29 June 2023
Culinary Corners: Tokyo's Undiscovered Passion for Stew
For the experienced home chefs, the time spent at home these past years has been an opportunity to reignite their love for cooking. And for newcomers, it has been a time to discover the fun of cooking. Whether you are a seasoned home cook or a motivated beginner, if you find yourself among those who are in search of new menus that are hearty and nutritious, you're in for a treat!
Get ready to meet "Nikomi-st" Dai-chan, the extraordinary culinary artist of scrumptiously satisfying Japanese "Nikomi," the Japanese term for slow-cooked stewed dishes. Nestled in his cozy kitchen surrounded by his favorite ingredients, seasonings and pots and pans, Dai-chan finds joy in creating delightful stewed dishes.
Up close and personal, we got the chance to learn about his tale filled with fascinating meetings, fortuitous coincidences, self-realization and just plain merriment. Join us as we visit his kitchen and learn about the delightful world of Dai-chan, where stew pots bubble, taste buds rejoice, and smiles fill the kitchen.
Editor and Writer of MUSUBI KILN
Loves cooking and handpicking the perfect plates for her dishes.
Proud parent of two Brussels Griffons.
- On with the Cooking!
- Photo to Food
- A Recipe for Connection
- On a Plate of Nostalgia
- Joining the Nikomi Extravaganza
On with the Cooking!
Dai-chan kindly welcomed us into his home. His kitchen was a cozy culinary wonderland, full of various seasonings and spices, an array of cooking tools, dishes, and all sorts of other trinkets. Today, Dai-chan was making his signature Soy Sauce and Butter Chicken Stew. Already dressed in his specially designed personalized apron, he was all set to go.
He started with preparing the chicken. He poked a chicken thigh with a fork to let the flavors sink into the meat and then cut it into 4 small pieces. Then he cut eggplants into large bite-size pieces and laid out the shimeji mushrooms. You can substitute with other mushrooms if shimeji mushrooms are not available. He got out his beloved cast iron pot and put it on a medium flame.
He first heated some butter, olive oil, garlic and a dash of pepper in the pot. Then, he added the chicken and cooked it until lightly brown. Next came the cut eggplants and the shimeji mushrooms. It's best not to overcook the vegetables before adding the seasoning. After mixing, he added water, soy sauce, mirin, and a bit of vinegar.
Today, he also decided to add some ginger. He then placed the lid and let it cook until steam came out from the lid. The heat was next set to a slightly lower flame and the rest was left for the pot to do. A 20-minute wait!
While the pot was doing its job, we sat down with Dai-chan to ask him about how he became a stew specialist and about his passion for stewed dishes.
Photo to Food
His adventure began with a simple click, capturing the colorful beauty of vegetables in all their photogenic glory.
"About 10 years ago, I took up photography as a hobby. At the time I mainly shot photos of people and was actually quite good at it. I really enjoyed photography, but eventually I decided to shoot subjects other than people. Then, one day when I was visiting a farmer's market, I just happened to find some beautifully colored vegetables."
"The colors were so beautiful, I took them home and took photos of them. Then, I made a simple dish with those veggies. And that's when I stepped foot into the creative world of cooking. That was the first dish I had made. Oddly enough, it was not a stewed dish."
According to Dai-chan, up till then he had never cooked before. But once he started, he found joy in seeing people enjoy his dishes. So he began learning about food presentation. He attended various cooking classes to learn different cooking techniques from other countries. And it was at one of these cooking classes that he met his cooking mate, the enameled cast iron pot. This chance meeting was what propelled him to dive into the world of stewing.
A Recipe for Connection
With every stir and sizzle, Dai-chan finds pure joy in discovering new flavors and fresh combinations with his pots.
"The best thing about stewed dishes is that the possibilities are infinite. The variety of combinations, limitless. You can adjust the amount of ingredients you want to add, the amount of liquid you prefer. You can experiment with different kinds of soy sauces, salts, and oils. Each stewed dish will have its own individuality. Next time you come, I can make something using a different kind of soy sauce. Or maybe something with miso."
As the conversation deepened, we discovered that his love for cooking went beyond just the love of creating delicious stewed dishes. For Dai-chan, the food he cooks is a tool of communication as his start came from conversations he had with one of the farmers at the market regarding the dishes he had made. He was highly encouraged by him to seriously consider pursuing a path in cooking.
"I believe that it's important to convey my thoughts and feelings through the dishes I prepare. I hope that my dishes will make people happy, bring them together, spark conversations, and forge bonds."
He discovered his true calling through his flavorful creations. Dai-chan hopes to inspire others to savor life, embrace the joy of good food, and live each day with a satisfied smile.
On a Plate of Nostalgia
As we heard the gentle simmering from the pot, we showed Dai-chan some plates we had brought along to plate his stewed dish.
We lined about 5 to 6 different types of bowls, some of which were Usuki ware from Kyushu. And to our surprise, it turned out that Dai-chan's hometown was Usuki City! He immediately spoke about the nostalgia he felt as he held the white matte Usuki ware bowl in his hands.
"There's something about this bowl that reminds me of my hometown. The matte white hue is the color of the walls of old Japanese style houses in Usuki, and the floral shape reminiscent of lotus flowers commonly seen in Usuki."
Thus, the plate of choice was decided.
Joining the Nikomi Extravaganza
A fragrant steam rising from the pot heralded the completion of his Soy Sauce and Butter Chicken Stew. He opened the sturdy lid of the pot and the aromatic scent of chicken and rich butter with a hint of soy filled the room. He neatly set the stew in the Usuki ware bowl and his masterpiece was complete!
I had the honor and privilege of getting to taste his freshly prepared stew. The chicken was tender, the eggplant so juicy, all the ingredients were filled with rich flavors from the butter and soy sauce. I enjoyed Dai-chan's stew until the very last drop of the flavorful broth.
Dai-chan's dish was a blend of flavors, heartwarming connections and joy. He has cooked his way into the hearts of many food lovers. So, grab a spoon, let out a hearty chuckle, and join Dai-chan in his quirky and merry world of stewed dishes. Share laughter, and savor the magic that happens when passion meets a bubbling pot of stew!