Chef Nariaki Higuchi has over 15 years of experience in Japanese bread making in Osaka.
Japanese cuisine has finally started to make its place in India now. More and more Japanese restaurants are opening up in metro cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai and there can’t be a better time for the cuisine to flourish. I mean people are making sushi rolls at home, did we imagine this 10-15 years back? But thanks to the onset of Japanese restaurants in the recent times, we were introduced to katsu curries, sushi rolls, fluffy Japanese cheesecakes and more. One such restaurant that has my heart in Delhi is Harajuku Tokyo Café. A cute little place in Saket’s Select Citywalk Mall that is a treat for anyone who loves Japanese food. It brings to life the vibrant culture of the streets of Tokyo to Delhi, in an ambience that resonates with Kawaii; the culture of cuteness in Japan.
But it isn’t just the ambience that has me visiting Harajuku every now and then. Their chilli oil noodles, the California salmon roll, katsu curry and an array of decadent breads and desserts are also very much responsible to make me abandon ghar ka khana so often. We caught up with Chef Nariaki Higuchi, Partner Chef at Harajuku, to understand his take on the cuisine and how it has been in India.
Chef Nariaki Higuchi has over 15 years of experience in Japanese bread making in Osaka. And after innovating a number of bread-making techniques, he is now working with Harajuku’s teams in Japan and India to bring new innovations in their menu.
1. What all differences have you found between the Japanese and Indian cuisine
A primary characteristic of Japanese cuisine is the preference for the raw taste of food without too many strongly flavoured sauces and minimum cooking time, whereas in Indian cuisine, there is a lot of roasting, use of various spices etc. Japanese breads are also made a little differently and are very light and fluffy.
2. Did you tweak some of the recipes to suit the taste buds in India?
I only tweaked the level of spiciness in some of the fillings used for the breads and curry, as Indians prefer a little more spice and flavour, otherwise all the recipes are very authentic Japanese.
3. What are some of the common ingredients that you think people love in both Japanese and Indian cuisines?
Rice and curry of course are the most common ingredients/food staples in both cuisines although the Japanese curry is milder than Indian curry and has a bit of western influence, is thickened with a little flour and is slightly sweeter. Japanese of course prefer sticky rice while Indians prefer basmati.
4. What is the one easiest and one toughest dish for you to make
Curry is the easiest and the toughest is Shokupan as it takes a lot of patience, skill and years of practice to perfect this bread.
5. List 5 ingredients that one must have at home at all times to cook Japanese
SOY SAUCE : Soy sauce is one of the most basic flavourings in Japanese cuisine.
RICE VINEGAR : Rice wine vinegar is used for seasoning rice.
6. Most difficult dish that you may have cooked in your 15-year long career?
There is actually nothing that I have found too difficult to cook in my career. Mastering the art of making really soft and pillowy Shokupan is a little difficult though.