9 February 2024
Recipe for Success: Hasegawa Akari's Secret to Delicious Meals
Hasegawa Akari, a home cooking expert, is currently the talk of Japanese social media. Her fresh take on Japanese home cooking, appealing to a wide audience, has earned her over 300,000 followers on X. She's pioneering a new wave in traditional Japanese kitchens with her wide variety of dishes that are tasty, stylish and not tiring to make.
In the first part of our interview, we explored her path to becoming a home cooking expert and her rise to popularity. This second part focuses on her recipe ideas, ingredients, and her culinary experiences during visits to America.
Writer and Editor of MUSUBI KILN.
He studied classical Japanese literature at university, and practiced the art of Noh drama. His interests are East Asian art and literature.
- Where Do Her Recipe Ideas Come From?
- The Excitement of Ingredient Combinations
- Cooking in America
Where Do Her Recipe Ideas Come From?
Hasegawa is actively engaged in sharing recipes on social media, publishing books, making TV appearances, and collaborating with others. Her books include Kutakuta na Kokoro to Karada wo Oishiku Mitasu Itawari Gohan "Comforting Meals for a Weary Heart and Body" (KADOKAWA), Tsukuritakunaru Hibi Recipe "Everyday Recipes You'll Want to Make" (Fusosha Publishing), and Zairyou Futatsu to Sukoshi no Choumiryou de Isshou Mono no Simple Recipe "Lifetime Simple Recipes with Just Two Ingredients and a Little Seasoning" (Asuka Shinsha), with her fourth book, Itawari Gohan 2 Konya mo Tabetai Otsukaresama Recipe-cho "Comforting Meals 2: Tired Night Recipes You'll Want Tonight," scheduled for release in March this year.
Her recipes, blending a Japanese base with a cosmopolitan flair and simplicity, have captured the hearts of many, including myself. When asked about her secret, she replied, "When you're too tired, it's hard to know what you want to eat. I find that recipes that don't strictly adhere to either Japanese or Western cuisine, and instead fall somewhere in between, suit the mood and preferences of people who have to cook after a long day."
However, she believes the recipes need a touch of glamour.
"While glamorous dishes are often appealing, finding a balance with everyday taste is key. I find incorporating Japanese elements often works well for achieving this balance."
The Excitement of Ingredient Combinations
Hasegawa, known for visiting famous restaurants in Japan, draws inspiration from ingredient combinations.
"At high-end sushi places, you find kobujime, raw fish sandwiched between kelp, or sushi with spices like sansho or matcha salt. I look for flavors that add depth, making the taste multidimensional much like the finishing aromatic spray in French cuisine. This final touch can transform the flavor, making you feel like a culinary genius."
Her recipes often include a final squeeze of lemon or a dash of yuzu pepper for flavor. This extra step makes her dishes more interesting – effortless but not simple.
Cooking in America
Lastly, Hasegawa shared her culinary experiences during her three visits to America. The first was in 2017 when she accompanied her husband to Seattle on his study abroad. Living in a house owned by a Japanese person, she found most necessary ingredients and Japanese seasonings at local Asian supermarkets, except for meat.
"The meat wasn't thinly sliced, and chicken breast came in large quantities. But surprisingly, cooking in that environment was comforting. When choices are limited, you get creative, and I found joy in that, cooking three meals a day."
Furthermore, she mentions that encountering herbs during that time significantly influenced her current cooking style. "The landlord had a garden with herbs I could freely pick. I started incorporating these herbs into the Japanese dishes I usually made. For example, simply adding herbs to my usual stewed dishes made them taste incredibly delicious. Those experiences might have blurred the lines between Japanese and Western cuisine for me."
"In America, I practiced using simple seasonings in small amounts. The recipes I post on X are often commented on as 'doable overseas,' likely because of this approach. The ingenuity of this approach was developed during my stay in Seattle, trying to make do with a limited number of seasonings. I brought kelp from Japan and used soy sauce, but if I used too much, I would quickly run out. So, I mainly used salt for seasoning. Dishes like salt-flavored Japanese pot-au-feu were something I came up with while living in America. I used seaweed, kelp, and other dried ingredients, trying to make do with what was available locally.
During her visits to LA and Seattle in 2023, she enjoyed the vegetable displays in supermarkets and cooked mainly with salt she brought from Japan.
"In cities like LA and Seattle, I found few establishments serving everyday Japanese home cooking. There are expensive Japanese restaurants, but I always think there should be more casual options for enjoying Japanese cuisine that tastes similar to home cooking."
Hasegawa, determined to spread Japanese home cooking worldwide, believes in the importance of cooking "healthy, ingredient-focused, and comforting" meals for oneself and loved ones, guiding a broader community towards improved health. This conviction is not just confined to Japan but is spreading globally, as I firmly realized during our conversation.View Part 1