Tokyo revives its forgotten cuisine

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Long-forgotten recipes from more than 200 years ago have been recreated by the owners of a dozen restaurants in the old "shitamachi" districts of working-class Tokyo.

As part of a campaign to bring more people to an area of the Japanese capital that traditionally sees fewer visitors - despite its rich cultural heritage - the local restaurant owners will be serving up the traditional fare until the end of March.

The recipes include such delicacies as shrimp that have been deep fried in sesame oil and are eaten with soy sauce, grated "daikon" radish and pepper, eels served with vegetables atop a hot rice gruel and roasted spring onions with hot peppered "miso."

"We have recreated the recipes from an ancient cooking book that dated from between 1750 and 1850 and contained 80 recipes," said Naoyuki Yanagihara, whose father, Kazunari, was behind the scheme and is head of the Kinsa-ryu school of traditional Japanese cuisine.

"Some of these recipes have been forgotten, but they come from a period when there was a boom in cookery books," he said. "Also, these recipes were not just for the high-society of the time, but the ordinary people of the town."

Kazunari Yanagihara stuck to three principles as he recreated the dishes: the food had to be simple, tasty and the ingredients had to be available in modern Japan.

He also discovered that the cooks of the Edo era did not always specify precise amounts of ingredients or the seasonings that they used, which gave him some room to use his imagination in fashioning the tastes and smells of the district many generations ago.

The Taito and Sumida districts of the capital, alongside the Sumida River, were the thoroughfares of the old city and today still have a distinctly different feel to the glass-and-steel tower blocks that have been erected elsewhere. The Kokugikan sumo arena has occupied its present position, on the east bank of the Sumida, for more than 100 years and the narrow surrounding streets are little changed in the last six decades.

But local authorities are hoping that the construction of the Tokyo Sky Tree - which will stand 634 metres tall when it opens in 2012 - will arouse new interest in the area and bring in more visitors.

The traditional dishes attracted much attention at the recent Edo Flavour Festival, held on Sunday, and the restaurants may yet be convinced to keep them on their menus after the campaign is over if they prove sufficiently popular with customers.

JR

For further information: www.edonoajiwai.jp

 

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