This weekend I was invited by two other exchange students to join a Japanese cooking class. This class is organised once a month in Nara (Mochiidono-cho) by volunteers and targets tourists and foreigners living in Japan.
Arriving at the cooking class, I recognised the “hippie” – that’s what he likes to call himself, still daydreaming about his travels around Europe during his youth years – that I met behind Nara Station. At the time, he tried to convince me on going to the exact same cooking class, but I totally forgot about it. But because of that fateful invitation by two other students, I ended up going to the washoku (Japanese meals) class anyway and soon I was wearing Crocs, a bandana and an apron, which made me look like a member of the team of kind cafetaria ladies at Nara Women’s University.
Before showing our own cooking skills, we were instructed on how to make different kinds of sushi: temari sushi (sushi balls), maki (sushi rolls) and chirashi sushi (decorative rice). Very handy was the mirror that allowed us to see the cook’s actions from above.
Sadly, I must admit that I am not that great a cook, as I already mentioned in an earlier blog, and was clearly the slowest and clumsiest of all. Though not very hungry (the delicious Indian lunch I ate prior to this cooking class was to blame), I ended up making gigantic sushi balls. I also managed to put too much rice in my roll, and as a result I had to wrap it in a second nori sheet, which made it a bit difficult to chew afterwards. But I was quite proud of my salmon rose on top of the chirashi sushi – pity you can’t see it that well on the picture.
But no, that was not all we had for dinner! The volunteers also made us some delicious soba noodles (buckwheat noodles) and we got to eat dessert with strawberries (we could choose from different kinds of Japanese sweets). Nara’s strawberries, grown in Asuka, are very expensive – as in the rest of Japan -, but are very sweet and tasty! If you ever visit Nara Prefecture, you should definitely try some of these strawberries!
And of course, this cooking class is an excellent opportunity to get to know local people. All of the volunteers are extremely kind, and very funny at times, and although most can only speak a few words in English, tourists who don’t speak Japanese won’t enjoy this class any less. Furthermore, the cosmopolitan Japanese hippie can converse in English and even knows some words in Spanish.
If you want to experience Japan to the fullest, this cooking class is an excellent way to do just that. You get to cook and eat delicious food, have entertaining conversations involving tong twisters, and maybe make some new, international friends.