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I'm at the Japanese Ambassador's residence in London.
I'm about to prepare and cook a banquet for some of his guests.
I've got to get it right and yet I've had no experience of cooking Japanese food, apart from tempura.
So to say I'm apprehensive is a bit of an understatement.
It's a fine kettle of fish I've got myself into this time.
As a seafood cook, I'm constantly asked what I think of food in Japan.
To which I say, "I've never been." "Well, that's like teaching French without having been to France.
"You must go." So I'm here in Tokyo to find out the basics of Japanese cuisine.
This will, I hope, help me create a banquet fit for their ambassador in London
and all his sophisticated guests, where I hope nation shall speak food unto nation.
'The whole thing started with a day's mackerel fishing off Padstow.
'I was making sushi for a group of holidaymakers who'd never tried it.'
Agh! Damn thing!
'And I thought that no-one could get fresher mackerel than this.
'But when the Japanese Ambassador saw what I was doing on the television, he told my friend,
' "Rick Stein can grill a Dover sole, but he doesn't know much about sushi." '
So what do you think?
-I was just thinking that this is about 30 quid's worth of sushi here,
all from one mackerel.
Cost - 5p? You get it on the restaurant straightaway!
'That's how this banquet idea started. I met Ambassador Nogami and realised he was a true gourmet
'and suggested the idea of going to Japan and coming back and cooking dinner for him and his friends.'
Ambassador, what do you think I should be looking out for in Japanese cuisine?
I think if you could sort of grasp what lies behind Japanese food.
The, uh... Japanese food...
..is based on seasonality and we appreciate the quality of produce
and the freshness of our produce.
And also our food is always very much closely linked to the seasonal changes.
This idea of cooking the banquet - I know very little about Japanese cooking.
-Do you think I'm mad?
-No. Not at all. I don't think that the British audience
would like to see you cooking, you know, exactly like the Japanese do,
but the spirit of Japanese cooking.
'And so it was that I found myself in the world of Bill Murray in that lovely film, Lost In Translation.
'This is where ritual and custom and extreme politeness are the order of the day.'
Welcome to Japan and Tokyo and Royal Park Hotel.
'Right from the start, I had an inkling that I was being made a fuss of.
'I'm sure they think I'm terribly important, more than a TV cook from Cornwall.
'But what they don't know won't hurt me. I suppose there weren't any princes staying this week.'
'I've just thought of a Japanese saying - "The bigger the room,
' "the less likely you are to find all the light switches when you turn in.
' "And there's always one that you left on." '
Fantastic. Is that the bedroom?
Blimey. I didn't expect anything like this. Thank you. This is unbelievable!
Obviously the Ambassador's pulled a few strings!
Although it was late and wet, I was determined to explore the city.
A friend said, "Don't bother going to all the up-market restaurants."
And even the Ambassador said I should try the restaurants in the business quarter,
specialising in different dishes, like barbecued chicken intestines.
And this is deep-fried, breaded pork in a dipping sauce.
Even in the pouring rain, there's a great atmosphere around here.
Little groups of office workers having a few pints before the long train ride out to the suburbs.
This is nice, isn't it? Look at that Kobe beef there, all done in sort of shiny plastic.
It's a much better idea than just having pictures of the food. And there's some sashimi.
This is eminently collectable, this stuff. It's so bright and cheerful.
And there's some noodles with seafood. I've got to take these all back and start a collection.
I was looking out of my hotel room on the 18th floor earlier
and it just looked like big, high-rise office blocks and a massive city.
When I got down on the street, I realised that it's not like that at all.
There's little streets leading off everywhere. And I found this place. It's under a railway arch.
I can hear the trains above all the time. It's so funky. There's lots of people here in city suits.
So it's not down-market, but it just looks so informal.
And the food is excellent. And Japanese beer is a revelation.
I had a bit of a problem trying to come to an idea
of what I would choose to eat.
But I was just having a look at the menu and I saw a little pig, a little chicken and some kebabs.
So I just pointed to them and then I just said "pickles", cos I know you eat pickles with everything.
And it's a fantastic meal. I'm really enjoying it. It's very good quality. And I just love the buzz.
It's one of those places that reminds me of Spanish tapas bars.
You have a little plate of mussels and a glass of sherry and move on to the next little bar.
But I'm running out of time because soon the biggest fish market in the world, called Tsukiji, opens.
Business here means a turnover of 20 million dollars of fish every day.
It was here that I met up with Taka who became my indispensable guide.
