Japan House partnered with online community Tastemade to deliver two hands-on food workshops in its 2F sub-gallery space. Led by the instructions of Atsushi Kenjo, executive chef at M-Café, participants made their own delicious bentos.
Chef Kenjo taught participants how to build a Japanese lunch box starting with inari sushi stuffed with kimpira gobo (braised burdock root), broccoli, and spicy tuna. He then moved on to rapini shiro-ae (mashed tofu), kabocha salad with edamame, and shio-koji (naturally-seasoned) miso salmon with ume (pickled plum) radish and yuzu lotus root. It was all participants could do to not eat their creations as they built them. The chef then demonstrated how to easily cut an apple and strawberry to create super kawaii rabbits and flowers.
But it wasn’t just about appearance and taste. Chef Kenjo explained how bamboo and ume have been used by the Japanese for centuries to keep ingredients fresh, and how shio-koji is a versatile seasoning that softens and brings out the umami in various dishes via a bacterial process. In fact, it’s used to make many common Japanese staples including miso, sake, vinegar, and mirin. Participants left the workshops with their handmade bentos and a good overview of how to recreate this nutritionally balanced and beautiful dish.
After the workshop, participants were treated to a sneak preview of “Satoyama: Evolving with the Forest,” on-view in the Japan House 2F gallery. They received a private tour of world-renowned chef Yoshihiro Narisawa’s practice of beneficial gastronomy directly from a Japan House curator. Participants were left feeling inspired by the stunning photographs by Brazilian photographer Sergio Coimbra, and the variety of interactive objects in the exhibition.
We hope they spread the art of the bento as a thoughtful gift for someone or indulge in the recipes again as a special treat for themselves.