My Life In Food: Nobu Matsuhisa

 

After stints working in restaurants in Japan, Peru, and America, Nobu opened his eponymous restaurant with actor Robert De Niro in New York in 1994. He now has 24 restaurants, over five continents, including Nobu London, which celebrates its 15th birthday this month.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

My cooking is very simple, so I don't really use machines at all. A knife, cutting board, frying pan and strainer are my essentials. But if I had to choose one, I'd say my knife. I use a Masamoto, it's sharp like a samurai sword. I used to take a set of them with me as I went round the world visiting my restaurants, but now I keep a couple in all the Nobu restaurants. I only buy equipment that I need, so I don't have anything that isn't used.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I'd go to a Japanese supermarket near my house in LA and I'd pick up some staples. For me, being Japanese, that means rice. So I'd get that, some miso, some soy sauce and also some seaweed, and make a dish from that. If I could afford it, I'd also like some vegetables.

What do you eat for comfort?

I eat soup noodles for comfort. In fact, noodles of any kind. It's a food that is very easy to eat; it's very soothing and comfortable, too. If I could choose any, I'd say buckwheat was my favourite: it has a very good flavour and is healthy, too.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

I like both potatoes and rice. You can do a lot with both of them. But if I could eat only one carbohydrate for the rest of my life I wouldn't choose bread, potatoes or even noodles. I'd go for rice instead; I eat more of that than anything else.

What's your desert island recipe?

Well, if I was on a desert island I'd have to keep things simple. I'm assuming I've got some fresh water. I'd mix that with miso and some dashi powder, to make a fish broth; it's a staple of Japanese cooking. Then I'd go fishing for fish to make into sashimi.

What's your favourite restaurant?

Near my restaurant in Milan, there's a place called Paper Moon. It is one of three across the world, the others are in Istanbul and Doha. I tend to go there for lunch when I am in town. I usually visit in September, which is white truffle season, so I order their parmesan and white truffle risotto – it's beautiful. It is a very good place – casual, simple and with very tasty food.

What's your favourite cookbook?

My favourite is my own vegetable cookbook, Nobu's Vegetarian Cookbook, which came out this year. I created it because people increasingly want healthy food. Sure, sashimi and, fish in general, are healthy, but vegetables are even better. I've tried to take the Nobu menu and translate it into recipes you can create at home.

Who taught you to cook?

I used to watch my mother cooking when I was a child, she influenced me a lot. But she certainly didn't push me to be a chef. The biggest influence on me was my first mentor, Mr Nakane. I met him when I was 18 in Tokyo and he taught me everything, how to buy fish, clean it, slice it and cook it.

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