First we're going to do the frozen tuna before the bidding starts.
You know that film, Alien? I always thought it had a bit of seafood imagery in it.
The bottom of the spaceship in that film with all the pods with the eggs in it and that fog hanging?
That's where they got it from!
It also looks like a World War Two aircraft hangar, full of bombs.
And these guys are so skilful with the axe.
They're chopping a bit out of the tail to tell the quality of the tuna.
Later, somebody will test the tuna to see how much fat is in the flesh
and how good the quality of the fat is.
So this is the fresh tuna room or hall, I suppose you could call it, just prior to the auction.
Just beautiful fish here. They're checking the quality of the tuna.
They're looking for the marbling in the tuna and the colour and the more vibrant and intense the red,
the fresher it is. And talking about marbling, it's a bit like beef.
I think tuna is... Like roast beef is to us, tuna is to the Japanese.
And when you think that they sort of live on fish and rice,
if this ran out, I think it'd be all over for them.
Most of the money that passes through this market is from the tuna sales.
And these fish come from all over the world, New Zealand, Chile, Africa, even the Mediterranean.
There's nowhere the tuna boats won't go.
SPEAKING IN JAPANESE
This auction, I think, sums up their fanatic zeal and a voracious appetite for this magnificent fish.
Because the tuna's so expensive, it goes to specialists who know how to prepare it.
They leave nothing to waste before it's shipped out to restaurants and sushi bars all over Japan.
I've seen filleting all over the world, but this man is a master.
He reminds me of a samurai warrior from the films of Akira Kurosawa -
that intense concentration where the man is totally at one with the sword.
When I was little, the fishmonger in Padstow called Mrs Soper used to say,
"You make your money from the sharpness of your knife."
This fish cost a million yen.
You certainly need a sharp knife to get your money out of that.
I've just found out that this tuna, which is £5,000, by Christmas, will be as much as 20,000 to 25,000.
And the most expensive tuna on the market, the Christmas market, could be as much as £50,000.
It's not even eight o'clock yet, but it feels like lunchtime.
Ever since I arrived in Japan, I've yearned for really fresh sushi.
And it doesn't come any fresher than this - a sushi bar right in the fish market.
I couldn't wait to try the tuna, slivers of squid and red bream straight from the market,
with grated wasabi root, served with vinegared rice.
Those that know such things say that sushi will take over the world like the pizza and hamburger did.
Well, it had better hurry up before the fish runs out.
There are many types of sushi. This is called maki - vinegared rice wrapped in dried seaweed.
It's one of those dishes that has great theatre attached to it, like making the perfect pizza disc
or flambeeing a Crepe Suzette.
Even the way it's presented on the plate means something.
This sushi is vastly different from the supermarket version back home where they use mainly cooked fish
for a longer shelf life presumably.
This is the bee's knees.
Would you just ask him how long it takes a sushi master to train?
SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
-It takes ten years for normal people, but I was a taxi driver until four days ago myself.
-SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
-It's a joke.
-Right. Ten years?
Well, now we are eating this fresh sushi, do you think you'll be making sushi at the banquet?
No. I haven't got ten years to spare! It's next month we're doing it.
But I think sushi's really a meal in itself with all that rice.
I think it'd be too filling. I think I'll go for sashimi.
-I've just got to learn how to cut it.
-We saw a beautiful technique today.
'It doesn't matter what country you're in, this is the way to soak up the nuances of a nation's food.
'And it helps that Taka is a serious foodie.'
This is actually wasabi, which is the green horseradish
that everybody has with sashimi and sushi. I never knew what it looked like before.
But of course it's a horseradish root just like ours.
This is a dried fillet of bonito, a type of tuna, being planed into those very fine shavings
for dashi, the essential stock here. The Japanese are crazy about pickles.
Here, there's celery, cucumber and salty aubergines.
Well, this is a sushi knife and it's quite rigid.
It's incredibly sharp, of course.
But what's interesting is it's flat on one side and curved on the other.
So when this knife cuts, it actually cuts like this.
-But this part remains, which means you get the freshness of the ingredients maintained.
That's what I mean about Japanese attention to detail.
When you slice into a fillet with the straight side,
it just cuts through those cells without damaging any of the others.
So you have minimum damage and maximum freshness.
A large part of the market is devoted to live fish.
They're sold at a premium because of the Japanese obsession with freshness.
It's almost like coming to a Disneyland of seafood
because there's so much variety that it's mind-boggling to me!
-I like that - a Disneyland of seafood.
