The secrets of kaiseki cuisine: an interview with Ichiro Kubota

03 May 2017 in Food Culture

Head chef at HOSHINOYA Kyoto, Ichiro Kubota has worked in France and London and is internationally known for his multi-course kaiseki cuisine. He opens up in our exclusive interview.

ichiro-kubota

What is Kyoto-style kaiseki?

It’s a melting pot of styles! Back in the 8th century, when Kyoto was the capital, Imperial emissaries brought new cooking techniques and ingredients from all over the world. And other parts of Japan regularly sent their local produce as gifts.

Japanese speciality

Sashimi in Japan

So, outside influences are a big part of Kyoto’s culinary heritage. Plus, our region has rich natural resources, including an incredible range of freshwater fish from Lake Biwa.

What is your signature dish?

My speciality is hassun, the assortment of appetizers that opens the kaiseki menu. For me, it’s an expression of each season. In spring, it evokes the bitterness of young buds.

Kaiseki hassum menu

EN bouton booking_eng_image size

In summer, it’s about coolness. Aroma is the focus in autumn. And in winter, I use evaporation to suggest warmness. So, soup isn’t served in a lacquer bowl, but in a stew pot simmered over heated charcoal.

As head chef of Umu in London, what was the key to successfully introducing kaiseki to the UK?

No-one in London knew about kaiseki, so just by creating a traditional menu, I was being innovative! But I did make some changes. For instance, kudzu starch is often used in Japanese cuisine, but it has a chewy, elastic quality that can be difficult for Westerners. So, I used tapioca powder, which looks the same but is bouncier. It works well in recipes like sesame tofu.

What did you learn from your time in France?

I went to France to learn about sauces! While I was there, I studied both the Mediterranean style, under Christophe Bacquié in Corsica, and the mainland style, under Georges Blanc in Bourg-en-Bresse.

Ichiro Kubota

Ultimately, what I learned is that local people know the best ways to cook local ingredients. That’s why I always ask my suppliers how they cook their produce. It’s best to get inspiration from experts.

OTHER EXPERIENCES

food-sake-pairing

The art of pairing by a Japanese sommelier

03 Nov 2017 in Food Culture

How can you pair wine and sake with Japanese food? Get insights from a professional sommelier! Read more

Séléction de légumes japonais

Japan: a producer of outstanding vegetables

21 Jun 2016 in Food Culture

Did you know that Japan produces fantastic vegetables? Discover the reasons and adopt the “Veggie Attitude” like the Japanese! Read more

rice-plant

Otaue Matsuri: the rice planting festival

23 Jun 2017 in Food Culture

With rice such an integral part of the Japanese diet, it’s no wonder rice planting is celebrated across the country. Discover the Otaue Matsuri festival experience! Read more

OTHER EXPERIENCES

food-sake-pairing

The art of pairing by a Japanese sommelier

03 Nov 2017 in Food Culture

How can you pair wine and sake with Japanese food? Get insights from a professional sommelier! Read more

japanese-traditionnal-breakfast-2

Ready for a Japanese breakfast?

08 Sep 2017 in Food Culture

Soup, rice and pickled vegetables first thing in the morning? Japanese breakfasts can be a cultural shock – but they’re among the healthiest in the world. Read more

amazake-drink

Have you heard of the alcohol-free sake with vitalizing virtues?

28 Sep 2016 in Food Culture

Discover Amazake, this Japanese alcohol-free sake with invigorating and vitalizing properties and dive into the mysteries of this surprising beverage! Read more

most popular articles