How to Cook Kaiseki For Your Japanese Tea Ceremony: 7 Recipes
"Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water."
Kaiseki, the traditional multi-course meal, is considered to be the finest that exists in Japanese cuisine. A meticulously prepared meal which also happens to be the most expensive Japanese food. It's elaborate to say the least. Much like the French Haute cuisine, Kaiseki is high cuisine, sophisticated cuisine. A traditional Kaiseki meal can have over 14 courses.
The meal typically includes rice, soup and a few boiled side dishes, which are served with Sake (Japanese wine).
Did You Know?
Kaiseki restaurants in Japan offer guests a private room to sit in. And the room often has the view of a beautiful Japanese garden. As far as recipes go, there is no certain recipe for a Kaiseki meal. Each meal is created individually by a master chef. It starts with Cha-kaiseki,which is usually the food with which the host or the master of the tea ceremony meets the guests. Cha-kaiseki is low in calories. The meal is designed in such a way that you can enjoy the flavours of every season with all your five senses and eat all of the courses.
How Is It Made?
Every item of the Kaiseki meal has a prescribed order to it. The chefs that prepare the meal have complete freedom to add, remove, or replace ingredients as they see fit, in order to draw special attention to a particular seasonal delicacy.
Every season, the chef in charge of preparing kaiseki, sources local ingredients and cooks small gastronomical delights that highlight the flavours of the ingredients and the richness of Japanese cuisine.
How Is It Served?
The principle of “True Hospitality” which is based on Zen teachings is followed by the host. “True Hospitality” is based on the old Zen principle of “ichiza konryu” (one time, one meeting). The entire tea ceremony (of which Kaiseki is a part) is focused on one central activity - the appreciation of beauty, purity and inner peace found in nature and within oneself.
The meal begins with appetisers which are served on a 25 cm rectangular tray. The appetizers are named according to the shape of the tray. Since the shape is rectangular, they are called “Hassun” (Eight Sun), “sun” is the measure of length here. Divided into four categories namely, “seafood”, “food from the mountains”, “animals” and “plants”, the appetisers are purposely made using ingredients that are very different from each other.
A cup of sake is served on the same tray with the appetisers. The sake is passed around the participants of the tea ceremony - from the guest of honour to the host, from the host to another guest and back to the host, then to the next guest and so on. This manner of passing the sake around is called 'Chidori no sakazuki'. The aim of this practice is to bring the participants closer together.
How to Make Your Own Kaiseki Meal
Start off with a taking stock of your location and the season during which you are serving the kaiseki. For instance, if you live in a place where seafood is not easily available, you can omit the seafood from the menu. And if you’re hosting the ceremony in winter, you can use winter vegetables and so on.
Here Are Some Suggestions and Recipes
Those who live in urban areas might find these easy to cook due to the easy availability of ingredients.
Futamono – A Bowl Of Soup Or Hearty Stew
Gohan – Flavoured Rice Dish
Toriniku Yasai Maki - Rolled Chicken And Vegetables
Dashimaki Tamago - Rolled Omelette With Dashi
Kudamono No Karashi-sumiso-ae - Seasonal Fruits With Mustard-miso Sauce
Mitsuba-no-aemono - Marinate Salmon And Trefoil
Eringi-no-yakimono - Grilled Eringi-mushroom With Ponzu-sauce
Futamono (a bowl of soup or hearty stew)
Though other varieties of the Futamono exist, we decided to share the recipe of Aubergine Futamono with you.
Aubergine - 2 (small)
Vegetable stock - 250 ml.
Dark soya sauce - 2 teaspoons
Pinch of salt
Fresh ginger - 2 teaspoons (grated)
Grill the aubergines, peel and keep it in the fridge to drain
Add soya sauce and salt to the vegetable stock
Taste the stock and add more if you need
Cut the aubergine and add it to the stock
Cover and refrigerate
Arrange some pieces of the aubergine in soup bowls, pour the cold soup on them, garnish with grated ginger.
