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Japanese Cuisine Joins Chicago Gourmet

“Bon Appetit presents Chicago Gourmet” took place at Chicago’s Millennium Park on September 23rd and 24th. The gourmet event marked its 10th anniversary, and other related events were held at different places in Chicago between September 19th and 24th.

This year, it had 67 exhibitors of the food and beverage industries and other sponsors. In addition, more than 150 restaurants served their specialties under the 12 unique pavilions in the two-day period. Moreover, about 71 companies and organizations introduced various kinds of wine, whisky, spirits, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages in the four big tents. Famous chefs including Naoyuki Yanagihara from Tokyo performed their cooking demonstrations at the Main Stage and Culinary Stage all the days.

The entrance fee of more than $200 per person would seem expensive, but the event was a rare opportunity for foodies to taste restaurant specialties at one place. About 13,700 people attended last year.

This year, the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau co-sponsored with the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago, Japan Airlines, and JETRO Chicago opened “Tokyo Japan” booth. Kamehachi Restaurant and Slurping Turtle served sushi in the booth. The visitors to the booth had a chance to win Japan Airlines round-trip ticket from Chicago to Tokyo.

Under a beverage tent, JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) Chicago Office introduced Japanese sake and flavored beverages. Suntory set up an individual booth and served a glass of highball with its whisky “Toki.” A column of ice in the glass was very much appreciated in the record-breaking heat.

In addition to the booth exhibitions, “Japanese Dinner” was held on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion on Saturday evening. Five renowned Japanese chefs served multiple courses of Japanese cuisine. Chefs were Diasuke Nakazawa (Sushi Nakazawa); Chicago’s Takashi Yagihashi (Slurping Turtle); Naoyuki Yanagihara, Vice President of the Yanagihara School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine; Aya Fukai (Maple & Ash); and Seattle-based Shota Nakajima (Adana).

Chef Yanagihara Demonstrates at Chicago Gourmet

Chef Naoyuki Yanagihara, master of traditional Japanese cooking from Tokyo, demonstrated sashimi preparation at Chicago Gourmet’s Culinary Stage on September 24, attracting the audience of culinary enthusiasts.

Yanagihara was born into a family specializing in the Kinsaryu culinary discipline, which has been passed on from generation to generation for 200 years. As the heir of the cuisine that focuses on the impeccable use of knives and the particular handling of ingredients, Yanagihara was presented with four knives by his grandfather at the age of six. Taught that good handling of fish will result in good handling of knives, Yanagihara has since trained himself, using fish that he caught himself.

“Sashimi making requires the knowledge of preserving, handling and presenting the fish, as well as the knowledge of cutting it,” Yanagihara told the audience during the demonstration. Using a large chunk of yellowtail (Hamachi), Yanagihara showed how to use different types of knives to skin, fillet and slice the fish for sashimi.

He began with removing the scale of the fish, using the thin-blade knife called yanagiba (its blade angle is 12 – 14 degrees). The scales of yellowtail are too small to remove individually with the knife, so the thin yanagiba knife is used to “peel off” the entire scales.

To fillet the fish, a broad-bladed “deba” knife is used. Yanagihara’s Kinsaryu school requires sliding the knife down along the backbone of the fish. Yanagihara effortlessly slid the knife over the bones and the fish was cut into fillet easily.

The fillets, from the both sides of the fish, were now placed on the cutting board, the skin side down. Yanagihara then peeled the skin off, from the tail end onward.

The yanagiba knife was used again to slice the fillet into sashimi. The most basic cutting method for sashimi is called hirazukuri, which produces large rectangular slices. Different cutting methods, sogi-zukuri, for example, can change the flavor and texture of the fish, Yanagihara said.

Along with freshly ground wasabi, garnish of daikon radish is the absolute requirement for sashimi. Thinly cut daikon garnish must be first sliced, using the thin-bladed “usuba” knife. The technique, called “katsura-muki,” requires training as well as a high-quality usuba knife. Yanagihara finished the demonstration with the beautifully made sashimi, complete with autumn-colored garnish of finely cut daikon and leaves and flowers of the shiso plant.

Tokyo Japan booth at 2017 Chicago Groumet
Chef Naoyuki Yanagihara demonstrates how to make sashimi Chef Yanagihara's sashimi presentation