Kikkoman Festival of the Senses Event at Matsuri:
Guest Feature by Adrian York.
One of the upsides of being a food writer is that you sometimes get invited to events where you not only learn a lot about a particular ingredient or brand, you can also eat and drink really well and have a convivial time.
The recent event hosted by Japanese soy sauce manufacturers Kikkoman at top London Japanese restaurant Matsuri opened with Mr Bing-Yu Lee, the charming General Sales Manager of Kikkoman UK inviting us to do a soy sauce taste comparison between Kikkoman and their main commercial competitor. After due consideration and a cocktail the assembled bloggorati declared Kikkoman the winner- it is a completely natural product and apparently has over 300 flavour elements which might have something to do with it. It was certainly much better balanced than the competitor which tasted artificial in comparison.
We were then given a presentation by Simon Hulstone, Michelin-starred chef of The Elephant in Torquay, who explained about the five flavour types: salt, sour, sweet, bitter and umami (savoury) with the latter being central to oriental cooking. Simon unusually uses soy sauce to add umami to British cooking telling us how it is great with chocolate and how it can boost the flavour of a shepherd’s pie. He has even created a Tarte Tatin with a caramel soy base!
To demonstrate the flavour potential of soy Simon stepped up to the Teppan grill, which is a feature at Matsuri, to cook fresh scallops from Brixham and some tenderstem broccoli sourced from his own farm. He had pre-blanched the broccoli and clearly likes to get a bit of char on it for extra flavour. The scallops were wiped with a little bit of olive oil and then grilled for a couple of minutes on each side. The scallops and broccoli were then dressed with soy, mirin (sweet cooking sake), sesame oil and olive oil, and then served. It was a deliciously light plate with the subtle dressing bringing out the sweetness of the scallops and the caramelised notes of the broccoli.
Next we were given a nigiri sushi-making demo by Matsuri’s Head chef Mr Sudo. He placed steamed sushi rice with vinegar onto a sheet of dried nori (seaweed) spreading onto it a little of the fiery wasabi sauce. He then covered the rice with raw salmon taking care to leave some seaweed on the edge so it can be rolled up and then sliced. After repeating the process using a mix of raw tuna with spring onion and the assembled throng soon demolished the perfect results of Mr Sudo’s labours.
We were quite exhausted after watching other people work so hard so the thought of the upcoming 4 course meal was a great relief. By this point I was drinking a flinty Chablis Jean-Marc Brocard 2012 which was the perfect accompaniment to a fantastic selection of sushi: we feasted on tuna, salmon roe, and white fish sushi, and salmon and tuna with spring onion nigiri. Adding extra wasabi to the sushi to each person’s taste we then grabbed the rice and fish agglomeration and dipped it gently in a little bowl of soy (or in my case dropped it) before plopping the little salty bundle of happiness in our mouths.
The sushi was soon followed by a plate of tempura with daikon (pickled white radish) on the side. There was sublimely tender squid with a shiso wrap, sweet King prawns and carrot and aubergine all to be delicately dipped into our tempura dipping sauce.
For mains we had the choice between Ginger-Marinated Alaskan Black Cod and Scottish Angus Dry Aged Fillet Steak. I chose the fish option which was again grilled on the Teppan Grill and then covered and left to steam. This was accompanied by grilled green and white asparagus dressed in butter and soy sauce with some oriental ratatouille cooked with soy sauce and shiitake mushrooms. The fish had a mild ginger sweetness and really melted in your mouth, the asparagus’ flavour was really brought out with the grilling and softened with the soy and butter dressing and the ratatouille had a salty richness that really delivered an oriental twist to the Provencal classic.
Griddled pineapple pancake was accompanied for dessert by a Fireball ice cream-vanilla ice-cream set aflame magnificently on the grill-and it we drank the most wonderful glass (or two) of marzipan flavoured Umenoyado Aragoshi Umeshu Plum Wine to wash it down.
I would like to thank all the staff at Kikkoman UK, Matsuri and of course Simon Hulstone for giving us a wonderful evening as well as the opportunity to discover new creative possibilities for the use of soy sauce.
Matsuri St James’s
15 Bury Street,
London SW1Y 6AL