[From March Issue 2014]
In December 2013, “washoku – traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese” was registered by UNESCO as one of the world’s intangible cultural heritages. It’s expected that washoku will now be attracting even more attention globally than ever before. The final selection of the “Washoku World Challenge 2013” competition was held on December 8. It’s the first Japanese cuisine competition involving foreign chefs. More than 100 dishes from 21 countries and regions around the world were entered.
The ten chefs that made it through the selection process pitted their skills against each other in the final. Scoring was carried out according to a wide range of criteria, including authenticity (how Japanese in style it was), theme, taste, originality, cooking skills and hygiene standards. The judges highly praised the dishes saying, “These are all great dishes. Though they’ve been altered to suit the tastes of each chef’s country, the principles of Japanese cuisine, such as stock preparation and beautiful presentation, have been respected.”
Chinese chef MAO Yuming says, “When I cook Japanese cuisine, I make a point of presenting the food carefully. I think of each dish as a painting that transmits a sense of the season.” Mao made salmon-and-potato steamed buns.
American Jeff RAMSEY, who made “ochazuke rolls,” says, “The appeal of Japanese food lies in satisfying the appetite using umami (savory flavors) and a restrained use of oil and salt. Japan’s food culture and history is so deep that it’s worth delving into.”
LI Kwok Wing, a chef who runs a sushi restaurant in Singapore, made the winning dish of “steamed chestnut and pumpkin.” It received high marks from the judges: “by emphasizing the pumpkin as the main ingredient, it expressed the delicacy of Japanese cuisine.” Li is originally from China and has specialized in Japanese cuisine for 40 years. “I’m bursting with happiness. Japanese cuisine has been my life itself. So it feels like this prize has been awarded to my entire life,” he said.
In addition to French cuisine, in Japan, it’s possible to eat delicious foods from many different countries. This is mainly because, beginning with the basics, Japanese chefs have studied the authentic cuisine of each country and disseminated this throughout Japan. The outstanding chefs selected for the final are expected to play an active role as “evangelists for washoku.”