Gohan – Flavoured Rice Dish
White short-grain rice - 3/4 cups
Dashi (¾ cups)
Chicken thighs - (120 grams)
Sake - 1 Tbsp.
Soya Sauce - 2 Tbsp.
Shiitake mushrooms - 2 (dried)
Gobo (burdock root) - 42 g.
Carrot - 1 (small)
Konjac - 1/4
Wash the rice and drain the water in a collander
Add the washed rice and dashi to a rice cooker and cook for a minimum of 30 minutes
Pour some warm water on the shiitake mushrooms, remove the stems
Cut the mushrooms in as thin slices as possible
Dice the chicken into half-inch cubes
Marinate the chicken in sake and soya sauce
Peel the gobo and shave it into a sharp point in a bowl of water
Now Julienne the carrots 1 1/4 inch matchsticks
Cut the konjac into half to reduce its thickness
In a small pot, boil the konjac for 1 minute and drain
Now add the chicken into the rice cooker
Stir well to mix
Lay all the other ingredients evenly on top of the rice and chicken mix
When the rice is nicely done, let it steam for 10 more minutes
Mix it with the vegetables
Toriniku Yasai Maki (Rolled chicken and vegetables)
Chicken thighs - 2 pieces
Sugar - 1 Tbsp.
Beans - 12 strings
Carrot - ½
Soya sauce - 5Tbsp.
Sake - 2Tbsp.
Water or chicken stock
Cut the carrot into 4 strips. Then bring a pot of water to boil.
Put the carrots and string beans into the boiling water
When they are boiled, drain the water and let them cool
Cut the chicken into 100g. Each halves
Evenly spread each half, slashing the sinew in some areas
Roll each half around one carrot and three beans
Wrap the rolls with plastic wrap, twisting both the sides slightly loosely
Microwave the rolls for 6-7 minutes
Heat a frying pan and fry the rolls, then steam them with seasonings
Pour the chicken soup over them and let them sit for 10-15min.
Dashimaki Tamago (Rolled omelette with dashi)
Dashi stock - 50 ml.
Eggs - 4
Sugar - 1 Tbsp.
Salt - ½ tsp.
Beat the eggs in a bowl
Pour the dashi stock in a bowl, add sugar and salt to taste, mix well
Add the mixture into the beaten eggs, then strain into a sieve
Low-heat an omelette pan
Pour a small portion of the mixture onto the pan, spreading it evenly
When it is partially done, roll the omelette
Then slide roll it into the other end of the pan
Add more mixture into it
Repeat the process
When the roll is done, shape it evenly, using a rolling mat
Cut the roll into pieces
Kudamono no Karashi-sumiso-ae (Seasonal Fruits with mustard-miso sauce)
Japanese pear - ½
Persimmon - 1 (small)
For the dressing
White miso - 2 Tbsp.
Sugar - 10 g.
Vinegar - ⅓ Tbsp.
A little bit of Japanese mustard
Mix well all the dressing ingredients
Cut the pear and persimmon into pieces
In a bowl, mix the fruits and dressing
Mitsuba-no-Aemono (Marinate salmon & trefoil)
Smoked salmon - 50 g. (sliced)
Mitsuba - 50g.
Light soya sauce - 1Tsp.
Sake - 1Tsp.
Pinch of salt
In a bowl, pour some water, add salt to it and boil the mitsuba in it
Drain the water and let the mitsuba cool
Drain excess water
Cut the mitsuba into 1-inch lengths
Peel the skin of the salmon and slice the skin diagonally into several strips
Add the mitsuba and salmon with the dressing and mix well
Eringi-no-Yakimono (Grilled Eringi-mushroom with Ponzu-sauce
Eringi mushrooms - 2
Japanese lime skin - (yuzu) a little bit
Ponzu sauce (a mixture of soya sauce, dashi and vinegar) - a little bit
Grill the mushrooms in the oven
Grate the yuzu skin
Sprinkle some yuzu powder and ponzu sauce over
It’s ready for serving.
So, these are the recipes that we think will compliment your tea ceremony.