Sunday, November 15, 2015

Making Chirashi

Such fun day yesterday! I got up at 6 a.m. and went to The Buddhist Temple of Chicago to help make Chirashi. There were about 15 of us all pitching in and following directions or giving directions. This was all new to me so I was asking for jobs and asking what style of slicing etc to do.
The photo on the left is interesting. Take a look at those suspended fixtures. Those are fans. The handmade trays below the bowls help to suspend the steel bowls for cooling under the bowl...and the fans above cool everything down. Monitoring temperture and while "cutting" the rice with a paddle is important because you "cut" the rice not stirring so the rice doesn't turn pasty. Cooling is so once the rice goes into a bowl it doesn't go much by a small ecosystem of the heat overcooking the rice in the container....and I think to monitor the temp of the veggies and rice and fish for food safety. At the temple we have an amazing kitchen and lots of storage for equipment so all these baskets and trays had to be pulled out first thing. Then a series of carefully orchestrated food prep set up. Huge bamboo strainers for the rice. Half a dozen cutting boards and knives for chopping shiitake mushrooms, carrots, fish and bamboo shoots. On the right is lovely Helena...she is being a good sport while I beg her to pose for a picture...and hide her head gear. And Sensai took this picture of me...after I begged her...and I had the nerve to posture and pose. Sensei thought maybe I had been given the job of carrots because of my touque and sneakers. Orange!

The shiitake mushrooms are cooked in water, boiled, that blew my mind....with miring wine, sugar and a big pot of water. That is my dear friend Haru, I just love her! I love all these ladies at the Temple. They usually intimidate all the U.S. white women...but for me they remind me of my family, especially my grandmother. Sometimes these ladies scare people off of doing service around the kitchen...it's actually quite funny. The first time Stagg and I worked in the kitchen at temple...one of the women sternly told us not to stack the washed cutting boards together. And I mean sternly...not because they aren't nice people but because sometimes in a kitchen or in life...one has limited time to explain things, and is more concerned about results than feelings....because why on earth would doing something practical have anything to do with one's feelings? Also there is a difference between what is polite in Canada, what is polite in Japan and what is polite in the U.S. Japan and Canada have a similar practical approach to manners. In the U.S. the approach is much more boisterous and sugar-friendly. Notice how when you go in a  store people yell at you "Welcome to Walgreens!" This is repulsive to Canadians. I hate shopping in stores that greet me. And friendly over extended smiley face server is just upsetting to me. I don't trust them. Oh Americans just do not get that, because so many bosses practice this horrible fake friendliness and force their staff to be loud and "friendly."  Sales go way up when bosses aren't around micromanaging and yelling "Hey how are you!" to customers. I also think for a lot of people...unresolved childhood issues get triggered in a  kitchen. So this idea of being militantly friendly in the United States is associated with childhood pain, and fear and control. Maybe especially or particularly for women. Long story short...I love helping out in this kitchen. I feel totally honoured they let me try to help and learn. I sometimes feel like I might be more hassle than help but they always graciously let me try. The picture on the right is my cutting board, a sort of julienne of the fish.

I was completely fascinated with how the food is sliced and prepared. Each item is seasoned in it's own unique way. Carrots with one combination of wine and vinegar and sugar so that they don't turn brown from the wine that seasons the shiitake mushrooms.  We also learned some great aesthetic tricks to how to slice the vegetables. Bamboo shoot is a vegetable right? I'll have to google that later. I love how rice has been separated and measured once it's cooked to maintain a batch. Then the plates are set up with the three separated seasoned vegetables ready to add to each batch. As Haru said "Slice on an angle it looks better." Well, there you go...and it's true isn't it? She showed me how to slice the shiitake mushrooms in a manner I don't think I could have figured out on my own.
All of this procedure is hundreds of years old. Maybe more, right? This is passed down between generations and groups of family and neighbors and friends. Before the electric fan system we use here....kids would use hand fans to cool the rice while their grandparent or parent "cut" the rice. Serving this recipe works so perfectly for making hundreds of single serve dishes. And everything is layered up specifically to be pleasing to the eye. Marvelous! Looking at the photo below, we mixed up the three veggies carrots, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Then in the container we dressed the top of the dish with eggs. Yes, look closely, the bright yellow are eggs whipped and cooked on a very low heat so they don't brown. Then sliced so thinly I thought they were angel hair noodles when I first saw them. AWESOME! Then the colorful fish is dressed on top. At opposite sides is a red ginger rashes thing and a parsley. Then about 6 peas. About. This leads to all kinds of quality control which I found hilarious. Some folks are like, it totally matters. Then another folk is goal oriented. Well, as soon as a Buddhist hears "goal oriented"....things can enter an alternative realm of time being slowed down. Tis also happens when we do the bulletin. Our bulletin is mailed out to about a 100 people. And the sorting and stickers to send it has very specific directions. Sometimes the mistakes are hilarious during the bailout. Same here. We made about 250 meals between 7-10:30 in the morning. Marvelous! the examples below are not the finest work we did yesterday...these were so of the end of the line...but they still look pretty good right?

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