by Veronica Chan
Last Friday night, I got the opportunity to attend a Japanese Spring Cooking class taught by my friend Hiroko Shimbo. Our mutual friend Matt introduced us, inviting us both for a night of tapas, which eventually led to lengthy discussions about Barcelona, debates about short grain vs. long grain rice, and ultimately an invitation for me to attend Hiroko’s class at the French Culinary Institute’s International Culinary Center.
Having left straight after work to attend Hiroko’s class, I joined the rest of the class, which had already started. I immediately recognized Hiroko’s signature bob and distinctively blunt bangs behind the prep table upon entering the kitchen. Hiroko teaches her classes using traditional Japanese methods and recipes while using local and seasonal ingredients. Donning blue aprons and chef hats, all the students gathered around the demonstration table as Hiroko led us through each recipe, explaining each ingredient and technique. We started with the basics, making kombu dashi (kelp stock), then advanced to more difficult dishes with tasks such as poaching fish and frying tempura. Charged with glutamate, which produces a deep Umami flavor, kombu dashi plays a central role in Japanese cuisine and was a key component in multiple dishes for our Japanese Spring dinner.