-Good way of saying it, I guess.
-I might use that.
If I was doing the banquet here, I'd have this boiled octopus.
And these sea squirts - they're a real bite of the sea.
I've got to have prawns somewhere, preferably live tiger prawns.
But maybe I'll use our langoustines. I'm also thinking about clams. These are blood clams.
They might be good in the sashimi. These look like our whelks back at home.
But they're much more tender, called Babylons here.
This reminds me of a samurai warrior, an Arctic snow crab.
Big money, but perfect for the banquet. Maybe I'll use our local spider crabs.
This market is a source of inspiration to create a menu.
I really think it helps to have a serious appetite when you do this type of window shopping.
But now it's time for lunch.
Tell me the basics of Japanese cooking. What do I need to know?
I think typically Japanese food, what we eat, we have about five different flavours,
which is the saltiness, the sweetness, the sourness, the bitterness, and, I guess, the heat.
And we try to mix things that we make with these flavours and enjoy those flavours.
But it's important to remember it's the ingredient that's the star.
The ingredient is enhanced by these flavours, not killed by it.
This is a typical businessman's restaurant in the heart of Tokyo,
specialising in sashimi, with fish straight from the pool.
The food is prepared very quickly because these office workers eat and run.
There are so many things to know about Japanese cuisine.
Colours, for instance. Their favourites are white, yellow, black, green and red in food.
This is a picture - sashimi made with sea snail, red bream, tuna and prawns.
I don't think I'll be doing anything quite this elaborate at the banquet.
I've only been here for 36 hours. And when I arrived, I was utterly daunted.
Talk about Lost In Translation. You arrive in Tokyo and it just seems like another planet almost.
Everything about life in Japan is about precision, about really paying attention to detail.
We were walking through a lot of restaurants with kitchens. Everything's so tiny.
And I thought it's actually good for human beings to have to think in a confined space.
When you've got massive space, you don't know where you're going, but when everything's small,
people rise to the occasion.
That's what's impressive about the place - its attention to detail.
And the detail is never more important than in social etiquette.
Setsuko Yamamoto teaches the art to businessmen.
-Setsuko, how do I greet you then?
-First, it's a little bow.
-And the head goes like this. Hajimemashite.
-"Nice meeting you."
-And slowly up, the head. Then it's nice smiling.
-Then it's, "Please take a seat."
-"Please take a seat"?
-Oh, we kneel.
So just tell me what the worst mistakes of etiquette Westerners can make, really.
-When you take off shoes...
-First you take off shoes.
Sometimes you can get into slippers.
-Slippers are not allowed in a tatami room.
-It's got to be bare feet?
And also when you eat, the chopstick - you have to break it and then you eat.
-Then every chopstick you have to put on the side, horizontal.
-And what about drinking?
-Drinking is always - kampai.
-Right. Kampai? That's "cheers"?
Kampai means "cheers".
And always the holding - nice way. Then to bring it to you respectfully.
-And always double-handed?
-Yes. That means it's respect.
-It's all about respect?
-Yes, respect. That's it.
And as I'm beginning to realise in Japan, respect is the key word.
Without it, nothing works. And it goes right back into the kitchen.
Andy Cook has been a top chef in Tokyo for the past two years
and runs a restaurant for Gordon Ramsay, which is producing Western food for the Japanese palate.
I thought if anyone could help me understand the preferences of the Japanese, then it would be him.
I think first of all, the key thing for you is fresh.
You really need to be getting the best, freshest fish possible. You need to concentrate on the season.
The Japanese are passionate about being in touch with nature and with what's going on around them.
You've got things like the Kaiseki menu, which is the monster 18-course menu.
And each course will be something different. You'll have sashimi. You'll have your grilled dish.
You'll have your soup. You'll have your meat and your pickles. Then you may have some kind of sweet.
But you're going to need to have a nice soup, something that's focusing on what's in season.
Sashimi traditionally is white fish.
So you're looking at a nice bass or baby rouget or sea bream.
Sea bream's interesting because the Japanese love anything that's red and white.
-Anything that represents the Japanese flag, they adore.
-Lobster - fantastic.
Sea bream - fantastic. We buy it and sell it at a very high price.
Don't be scared about it being too complicated.
-You'll not fail to impress the guy.
-I reckon you'll be OK!
Well, I was just going to say, do you think I'm bonkers?
You probably are, yes. But I think you'll be all right.
I like to feel I've become a connoisseur of street food over the years I've been travelling around.
