Candice Kumai and Shigeharu “Tommy” Tamaya discuss Japanese cooking and whisky culture at Master Class

 In Culture Exchange

Last week, the Japan Society of Northern California hosted a presentation on Matcha and other Japanese cuisine with guest speakers Candice Kumai and Shigeharu “Tommy” Tamaya, moderated by Namiko Kajiwara. Despite the difficulties of demonstrating on Zoom, they provided viewers with insight into the world of Japanese cooking and whisky culture.

Candice Kumai kicked off the event by discussing her background and heritage, as well as her current projects. Looking to the past, Kumai found inspiration in her grandfather’s line of work and how it continues to influence her today. She concluded her personal segment with a short discussion about the importance of remembering one’s heritage and how we can look to our family’s past for inspiration and ideas for the future.

The first dish that Kumai introduced was Soba noodles. While taste is a factor, not all soba noodles contain heavy flavoring are they really necessary; decorating the bowl is considered more important. Kumai went through one arrangement she liked, decorating her noodles with California-grown greens, Kamaboko or fish cakes, and boiled eggs.

Candice Kumai decorates bowl of soba noodles
Kumai finishes decorating her Soba noodles bowl

But that’s not all! A huge part of the dish is its symbolic value. By presenting a soba dish to a family member or a friend at the end of the year or New Year’s Day, you are wishing them a long and healthy life. According to Kumai, “Buckwheat noodles are supposed to be a symbol of a healthy, long life lived.”

We then quickly transitioned to a matcha demonstration and were given some advice regarding what to and not to include.

Afterwards, Shigeharu “Tommy” Tamaya began his segment with a demonstration about a popular cocktail called Japanese Highball. It’s fairly simple, consisting of whisky, soda, ice and garnish. It all depends on your personal taste, but Tamaya showcased his favorite mix, using Suntory whisky.

Tamaya pours soda into glass of whisky over ice when making Highball

We also got some insight into what makes Japanese whisky so unique. According to Tamaya, it basically boils down to two factors: geography (water source and seasons) and Japanese craftsmanship. Together, they make for a unique flavor found nowhere else in the world.

Once Tamaya concluded his segment, the two guest speakers interacted with the audience during a Q&A session. 

Overall, Kumai’s and Tamaya’s demonstrations were not only entertaining and mouth-watering, but also a fun educational experience. The discussions about Japanese culture helped demonstrate the meaning and intricacies behind Japanese food and beverages. On top of that, the audience got the opportunity to learn a bunch of new recipes they can try at home.

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