Hideo Dekura demystifies Japanese ingredients

Hideo Dekura, Sydney's sushi master chef

Hideo Dekura, Sydney's sushi master chef

Having been a restaurant co-judge with Hideo Dekura, I’ve had the pleasure of dining with him many times. On each occasion, we would exchange banter about food and I never fail to learn something new about Japanese cuisine.

Encyclopedia of Japanese Cooking by Hideo Dekura

Encyclopedia of Japanese Cooking by Hideo Dekura

For example, did you know that Japanese sashimi knives are always bevelled on one side to ensure that when the fish is sliced, it releases the flesh without bruising it to give you that clean mouth feel? Freshness of the fish is not the only factor that affects the taste of the fish, how it’s cut, handled and presented has a huge effect on its eventual enjoyment and that’s the beauty of Japanese cuisine.

Being a great fan of Japanese cuisine, I am always curious to learn about the many facets of this exquisite cuisine from this sushi master chef who has called Sydney home. So when Hideo invited Chopinand and I to the launch of his latest book, Encyclopedia of Japanese Cooking, I was delighted. I’ve been hearing so much about this book that he had been researching and writing for two years and it is his biggest labour of love to date at 560 pages!

TV presented Maeve O'Meara introducing Hideo Dekura to the audience

TV presented Maeve O'Meara introducing Hideo Dekura to the audience

Born in Tokyo, Hideo’s earliest cooking lessons were learnt from his father who was a playwright and restaurateur. Apart from the principles of sushi and kappou-ryori food preparation, cooking and presentation, Hideo also mastered calligraphy and flower arranging, which gives his food a somewhat simple yet artistic slant.

The audience listening to Hideo-san whilst enjoying his food

The audience listening to Hideo-san whilst enjoying his food

His culinary passion led him to Europe where he studied classical French cuisine and later to England and the USA where he was able to combine his skills in Japanese and European cuisine by working as a cooking demonstrator in California.

Since moving to Sydney in 1974, he has been working as a Japanese chef, caterer, food consultant and cookbook author and has acquired a large body of knowledge, which he graciously shared through his cooking classes at various locations throughout the city, including the Sydney Seafood School at the Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont.

His latest book captures the breadth and depth of Japanese ingredients and presents their complexity in a user friendly A to Z Japanese food bible, complete with information on how to prepare, store and use hundreds of ingredients and many different utensils. You’ll learn the difference between the now well known konbu seaweed from the lesser known Koso red seaweed, the difference between ramen, udon, soba and somen and how to transform simple oysters with green tea miso sauce and liven up fish with umeboshi.

Hideo Dekura, demonstrating the finer points of making sushi

Hideo Dekura, demonstrating the finer points of making sushi

At the book launch, Hideo stressed the importance of mastering the basics and demonstrated the correct way to fillet a whole ocean trout with the flick of a sharp knife, like a samurai warrior. Within seconds, the fish is dissected with surgical precision and the super fresh sashimi grade trout slides away from the bones easily.

Prawn and salmon sushi with grilled squid

Prawn and salmon sushi with grilled squid

Hideo explains the trout is cut against the grain for sashimi for a firmer texture but along the grain for sushi for a smoother texture. He then scoops a small handful of vinegar sushi rice, smears a small dollop of wasabi, places the sliced trout and arcs two fingers over the fish to gently press it over the rice.

Prawn and salmon sushi with grilled squid

Prawn and salmon sushi with grilled squid

He stresses the need to be gentle and be respectful of the food so as to produce the best flavour.

Prawn and salmon sushi with grilled squid

Prawn and salmon sushi with grilled squid

Next, he shells a simple fresh prawn by removing its head and innards and slitting down the centre of the prawn while leaving the tail on. Then, he butterflies the prawn and places it on top of rice and wedges the head in the centre of the body and anoints it with a delicate slice of okra at the tip, transforming it yet into another work of art. A simple prawn now resembles a pretty butterfly, next to a cherry blossom carved out of radish.

Hideo’s food is not just about the traditional Japanese recipes as he demonstrates yet an interesting grilled squid with Japanese fried rice.

First, the squid is cleaned by pulling away the head and pulling back the skin with one hand and holding down the body with a clean cloth. Then, the cartilage is removed and the squid cleaned. He then runs the knife gently across the squid and scores the body with small horizontal stripes and stuffs it with the fried rice.

Once this is completed, the squid is brushed with a mixture of ginger, soy and mirin and grilled over high heat for 5 minutes till it’s slightly charred. The result is a slightly smoky yet tender squid, hiding a surprise parcel of unctuous fried rice – delicious!

Hideo Dekura, at his book launch and signing

Hideo Dekura, at his book launch and signing

Hideo’s latest book is a lifelong companion for any serious Japanese food lover, keen to learn about the myriad of Japanese ingredients. Discover these and more recipes in Hideo’s Encyclopedia of Japanese Cuisine and uncover the wonderful world of Japanese ingredients.

