2008: I wasn’t going to post about these onigiri rice balls but then I reread this article about a gift of a big round daikon radish and a bag of new rice that I wrote last year about Chef Tanigawa on the day that he finally agreed to let me document his New Year’s Osechi Cuisine. I had no idea what would become of this article series. I suppose that it changed my life. I have certainly learned a lot in this year and my tastes have changed.
Things had been slow going between us, I must have gone to Kichisen five times to try to explain to him what I wanted to do. I even took Miwa with me a few times. He was always friendly and polite but never said yes, he didn’t say no either.
On one occasion that I went Chef Tanigawa lent me this old, out of print book about Kyoto cuisine written by one of his masters. After a month or so I thought I should return it, but before doing so, I photocopied the book as I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to get my hands on a copy again. I brought it back and he asked me if I was really done with it. I matter-of-factly said that I photographed the book. He was surprised, I assured him that I photocopied it literally from cover to cover. He said that as New Year’s was fast approaching I ought to do an article on his Osechi. I gladly agreed to that and quickly planned it into a major series!
He yelled into the kitchen for the apprentices to wrap up a big round daikon radish for me and told me to make tsukemono with it. This was the first time that I saw Kichisen apprentices scurrying about for me. Next came a bag of shinmai new rice. When I got home I laid them out on my desk in the sunny south room and photographed them.
I think that photocopying the entire book might have impressed him into taking me seriously. I really don’t know.
2009: The other night the telephone rang and it was Chef Tanigawa saying that he had received his 2009 new rice and that he had made some onigiri rice balls and was having an apprentice run them up to my house. I had actually just finished dinner when the telephone rang and was not very hungry.
The onigiri were nearly gooey soft yet there was tons of okoge in them. They were not wrapped in nori seaweed or stuffed with anything. They were especially salty though and I distinctly feeling grains of salt crunching between my teeth! On the side was his beni shoga pickled ginger, also over-the-top salty.
This is what arrived in a natural wrapping of bamboo sheath.
Notice the yellow okoge in the onigiri. The beni shoga pickled ginger is separated with a still green ginkgo leaf.
I decided that at least for myself, I wanted to recall this last year. I can’t count how many times Chef Tanigawa has called me over to Kichisen to tell me something, taste something, photograph something or give me something. It has been an experience that I never could have (or would have thought to) wish for. I am quite sure that there is no one else like him in Kyoto. He not only defeated Chef Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef, he beat him in a clean sweep. Yet, Chef Tanigawa is very down to earth and very accessible, open and friendly. The kind of master Kyoto needs a whole lot more of!
He is such a nut and is really into Ed Hardy. When he is not in his hard starched and pressed white chef/priest robe, he is decked out in Ed Hardy clothing, Chrome Hearts bling and a Louis Vuitton bag and Gucci shoes.
One more than one occasion I have called him around dinner time, when he is most busy to ask him how to make something in particular. Just for a pointer or two, not even a recipe and he says I’ll be up to your house in like 45 minutes! Like the day I called to ask about the broth he used for his boiled tofu dish.
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