But this just beats it all. I mean, where could you get a dish of first quality tuna like this
with your own little tea supply and a bowl of miso soup?
I mean, it's perfect! The variety is endless and it's cheap and fresh
because they all specialise in one thing or another.
People come to this one for tempura, beautiful prawns in a light batter.
And this man makes an old Tokyo dish, like an omelette, full of chilli, coriander, mirin and pork.
And he doesn't let the egg set. It's poured over boiled rice.
But best of all, I found this little gem that has cooked the same dish for generations.
This is a local restaurant. They only serve one dish, Fukagawadon.
It's also the name of the area because the dish was so typical of the area.
It's clams and rice served with a miso soup.
The clams came out of the river, so it's an obvious dish to serve here.
It just reminds me a bit of sort of eel pie and mash.
You know, those restaurants that were all around London near the Thames.
Most of them have died out now and this is very sort of similar.
They largely serve older people, but it's good that there's still some of these restaurants around.
And this is delicious. If you find a good eel pie and mash shop, it's good. This is particularly good.
'Like many dishes of this type, it's all to do with the quality of the stock.
'My taxi driver took us here as this is where he has lunch.
'But now we go from one end of the culinary spectrum to the other,
'a restaurant that has been in the same family for 16 generations, a town north-west of Tokyo, Kanazawa.
'I've come here to experience a banquet, given in my honour,
'by the ex-Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshiro Mori.
'The Ambassador was keen for me to meet him and also to sample some of the best food Japan has to offer.
'I felt a bit out of my depth and I kept thinking of the do's and don'ts of chopstick etiquette.
'And I really wanted to know what sort of fish I was eating.
'It was a relief when Mr Mori suggested we take our coats off.'
So relax and enjoy the food.
'Under domes of ice was the prettiest display of sashimi I've ever set eyes on.
'I'm never going to match this. This was made up of tuna, prawns and sea bream.
'It was a work of art. I wondered how many days a week Mr Mori would eat fish?'
THEY SPEAK IN JAPANESE
-Every day. Seven days a week.
-And how often meat then?
-THEY SPEAK IN JAPANESE
-I try not to eat as much meat.
Would you ask him if he likes any British dishes?
SPEAKING IN JAPANESE
He said, "What sort of cuisines are there in England?"
'I think that says quite a lot, really. The roast beef of England is still a mystery in Japan.
'And judging by what we're eating tonight, it will remain so until they run out of fish.'
Roast beef, I love. I really do.
But obviously that kind of does build up on my body, so I try not to eat as much.
'There were nine courses, all complementing each other.
'And every chef wants to know how their food is being received at the table.
'Well, it's oishii! - "delicious". And this is a little boat formed out of kelp, which they call kombu.
'It's filled with slices of abalone, red snapper and leeks
'and shredded daikon. The kombu has the taste of the sea itself.
'But it also has other prize properties.'
The people of Okinawa, the island at the southernmost part of Japan,
live longer than anybody else in Japan
and people in Japan live longer than anybody else cos they eat so much fish.
But they eat ten times more kombu than anyone else in Japan and live longer.
And it's very good for slimming. I wish I could eat this.
-SPEAKING IN JAPANESE
-The Japanese eat kelp quite often.
When we eat kelp, it actually helps to grow your hair.
Keep your hair nice and colourful.
And I'm going to be 70 next year.
-I thought he was younger than me!
THEY SPEAK IN JAPANESE
Look at our hair.
It's the kelp.
-Was it nice? Did you like it?
-Well, I would like to say it was completely a revelation to me.
I don't think... If it wasn't for this, I would never have tasted food like that.
I don't believe you could go to a Japanese restaurant outside Japan and eat food like that.
I mean, it's better than the top three-star French food.
For me, it's the perfect food, simple, delicate, incredibly complex in the kitchen,
and my thanks to the chefs.
But so effortless here. I just think, to me, it's sort of what Japanese culture is all about,
this sort of seeming simplicity, but behind it so much complexity.
Thank you very much. < Thank you very much.
'What I want to do next is get to grips with the essential pillars, if you like, of Japanese cuisine,
'the ingredients and the flavours that keep recurring in each meal I have.
'If it was Italy, well, pasta, tomatoes and basil.
'Here, it's a little bit more complicated than that.'
OK. He's just going to get a bag.
I've only been here under a week, but I think I've got the essentials I'm going to need for the banquet.
That's the main flavouring ingredients in everything.
We start with soy sauce. A soy maker told me, "It's as important as water in Japanese cooking."
