Do you ever find yourself wandering through the aisles of your local supermarket and feeling baffled by the array of jars in front of you, each with text and images more foreign to you than the one before? Have you ever been in a situation where you think you have sourced all the ingredients you need to make that perfectly fluffy sponge cake, only to find that you have mistaken one type of flour for another? Or, are you someone who wants to learn the authentic cuisine of your adopted country but don’t know where to start?
Here at Tokyo Cheapo, we believe that living in Tokyo doesn’t mean just flocking to the best ramen shops and sushi bars in town (though, that’s a good start), but pulling up your sleeves and trying to make these foods for yourself. Although cooking classes require a moderate upfront cost, the benefit is that the knowledge you gain from learning how to cook can be replicated time and time again in your own kitchen.
For those of you unsure of where to go for a class, take a look at the list below and start cooking your way to culinary excellence.
Tadaku is an online service that connects foreigners with locals wishing to teach their native cuisine and culture to others. Hosts will advertise a cooking session that is organised around a particular theme or style of Japanese cuisine. These cooking sessions normally last for 3-4 hours and have a variety of price levels. There are many sessions that are pitched at around 5,000 yen, which includes the cost of all ingredients bought and prepared in advance for the session.
Another popular host offers a more personal touch to her sessions, by planning her sessions around foods that have been favorites of hers since childhood. Host Akiko teaches her guests how to make staples such as chawanmushi (a steamed savory egg custard prepared in a cup) and her version of butaniku no shogayaki (ginger pork with vegetables).
Tadaku sessions will often include an opportunity for guests to accompany their hosts to a local market or supermarket to purchase the ingredients for their meal. The cooking sessions are held at the host’s home, so try to find one that suits both your interests and location in Tokyo.
Like Tadaku, the communities on Meetup keep up with the trend of organising events centred on socialising and cooking great food. For those of you who haven’t heard of Meetup before, it’s an online website which allows you to search for and create your own groups within your local community. Meetup is home to a large number of cooking enthusiasts willing to share their time and knowledge with you.
Simply Oishii Japanese Cooking Class in Meguro is one example of a Meetup in which the host aims to give her female guests a different experience to what they would normally expect in a traditional cooking class. On top of giving her guests a tour of a local supermarket, the organiser gives tips on how guests can stock their pantry with ingredients that are staples in Japanese cuisine. Simply Oishii has upcoming sessions on how to make nabe, a winter hotpot classic, and eho-maki, a thick sushi roll with seven ingredients signifying good fortune and prosperity. At 5,000 yen a session, inclusive of all ingredients needed for the cooking class, refreshments, and dessert, Simply Oishii is another way Cheapos can stretch out their well-earned money at the same time as learn about the finer points of Japanese cuisine.
Mayuko’s Little Kitchen, Shibuya-ku
The host certainly doesn’t lie when she says her kitchen is on the cosy side, but with classes having a maximum of six people, Mayuko’s Little Kitchen arranges intimately sized cooking classes in the heart of Tokyo’s bustling metropolis. Having had the opportunity to teach Australian high school students how to cook, host Mayuko now makes it her mission to share her knowledge of Japanese cuisine and etiquette to travellers in the comfort of her own home.
Mayuko’s Little Kitchen has a range of classes available, some of which fall into the category of washoku (traditional Japanese cooking and techniques) and others in the category of yoshoku (Japanese cooking influenced by Western-style foods and ingredients).
Tsukiji Cooking, Chuo-ku
Tsukiji Cooking is a prolific company offering classes all a stone’s throw away from Tokyo’s most famous seafood and vegetable market. A Japanese/English translator is on hand for all classes and every guest leaves with recipe cards so that they can recreate the dishes at home by themselves. Upcoming classes include how to make okonomiyaki, gyoza, and sushi. Although classes do not include a guided tour of Tsukiji Market, you can always head over there and explore it by yourself before class starts.
Buddha Bellies Cooking School Tokyo, Chiyoda-ku
For those Cheapos looking to find a cooking class with a touch of celebrity, check out Ayuko’s Buddha Bellies Cooking School Tokyo. Having been featured on the Australian television program, ‘Guru’s Explore’ and in print publications such as The Globe and Mail and The Southland Times, Buddha Bellies will no doubt leave guests with an unforgettable cooking experience. Classes range in price from 5,000-7,500 yen, with the cheapest being an introductory course on how to make wagashi (traditional sweets). Some added bonuses for guests of Budda Bellies include complimentary sake from Niigata and Japanese beer, dessert, recipe cards and a small gift to help you continue to improve your cooking skills in your own kitchen. Buddha Bellies also has a library packed with books about Japanese culture and the arts which guests are able to browse before and after their cooking class, making it a perfect spot for Cheapos to continue their learning about Japan.