When did you start cooking? Tell us more about your story with food.
Because my parents were busy running clothing stores, I, as the oldest of four, started cooking for my family when I was 10 years old. This taught me the pleasure of sharing meals and cooking for people. My parents really appreciated it. They happily ate whatever I cooked, even when I made mistakes.
I am originally from Japan; I grew up on semitropical islands in Okinawa Prefecture, at the southern end of the Japanese islands. This area is known for its healthy diet and the longevity of its people. It is one of the five blue zones in the world. The base of my cooking is Okinawan, which has heavy influences from both Chinese and Japanese cooking. I lived in Tokyo for about 10 years and fell in love with traditional Japanese cooking.
How are your values reflected in your cooking?
When I cook, I cook because I want to share the food with my family and friends. Cooking is about getting together with people, sharing food and conversations. Naturally, I want my people to eat food as healthy as possible, with high-quality ingredients, tons of fresh produce, and a modest amount of fish or meat.
I started teaching Japanese home-cooking classes at Mississippi Market in 2014 because I wanted to spread nabe, a Japanese hot pot dish, to Americans. Nabe is a tasty, fun and healthy winter home meal that brings people together around a steaming pot in the middle of the table. Everyone takes from the variety of vegetables, tofu, meat or fish directly from the pot and dips it in a wonderful sauce before eating. So, food does not have to be perfect. How you sit, who you are with, and why you are together make eating more pleasurable.
How do you come up with delicious recipes and ideas for classes at the co-op?
Always, gathering is in my mind. I want people to have fun — have fun making and have fun eating. I like to teach things people don’t know much about, but that have ingredients people can find, and are easy for people to cook at home.
What’s something every home chef should have in their kitchen?
A Japanese electric rice cooker. I know it is not cheap (it is about $150 for a 5-cup rice cooker for a family of four), but it is great to have. Convenient, mistake-free and gluten-free!
What is your favorite go-to recipe?
Hot pot: the party dish. It doesn’t have to be Japanese. Most of the Asian countries have wonderful hot pot dishes.
Take a class with Kimiko!
Okinawan Cooking | Tuesday, May 9