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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

London's Best Cookery Schools - Hashi Cooking


  
I first met Reiko Hashimoto for her Sushi & Sashimi Class in May 07. Since that first fateful encounter, I have attended most of Reiko’s classes, met the most delightful people and learnt a great deal about Japanese cuisine and culture.


All classes are held at Reiko’s beautiful home in Wimbledon Park for a small number of people. Sitting by her spacious kitchen island with other Japanese food aficionados, Reiko demonstrates in great detail all dishes to be cooked on the day.  The informal and friendly setting, coupled with Reiko’s contagious enthusiasm, gets everyone talking and asking questions, more like a “cooking party” at a friend’s house.


Ingredients are already prepared, and no time is taken washing or chopping them. Involvement is highly encouraged, but attention is focussed mostly on learning the various techniques, like the different ways of rolling sushi, preparing Japanese omelette (tamago), or assembling and frying tempura. 


In addition to the Sushi & Sashimi Class on Saturdays, Reiko also runs 4-session evening courses. These are designed for students who would like to learn about Japanese food in greater depth and are held at all levels – from Beginners, Home Cooking and Gourmet, to Master Chef.

Classes are not necessarily taken in this order – starting at the Gourmet level, I then took the Home Cooking and Master Chef courses - all very different in nature but equally enjoyable. At the end of the four courses, participants will have learnt how to prepare more than 60 delicious Japanese dishes which can easily be recreated in their own kitchen. All classes’ menus can be found at Hashi Cooking’s website.


I recently returned to Hashi Cooking and was lucky enough to take part in the last session of this season’s Gourmet Course. As usual I was welcomed by an eclectic group of students – the gorgeous Bann (a dentist of Iraqi descent), Amy (a charming Malaysian architect), Alex (the Law student), who at 21, was given Reiko’s course as a gift and was thoroughly enjoying himself, and Arly, a Norwegian fellow who lived in Japan for years and can speak fluent Japanese.

We started the evening with a demonstration of one of my favourite dishes “Cha Soba – Green Tea Flavoured Noodles with Squid and Spicy Yakumi Sauce”.  The Yakumi Sauce had just right amount of spiciness and the combination of squid, minced pork, coriander and the green tea noodles was delicious.


 
The “Tofu Steak with Japanese Mushrooms in Soy Butter Sauce” is, in my opinion, an excellent introduction to Tofu: a wonderful Japanese ingredient, sadly unloved by the Western palate. Reiko’s recipe uses buttered Japanese mushrooms, like shiitake, shimeji and enoki, and crisply fried tofu steaks to convert even the most sceptical of foodies.



 
An interesting addition to this season’s menu was “Roasted Butterflied Chicken Marinated with White Miso & Ginger Paste” – the meat soaked up the sweet white miso and ginger paste beautifully as it roasted, also helping to keep the meat moist and tender. 

 

 
The star of the evening however was Reiko’s signature dish – “Grilled Scallops on Sushi Rice with Creamy Spicy Sauce”. I have made this dish many times at home whenever I am cooking Japanese food for friends - it is one of the best dishes of all her courses. The flying fish roe, seaweed, scallops in sushi rice topped with the creamy, spicy sauce combine very well together. A real winner.

 

Being half-Japanese, I always felt I knew the food of my ancestors – Reiko made me re-consider this while helping me to replicate some of the flavours of my childhood I had long lost.

I have great respect for what Reiko has achieved over the years, which is to de-mystify what to so many people wrongly seems an overly sophisticated and expensive cuisine based solely on raw fish, while making real Japanese cuisine available to thousands of people in the UK.


I would highly recommend Hashi Cooking to anyone wanting to learn more about Japanese food and culture, meet some fascinating people on the way and eat the most scrumptious food!

8 comments:

  1. Thank you, I've enjoyed reading about the courses and am definitely tempted! Lovely write-up!

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  2. Wonderful looking food - I'd love to try those scallops.

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  3. @ Kavey - thanks for your lovely comment, if you are a lover of Japanese food, I would highly recommend Reiko's classes. I have been to other Japanese cookery schools but Reiko is definitely the best in terms of quality, value and fun.

    @ Mr Noodles - hi mate, nice to see you back here - you should definitely try those scallops, they are my favourite!

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  4. The grilled scallops must be just so delicious!! If I live in London, I would definitely sign up for Reiko's classes. Looks like all of you in the class had a really great time too!

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  5. i would love to take this class! i think another (ex)blogger, world foodie guide, took Reiko's class too, and i was thinking, oh how i wish i could attend that class, too. are they very dear? hope youre cooking her stuff at home, what a pleasure to have been able to take a class with her. sigh. i wish i could, too. x shayma

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  6. @ Petite Nyonya - the scallops are Reiko's signature dish, it is fantastic and make them frequently at home whenever I have friends over for dinner. Maybe next time you are in London you should pop in for a Japanese meal at my place?!

    @ Shayma - hope you are over your jetlag! The classes are not too expensive - I think they cost about £240/£260 for 4 sessions but you spend the whole evening cooking with her and eat all 4 or 5 courses. Considering that this is what you would nearly pay for a similar mel at a Japanese restaurant, I think Reiko's classes are really good value for money (as you get to learn, cook and eat). I highly recommend Reiko's class.

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