The Washoku dinner, hosted by the Embassy of Japan as part of the Japan UK Season of Culture 2019-20, was a great success.
Wolfson College was honoured to welcome the Embassy of Japan to host a Washoku dinner on 2 February 2019. The dinner presented Japanese food in it's social and historical context, with a particular focus on how umami flavours came to be in the so integral to Japanese cooking.
The 'fifth taste'
Chef Daisuke Hayashi of the restaurant Tokimeite in London, worked in collaboration with Tony Baughan, Head Chef of Wolfson College, to create a menu that showcased Japanese ingredients. The evening began with Chef Hayashi introducing some of the key concepts of Japanese cooking: the science of combining ingredients such as kombu seaweed and bonito flakes, to amplify the effect of the so-called 'fifth taste' umami. He also discussed the importance of water in creating the perfect dashi, a class of soup and cooking stock, which is the cornerstone of much Japanese cooking.
On the menu
The meal began with a clear soup of Red Mullet and Arrowroot, based on the dashi that Chef Hayashi elaborated on in his opening talk. For vegetarians, there was the option of turnip and yuba tofu soup, flavoured with soy, citrus, ginger and oyster mushrooms. The appetiser was followed by a torched tuna, which was served with whipped wasabi tofu and lotus root chips, a dish created by Chef Baughan on the brief of incorporating Japanese ingredients and not using butter, cream or oils. A cheese, avocado and macadamia nut salad was created for the vegetarian menu. The meat course consisted of revered wagyu beef, which was served on a dashi enriched potato purée, alongside Japanese vegetables such as burdock. The wagyu's distinctive aroma filled the Hall of Wolfson College, and guests were highly complementary of the melt-in-the-mouth quality of the beef. The meat-free course was of a red miso marinated tofu steak also with potato purée and sansho pepper, accompanied by wild vegetable sushi wrapped in a magnolia leaf parcel and steamed. To finish, a dairy-free and oil-free panna cotta of matcha tea and yuzu was served, another dish by Chef Tony. Each dish was paired with sake, a Japanese rice wine, the joys of which were introduced by Ms Rie Yshitake of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association.
Informative and delicious
The evening was as informative as it was delicious, and guests left with a rediscovered enthusiasm for Japanese foods and drinks, and a deeper understanding of the social context from where they come. Sir Tim, also present at the event, commented: "The evening was a triumph. Our Chef Tony Baughan and Hayashi san from one of London's top Japanese restaurants partnered up to produce a meal which was well-balanced, unforgettable, and a perfect introduction to Japan's unique cuisine. And the food was complemented by a suite of sake varieties, each appropriate to the dishes. I was delighted that I was able to help bring a taste of Japan to Oxford, and very pleased that a number of Wolfson students and Fellows were able to join us."
The Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-20
The Japan-UK Season of Culture unfolds in 2019 and 2020, when Japan hosts two sporting landmarks: The Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. The Japan Season of Culture in the UK showcases Japan's multi-faceted appeal, from its culture and art to innovation and cutting-edge technology in areas such as medicine, science, and business. For more information about the events taking place, please visit the official website.