I think that's absolutely right. And next is mirin. That's the main sweetener in all Japanese cooking
and sweetness is very important. Next, sake. Well, this isn't a great sake. It's just cooking sake.
They use it with soy to cut down the strength of soy.
So you always start with soy and sake to vary the intensity of the sauce.
Rice wine vinegar. Pickles are so important in Japanese cooking,
with salt, the essence of a good pickle.
The one herb I've picked out is shiso, or perilla as we call it in England, such a distinctive flavour.
Bonito flakes. Dashi is the basic stock that all soups come from.
And with bonito flakes, the classic dashi is made with kombu which is kelp, which is seaweed.
Kombu is used in pickling, particularly pickling fish.
I could not fail to mention wasabi. For the Japanese writing, it's that way up.
It's that really hot, green horseradish.
They like to do the whole spectrum of all the flavours and all the tastes, so that is very important.
And lastly and by no means least, the mighty daikon -
a really strong radish that gives you the hot flavour in a lot of Japanese cooking.
The thing that's worrying me is my food is quite simple, just relying on very simple presentation.
Japanese is simple, but there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes there.
That's where I'll find it difficult
because I wouldn't say I'm a basic cook, but I like things straight down the middle.
I'm gonna have to get into that whole idea of making things look simple when in fact they're not.
I've got as much information as I could cope with.
I've learnt a lot and all I can do now is to go back home and do it
and hope that Ambassador Nogami is a kind and forgiving man.
Well, this is my menu for tonight.
First, sardines - a Mediterranean dish, but it looks Japanese.
Next, clear soup with langoustines and shiitake mushroom.
Then sashimi, the ultimate Japanese dish, and I had to have the ice igloo.
To follow, a tempura of lobster, red mullet,
and for that seasonal touch, chanterelle mushrooms.
Afterwards, a savoury egg custard called chawan mushi, and that's made with spider crabs.
This is grilled bass with porcini mushroom and a spear of ginger shoot.
No meal is complete without miso soup
and, of course, those lovely pickles and a bowl of rice.
And finally, poached autumn fruits
with quince syrup, and that's it.
I've designed this banquet menu, but I could not have done it
without the expert skills of Inoue-san and Koike-san.
I hadn't met these chefs before and I was pretty nervous
as chefs hate strangers coming into their kitchen,
blunting their knives, burning their pans and getting in the way. And I don't speak the language.
They don't have handles on their saucepans here!
This is the basic stock made with bonito flakes for the soups and dipping sauces.
The most important thing I've learnt about Japanese cooking is the quality of the raw materials.
I've tried to have the fish brought from Cornwall because I know the quality of my local fish.
I'm just looking through it. This gurnard is in perfect condition.
Absolutely dead fresh, lovely smell about it.
And just looking at this sea bass...
When you're cooking, if your raw materials are OK, everything falls into place.
When I look at that bass with that tag on it saying, "Line-caught wild bass from Cornwall,"
I just feel so reassured and my apprehension about cooking this banquet starts to fall away.
And I wanted live spider crabs and they are because they'll taste that little bit better.
I know that the Japanese members of this banquet tonight,
and probably the British too, will taste that extra freshness.
And the lobster's got to be alive when we start with it.
Perfect, very reassured.
So for the sashimi and the tempura, I'm using brill and red mullet,
a symbol of autumnal seafood because they're at their prime.
To start the soup off, we poach shiitake mushrooms in the bonito stock.
These are the young shoots of the ginger plant.
They've been blanched, cooled and dried quickly, so they don't lose their crunch.
Next we make the dipping sauce and that starts with sake,
reduced sake with the alcohol burned off.
The kelp aroma comes through nicely.
To add to that, I've chosen a fantastic bottle of soy sauce
which I discovered in Kanazawa and it's flavoured with kombu or kelp.
This is flavoured with bonito flakes - just like wood shavings disappearing in a bowl of gravy!
Very good mackerel. We can't get this kind of quality that often.
Mr Inoue, the head chef, has just complimented me on the quality of the mackerel, so I'm very happy.
He said it's very hard to get mackerel of this quality in London,
so it's paid off bringing it up from Cornwall because the mackerel is where it all started from.
This is what I was doing wrong on board that boat off Padstow.
The Japanese coat their mackerel fillets in salt and set them aside for two hours to firm them up
and take away any fishy odours.
Before they're sliced up for sashimi, they're seasoned in a marinade of mirin, sugar, water
and kombu, a seaweed I'm getting to like very much indeed.