Encyclopedia of Japanese Cooking by Hideo Dekura

Encyclopedia of Japanese Cooking by Hideo Dekura

Available through New Holland Publishers at $49.95.

ChopinandMysaucepan received a complimentary copy of Encyclopedia of Japanese Cooking by Hideo Dekura and attended this launch event courtesy of Sydney Seafood School.

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28 Responses to Hideo Dekura demystifies Japanese ingredients

  1. sugarpuffi says:

    mmm…mushrooms and salmon…two of my loved things

  2. I was just looking at this in Dymocks the other day :) one for the Christmas wishlist I think

  3. Raymund says:

    With my addiction with Japanese food I should have a copy of this, better check it at Whitcoulls tomorrow

  4. This is so fascinating! Japanese cooking is really a kind of art, no wonder that professional cooks learn so many years before they’re ready to go!

  5. Winston says:

    Omg… What a GREAT event to attend! Glad you guys got to go and then able to share this experience with us. I’ll definitely be looking out for his cookbook next time I’m at the bookstore. Very intrigued by his craft and ideology towards food…. Fascinating character =)

  6. I must look for this book at the Japanese bookstore here. :)

  7. Sissi says:

    I almost feel as if you have posted it especially for me! I am on constant search of new sources of Japanese recipes, techniques and cooking tips. It sounds like THE book I must put on my Christmas wishlist!
    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I would love to have a look at least on one of the fish preparations. If Hideo Dekura saw me preparing horse mackerel for salt-grilling or for deep-frying he would have a heart attack 😉
    Thank you for the wonderful present advice.

  8. I”ll be looking out for this book…
    Nami’s blog inspire me to cook japanese cuisine… This books sounds good and complete…
    Thanks for sharing…

  9. Oh my gosh! What a privilege! I love Japanese food but know so little about it… This book looks like something I should get! Thanks for the heads up :-)

  10. Shu Han says:

    wow you’re so lucky! i like sashimi but it’s something i never dare try because i know i’m just not good enough ahahaha. sushi making is such a beautiful, precise art!

  11. JasmyneTea says:

    Great post! While I appreciate the technique and effort that goes into sushi and sashimi, I just can’t prepare fish like that – the smell of raw fish kills me!

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi JasmyneTea

      If the fish or seafood is very fresh as it must be for sushi and sashimi, there is practically no “fishy” smell.

  12. tigerfish says:

    This book sounds like a really good read :) ….

  13. Ann says:

    What an amazing opportunity! I had no idea that how you sliced the fish made a difference in the taste – however, when you slice meats against or with the bias, it makes all the difference in the world! I don’t know why I never thought of that!

    What a terrific book and it looks like you had a great time! Your coverage of this was superb – I felt as if I was right in the room with you!

  14. Hannah says:

    More Japanese! More delicious, delicious Japanese! Although I keep getting distracted by the – are they? – sparkles on Maeve’s shirt….

  15. There is so much to learn about Japanese cuisine! I’ve always wanted to know how to slice sashimi properly!

  16. Carolyn Jung says:

    More than almost any other, Japanese cuisine is so all about technique and precision. I remember going to a conference in Napa, where some Japanese chefs toted their own water from Japan to make their dashi, because they didn’t think they could find the same quality in California. Now, that’s perfectionism.

  17. An amazing opportunity. I’ve got to surround myself with Japanese cuisine. It’s been a while since I’ve tried a sushi! Shocker, I know 😀

  18. Japanese food has always seemed a bit of a mystery. It tastes wonderfully fresh but balancing all those flavours takes experience. I have ordered Hideo Dekura’s book which is published here in the UK imminently. GG

  19. Juliana says:

    What an interesting event…love the details in Japanese cuisine :-)
    Hope you are having a wonderful week!

  20. sophia says:

    I wish he was a professor at my college. How cool would that be? All the facts you listed was fascinating…and I’ll actually be USING it! How about that! Haaha

  21. That’s so fascinating. There’s so much art and technique involved in Japanese cooking, it takes years and years to master them. I bet this book is full of interesting and eye-opening facts about Jap cooking, and it sure is a massive book! I really have to look it up at the bookstore one day. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Looks so elegant and dainty, perfect for a dinner party!

  23. Thank you for introducing this book. I’m very interested and I’m buying this next March! There are probably a lot of books written in Japanese but I don’t t there are not too many books in English. This will be helpful and great reference for my blogging! 😉 His Ikameshi (squid rice) sounds good according to your description!! I haven’t had that for a long time. Like Sophia said, I’d like to take a lesson from him…

  24. I love Japanese food, it’s such an intricate art. This book sounds really informative!

  25. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I’ve definitely just found my christmas present for this year! It’ll be my new bible. I will carry it everywhere and treat it with care. What a great looking book!

  26. How exciting to follow such a great chefs journey through such a great book. All of his hard won knowledge passed along through the pages. Wonderful!

  27. Hello, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam feedback?
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