I had a rather busy weekend. On Saturday there was my soroban class (I learned division), and on Sunday I took my first Japanese cooking lesson.

We were about 25 people, both Japanese and foreigners, and we made a variety of Japanese dishes: Chestnut rice, clear soup with mushrooms and tofu, grated radish with cucumber and chrysanthemums, a stir fry with Okinawan bitter gourd and bean curd, yakitori – skewered chicken – as main dish, and the almost obligatory anko rice balls as dessert.

The class lasted three hours and started off with a short introduction by the teacher, an old lady who had lived in many places in Japan, including Okinawa. In the quickest Japanese I have ever heard, she explained how each dish was to be made, and then we were sent off to three tables and were left on our own. English recipes had been provided though, and the groups were mixed so there were always Japanese people to help.

I chose to prepare the dish from Okinawa (I had eaten it in a restaurant a long time ago) which consisted only of bitter gourd goya, pre-fried tofu, miso paste and sugar, fried in a pan. I was in the team with a Japanese man and as we both did not seem to be the chatty type – although he was very friendly – our dish was the first one ready. I then had time to help with other dishes, clean a little, and take photos. final meal prepared in class

When everything was ready, we set the table for everyone – in a cleary prescribed way of course: rice and soup at the bottom, just above the chopsticks, the meat in the centre, the two side dishes to the top left and right of the meat, and the dessert yet a bit further on top. With an additional cup of green tea we were ready to eat – and it was delicious! (Note: In the photo above, there is no desert because we only prepared eight, but the teacher was invited to our table… as I’m not a fan of anko, I gave my desert to her – and was rewarded with my own green tea pudding a bit later on ;-))

I greatly enjoyed the class, I am planning to go there again. Almost everybody spoke both English and Japanese, and the atmosphere was nice and relaxed. The only thing that is not optimal is the limited space for cooking, and that it is difficult to keep dishes that are finished warm until it is time to eat. But then again, my own dish was supposed to be eaten cold anyway, who’d have thought…