I've just had these sardines delivered.
I was hoping to get Mount's Bay sardines because when Ambassador Nogami said about seasonality,
my immediate thought was of a very nice night once out fishing
about this time of year in Mount's Bay, pulling up sardines with Stephane.
I asked him to go out, but the weather's been appalling.
They still went out to try and catch some but they didn't get any.
These are from the Bay of Biscay. We'll see what they're like.
They smell all right. I'm gonna be a bit red in tooth and claw and take a little piece off there.
I hope you don't mind. I'll just put a bit of soy with them.
It looks good. I'm sure these chefs won't approve of me doing this.
That's really good. They're lovely. They'll be fine.
It's for the first course.
I was hoping they'd be the Penzance ones, but it'll still be fine.
It's the only western dish in the whole banquet.
This brill is up there with turbot and halibut.
It will be perfect in the sashimi because it's a really firm fish.
And gurnard is no longer thought of only as lobster bait.
Now it's as sought after as red mullet or John Dory.
The last course will be an autumnal fruit compote and the centre piece will be quinces.
Quince is very hard to eat in its own right, but it makes a lovely syrup.
Not only does it taste very nice and astringent, it also has a deep russet colour
and that clear juice right over the top of my compote will make it really perfect.
I'm going to simmer these for as long as it takes to get these bullet-hard fruits to soften,
then break up with a potato masher.
I only want the juice and none of the pulp.
I wonder if this lovely fruit will be popular again? Perfect.
Inoue-san is expertly cutting up the bass into equal pieces ready for grilling.
I could after my visit to Japan eat that raw.
These are ceps or porcini, as the Italians call them.
They don't use them in Japan. They use a really revered mushroom called matsutake
which are quite similar in appearance and in price.
I just thought it would be very interesting to use our most revered mushroom
and do it in a Japanese way.
What I'm really keen on about porcini is the look of them sliced like that.
It has a Japanese elegance about it.
What I'm hoping to do is just grill them along with the bass. I think they'll go very well indeed.
I could watch Inoue-san for hours. Every cut is done with one continuous action.
He's preparing the red mullet for the tempura.
This is the tempura dipping sauces.
I was keen to see the way they do it properly cos I got it out of a book!
Actually, it's four parts dashi and one part mirin
and one part soy.
Then a big handful of bonito flakes. Nice little tip, that.
Now for the first course - those sardines.
I got the idea when I saw an old man in Corfu preparing anchovies with lemon and olive oil,
but how to serve it in a Japanese way?
If I was doing this in my restaurant, I'd probably put them on the plate like this.
I can't see me doing that here
because of the incredible delicacy of the way that the dishes are done here.
So I'm just going to ask Inoue if he would give me a few tips on how he thinks we should lay it out.
In Japan we normally take the skin off the sardines.
We actually do a lot of slices, I guess designs on it.
-Like a diamond pattern?
-Will you show me?
-SHE TRANSLATES INTO JAPANESE
'Well, I'd never in a million years have thought of skinning a sardine fillet.
'This humble little sardine has started to resemble a very expensive watch strap.
'There seems no end to Inoue-san's skill.
'I wonder what he thinks of me!'
That's perfect. I mean, that just says it all.
That is the difference between Japanese and Cornish, I suppose!
The amount of detail that's gone into that little sardine says it all.
My spider crabs have been cooking away for 20 minutes,
but I'll leave them to cool down before I can get at the meat.
Most of what's caught off Cornwall gets shipped off to Spain!
Koike-san turns a single radish into half a dozen delightful little butterflies
to garnish the sashimi.
If it was left to me, they'd get them in a bowl with some sea salt.
This is the difference between us - gastronomic origami!
I've seen tomatoes turned into roses which I detest,
but this fine detail and precision is meant to be a sign of respect
for the Ambassador and his guests
who will be turning up in a couple of hours' time.
I can't do that, but I've handled a couple of thousand of these!
When I was in Japan, this bit just outside the Tsukiji Market,
which is a retail market, if you like, outside Tsukiji called Jogai,
there was this good fishmonger selling crabs
and I asked him how much the crabs were selling for
because there were these lovely, big Alaskan snow crabs there and they were about £150 each,
so I was thinking maybe I could do something with our spider crabs.
They're not a crab much used in the UK. They've got a lovely flavour.
But the problem is you have to really work to get the meat out.
There's this very lovely dish in Japan called chawan mushti...
-Is that right, Taka?
