Australia.
As the host of Washoku Lovers’ inaugural cooking class, it’s fascinating to watch Raita Noda demonstrate how to prepare his own version of traditional dishes. Sukiyaki is typically served in a hotpot but Chef Raita gives the dish a modern twist by creating a sukiyaki roll, wrapping rice with wagyu beef in a sushi mat, before searing the roll and serving it with tempura egg and a salad of julienned leek, shallots and tong ho (chrysanthemum leaves). There’s a level of meticulousness that you appreciate when you watch an accomplished chef cook – Raita Noda carefully rinses the rice twice and lightly massages it each time. The second dish is smoked marinated tuna accompanied with soy sauce and salad. Who knew you could smoke fish by pouring smoke into a glass then covering the fish?
Putting our newfound knowledge to the test, we try our hand at preparing the dishes ourselves inside the hands-on kitchen within Sydney Seafood School. My self-made dishes lack finesse but the wagyu beef is rich and succulent and the blue fin tuna sashimi is deliciously smoked. Washoku Lovers is onto a good thing – Japanese food is truly a celebration of the flavours, textures and colours of fresh produce.
To find out more information about Washoku Lovers, visit http://www.washokulovers.com/.