“allez cuisine!” – loosely translated: Go COOK! Okay, so this wasn’t really like an episode of Iron Chef… but after I saw our finished Rafute, I felt a small tinge of proud accomplishment at the beauty of the dish!
With the finished rafute!
This past Saturday I completed my first cooking class at Kapi’olani Community College through their (non-credit) continuing education culinary program. They offer a plethora of courses ranging in various cuisines and techniques (Korean, Mediterranean and Indian; to knife skills courses, baking and frying).
I chose the course “Cooking Local: Okinawan Favorites” because the thought of making fresh beautiful round golden-brown andagi just excited me! I also figured it couldn’t hurt to learn a little more about the foods of my own heritage other than the well-known fried doughy treat.
Chef Grant Sato was a great teacher and you can tell he’s passionate about what he does. This particular class was really special to him in particular noting it was the beginning of the Okinawan Obon Season and felt quite emotional thinking of his own upbringing by his Okinawan grandparents.
Reflecting on the class, I think the recipes were definitely easy enough to follow and prepare at home without much instruction but it helped me think about timing and organization, especially when planning to cook a meal with several dishes… I usually try to throw it all in one pan or am chopping, measuring, mixing and adding all at once in a flurry! I realized just how much time and frustration it saves to do your prep work before starting the actual act of cooking … or just having your own sous chef to do the work!
When we arrived at our stations, all of our ingredients for each recipe were pre-measured and laid out, ready to be made into tasty creations!
Each stage of the cooking and prepping process began with a demonstration by Chef Sato – we then returned to our respective stations (two per area) to follow his lead while helpers roamed to offer advice and answer questions.
The dishes we prepared were:
Rafute (Okinawan Braised Pork Belly) – this turned out tender and very flavorful. The flavoring was miso/ginger based and would be perfect over a bowl of hot rice!
Goya Champuru (Bitter Melon Stir Fry) – I learned how to prep the bitter melon to remove as much of the bitter taste as possible: slice lengthwise and remove the seeds/pit – continue to scrape with a spoon to remove all of the white area and the juice will acutally begin to foam! This is the melon’s defense-mechanism, it releases chemicals causing the bitter taste to avoid being eaten! Remember when choosing your melon to look out for damaged areas on the vegetable (like bee-stings or cuts) – it will mean that around this area of damage, the meat will be more bitter tasting.
salt the bitter melon after slicing, let sit for an hour then rinse well to remove additional bitterness
Yakisoba – made the traditional Okinawan street-food way with crispy fried Spam, bell pepper and cabbage… did you know Spam is a hot commodity in Okinawa? I was suprised to learn they’re one of the biggest consumers of Spam besides good ole Hawaii and it comes at a high price there – almost $10 US/can!
Andagi (Okinawan Doughnut) – So I always thought these were formed into a ball before dropping into the batter – they aren’t! It’s actually a method of squeezing the batter through your fist and “chopping” it into the hot frying oil with a clean chopstick – the baking soda in the batter reacts to puff the dough into the round shape.
Unfortunately, I needed a lot more practice…
We also sampled Okinawan Nantu (mochi) and watched Chef Sato demonstrate the preparation but did not prepare this ourselves due to the time required to finish the recipe (24 hours).
We got to take home all of our creations (a full family-sized four course meal and dozens of andagi!). Sign up for the fall courses began today (for more info, visit KCC’s continuing ed website here), I can’t wait for my next class!