Yoshihiro Murata’s fundamentals 1:1

Chef Yoshihiro Murata

Chef Yoshihiro Murata

Chef Yoshihiro Murata is the third-generation master chef of the Michelin 3-star restaurant, Kikunoi, in Kyoto. He is a highly regarded kaiseki chef and quite a celebrity with a number of wonderful cookbooks that range from the sublime “Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto’s Kikunoi Restaurant” to simple paperbacks with recipes to suit the seasons. One of his books that is a favourite of mine is 割合で覚える和の基本, which translates as “remembering the fundamentals of Japanese cuisine by using ratio proportions.” The concept is to remember certain ratios of ingredients as a key to balancing the flavours in Japanese cuisine. This follows on from the previous recipe in which I mentioned that traditional recipes don’t often include measurements but rely on taste.

In the section on the ratio of 1:1 he discusses the important ratio of mirin and soy sauce…

Niku-jaga (beef with potatoes); kinpira; fish nitsuke.

When people suggest these dishes in answer to “What is your favourite food?” I feel this shows a really good understanding about Japanese cuisine. Yet, even though the ingredients and preparation are no big deal, many people say they are no good at cooking these simple dishes. When it comes to trying to make these dishes, they say that they just can’t make up their mind about how to balance the flavours. But while you’re fiddling around going back and forth adding a bit of shoyu and then adding some more sugar then back to adding a bit  more shoyu, you lose sight of that “characteristic flavour” that you’re really after. So, when you’re working with simple dishes, just try and keep it simple by using this basic rule:

The ratio of shoyu to mirin should be 1:1

That’s all you need for the seasoning. Even if you’re using usukuchi shoyu (light soy sauce), don’t change this ratio. When I talk about this simple ratio, people always ask me “Don’t you add sake?” and “Don’t you need sugar as well?” But really, to get the best flavour, if you use mirin you don’t need sake or sugar. Because mirin is made from rice and fermented in a similar way to sake, but with a much lower alcohol level, then it retains both the flavour of sake and also the natural sweetness of sugar. However, this ratio will only work properly if you use “hon-mirin.” The type of seasoning called “mirin-fu” has less than 1% alcohol and so, because there are artificial flavour additives to compensate for the loss in flavour and sweetness, you won’t be able to get that “characteristic flavour.”

So, use the ratio of shoyu to mirin as 1:1
And only use “hon-mirin”

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