It's like a baked egg custard and you put very delicate things in it,
particularly some chicken breast, which it often has.
You make it with eggs, but the prime ingredient in my dish will be these spider crab claws.
I think it will work very well. As I said, quite a lot of work.
'I wish I could crack eggs like that. They'd be all over the floor!
'This is the basis of the dish - beaten eggs.
'I had this for breakfast in Japan and it inspired me to put it on the menu.
'It's a very loose mix - half eggs to a mixture of mirin, a sake-based sweetener and dashi.
'This has been seasoned with light soy sauce and salt.'
That's very nice, very delicate, very nicely seasoned.
So to make up the little chawan mushi pots, first a gingko nut - they're really important in Japan -
followed by chicken breast and chestnuts, a seasonal reference,
and some sprigs of trefoil, almost unknown at home, but very popular in Japan.
And now that lovely, sweet crab meat.
Once people are used to Japanese food, it's the way people like to eat. It's healthy, light, delicate.
I remember saying when we went to the banquet with ex-Prime Minister Mori
that it's like Michelin three-star food, but it's the sort of food you want to eat.
It's not too sort of calorific
and you'd get up from the tables thinking, "Yes, let's face life! Let's have some fun."
And now the pots go into this handsome steamer - looks a bit like a Japanese temple - for 20 minutes
until the egg mixture loosely sets like a little custard.
We're ready for the sashimi where only the prime cuts are served.
This is where Koike-san and Inoue-san's knife skills come into their own
and I sit back and watch with wonderment, tinged with a dash of envy.
So this is how mackerel sashimi is made.
The salt in the marinade really firms it up.
I don't know what the serious aficionados of Japanese food will think about this menu,
but I'm getting something from it.
I've learnt such a lot and I'll use that in my restaurant in Cornwall.
But I'll keep the handles on the saucepans!
And there goes that little butterfly to sit on the top.
What he's saying is, "Look at the amount of detail and care that's gone into this sashimi!"
What Inoue has done is just cook the lobster tails very quickly, about two minutes in boiling water,
just to set the lobster and so he can take the shell off easily.
Now he's just portioning them up for the tempura.
I chose Cornish lobster in the tempura, so everyone could get a taste of it, but back to the quince.
I'm now adding about half the volume of sugar to juice.
I'll bring it to the boil and the impurities will rise to the surface.
I'll skim them off and I'll be left with a nice, clear syrup
to poach the rest of my autumn fruit.
It's quite interesting because time is getting a little bit tight here.
I always think we've only got... I can't remember how many it is,
but there's a lot of courses and time waits for no man, so I'm just having to go a bit fast now.
I thought I'd use an English Cox apple to poach in the quince syrup.
I got the idea of using persimmon from ex-Prime Minister Mori's banquet.
It's becoming more popular here, the Japanese love it and it looks so autumnal.
The apples are done in two minutes.
It won't be long before the first guests arrive and it's time to assemble the first course.
-Everything going all right?
-Not too bad, Ambassador.
We're very impressed with the way Inoue has cut them like that.
We're just working out how best they will look in a Japanese way.
-We're just gonna put a bit of olive oil on there.
-A tiny bit of oregano.
-So it should be fun.
The first to arrive is the lady who taught me the fundamentals of Japanese etiquette,
an essential requirement for anyone thinking of going there.
CONVERSATION IN JAPANESE
This is the miso soup which is the last but one course.
He's using a dark miso paste which is a soya bean paste, but he's also cooked up the lobster heads.
Much as I wanted lobster in the tempura, there is so much flavour in the heads,
I'm very happy that he's using the lobster heads to flavour the miso.
It will be really special.
One of the things that was a real revelation in Japan
was the use of pickles.
I love these pickles, particularly this burdock and the sour plums and the cucumber.
They're just sensational. This is going to come with the miso soup
right at the end of the banquet just before the sweet.
To me, it's like the cheese course.
I look forward to these pickles like I would to some nice cheese.
We're serving various seriously good sakes, but also some wine,
and with the miso soup I'm going to serve a Pinot Noir
because it will go really well with these pickles.
It's a good job us drones can't see what's going on upstairs.
I'm a firm believer in getting the first course absolutely tippy-top,
then the rest will go like a dream. I'm also an optimist!
-Thank you very much for coming.
-Terrible traffic, I'm afraid, in this rain.
-How are you?
-Very nice to meet you.
Rick is working in the kitchen.
-Who's working in the kitchen?
-Oh, how wonderful! That's a plus.
-How are you?
-Sorry we're late.
