My absolute favorite Tokyo adventure was taking a cooking class from a native named Mari in her actual home. We booked her for the whole day and spent the morning at Kappabashi street, which is known as a cook’s and restaurant-supply mecca. With her help we were able to make a few informed additions to our kitchen gear.
We weren’t in the market for any, but we couldn’t help checking out the plastic food. It’s a real art form in Japan, and these little plastic sculptures aren’t cheap. That plate of fried rice below is 4200 yen, which is about 42 dollars. For plastic food.
Mari learned to speak english from teaching her cooking classes to tourists, so her near-fluency is pretty impressive. Something I learned about myself in Japan is that I am incapable of noticing and eliminating idioms in my speech, but she wasn’t thrown. She was indispensable as a translator in the Japanese shops full of foreign words and tools.
After a few hours shopping, we went to her apartment to cook.
I had her teach me to make gyoza, karaage (Japanese fried chicken), teriyaki chicken, chahan (a Japanese interpretation of Chinese fried rice), sesame and spinach salad, and octopus with green onion and miso. She commented on the abundant meatiness of the menu, so I made it clear that I wouldn’t be eating these all at once on a normal day (we can be pretty carnivorous in the US, but come on). My point was to learn as many of the popular but frequently screwed-up-in-America main-dishes as possible.
So we chopped.
We got messy.
And I tried my hand at folding gyoza. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang. My folding was not so tidy though.
We crushed our own sesame seeds. In Japan I discovered my intense love of sesame. Finding new food loves is the best thing about traveling.
Mari is a competent enough cook that she doesn’t need a thermometer for deep frying. Legit.
And just before we passed out from hunger, we sat down and stuffed our faces with homemade Japanese food.
It was all delicious, obviously, and I was sent home with detailed recipes to cook from on my own. This day of cooking was the best money I spent the whole trip. And if you’re ever in Tokyo, you can meet the adorable Mari and take a cooking class too.