-Sorry we're late. Terrible traffic.
They say the Japanese are inscrutable and now I know what it means.
The bass is ready for grilling and so might I be if this doesn't turn out as I would like!
Well, thank you very much for coming tonight.
Actually, the real host is not here. He's downstairs.
I was told that you always serve soup as a second course because of its relaxing qualities.
It puts people at their ease.
I'm down in the kitchen, oblivious to all this.
If I could have seen the guests enjoying it, I would have been much happier.
They make the ice domes by putting water in a bowl, adding a second one and freezing it.
They have a wow quality that says this sashimi cannot be fresher!
Is this an innovation of his or is it always served in an igloo?
-No, no, this is...
-This is a Rick Stein-ism.
-Look at the butterfly. Isn't that gorgeous?
Course number four - tempura,
a popular choice for people beginning to explore the delights of Japanese cuisine.
The skills shown here are far beyond me. There's no point in me trying to help. I'd be in the way.
But I did do the recipes and the menu. I'm very happy with it.
What's interesting about this is you only batter the shiso leaves on the one side,
so you've got the nice green in the finished tempura.
In recipes for tempura, they say don't mix it too much.
There's bits of totally unmixed flour in the batter,
but that's how you get this lovely light crispness in the finished tempura.
This is a really important part of the banquet to me.
I love tempura and I just wanted to see it done perfectly.
I had the idea of what to go in it.
I wanted some Cornish lobster, some chanterelles, seasonal,
but to me it's a bit like designing a house and then getting somebody to build it.
The way they work, the last-minuteness of this tempura
which is the only way to do it, is absolutely spectacular.
The dipping sauce is really important for tempura.
Before I embarked on this banquet and went to Japan, I thought it was just soy sauce
and not that complex mixture of mirin, bonito and seaweed. It makes all the difference.
This is a dish we learned from the Portuguese.
Course number five is the chawan mushi with the crab meat topped off with a warm, delicate sauce
made with dashi and just a touch of grated ginger.
This whole banquet is a voyage of discovery for me.
Nowhere, I think I'm right in saying, have we anything like this in our food -
a savoury steamed egg custard.
I had absolutely no idea that people were wolfing it down like no tomorrow!
All my hopes are pinned on this course. It's the grilled porcini and sea bass.
I've never tried grilling porcini this way,
but I'm certain that the Ambassador is a stickler for seasonality
and porcini it's got to be.
I'm happy with this. The mistake is because this is the star dish,
the sea bass, it's a mistake to give him too much.
That's why we've only got one small piece, one piece of cep,
and a little bit of garnish there. People will really appreciate that.
The Ambassador's guests include diplomats, bankers, journalists,
some old hotelier friends of mine from Cornwall, all people who know a lot about cooking.
It occurred to me that food is one of the Ambassador's greatest tools
in creating friendships all over the world, but I suspect Mr Nogami knows that already.
Now for this all-important miso soup.
This has been flavoured with lobster and seaweed and it has tofu added to it at the last minute.
This is traditionally served with pickles and steamed rice.
It signifies the end of a meal
and if a Japanese waiter says to you, "Can I serve the rice now?" you know it's the end of the meal,
but on this occasion we've still got dessert to come.
For us cooks, we can start to relax now.
We still don't know how it's gone down, but there's an air of buoyancy about the place
and there's not much to dislike about the autumn fruits, so I'd say we're home and dry
and I think the pudding wine will go really well with the fruit.
-It was down to these boys, I have to say.
-It was wonderful.
-Thank you very much.
-Oh, thank you.
You know how to...how to put it?
You've done it!
-You've done it.
-My God, we've done it!
-My God, you've done it!
-They're terribly good, your chefs. I would not have...
-Would you give them a job in Padstow?
Oh, tomorrow, yesterday!
No, don't do that!
No, no, no. It's only a joke. It's only a joke!
We loved it.
I've loved doing it. It's been such a pleasure.
It was a bit nerve-wracking, I was a bit on edge this morning,
but as I realised how good they were and in what safe hands I was,
I've learnt so much today that it's been a fantastic experience for me and thank you very much.
-Thank you very much. It was excellent. Let's...
Oh, good, we've got some... Well...
Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2006
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When the Japanese ambassador saw Rick Stein preparing sushi on a boat off Cornwall, he was not impressed. However, this sparked off an idea where Rick would go on a voyage of discovery to the ultimate seafood lover's destination - Japan. On his return he promised to create a banquet fit for an ambassador and his friends.