Umami workshop for the chefs and the food related delegation from Holland

February 2009

Lecture on umami

  • Holland is one of the leading agricultural countries in Europe and has been nurturing its own food culture making the most of its rich fresh produces.
    The delegation of twenty members comprised of ten renowned chefs representing Dutch cuisine and ten members from food suppliers and food media industry visited Japan to attend the World Summit of Gastronomy, Tokyo Taste. Eight out of ten chefs in the group were honored with Michelin stars. One of this select group's interests in Japan was umami which has recently been drawing attention in Europe. In response to the request to the Umami Information Center (UIC) from the tour leader Henk de Bruin who wished to have an opportunity to learn more about umami, this workshop was held with the courtesy of Tsukiji Tamura, one of the top traditional Japanese restaurants.


    On February 11, the private workshop for the twenty tour members was opened by the introductory lecture by Kumiko Ninomiya, the director of UIC. It was, then, taken over by the two experts from Tsukiji Tamura, the second generation owner Teruaki Tamura, and the head chef Hideaki Noritsuke. They generously shared their expertise in their demonstration, the tasting, and the following session, which made the workshop very informative and fruitful.


    In her opening lecture, Ninomiya talked about the story behind discovery of umami, umami as one of the basic tastes, the umami-rich ingredients, as well as the activities of UIC. The chefs asked some specific questions such as, "Which part of the tongue is sensitive to umami?"

    The opening lecture was followed by the demonstration session by Teruaki Tamura and Hideaki Noritsuke. First, they explained about dashi and then demonstrated how to make three kinds of basic dashi; kombu dashi, primary dashi (the first infusion of kombu and bonito flakes/ Katsuobushi) and secondary dashi (the second infusion). The participants were fascinated by the techniques of the chefs from the first of the kind: the kombu dashi which brings out straight forward umami from kombu, primary and secondary dashi which have synergistic effect between glutamate from kombu and inosinate from bonito flakes. The session continued with the series of practical questions about the difference in use between primary and secondary dashi, the timing of removing kombu from the pot and so on.

    While the participants were sampling the taste and aroma of dashi, Tamura explained how dashi and umami play the crucial role in Japanese cuisine showing actual ingredients, kombu and bonito flakes. One of the food suppliers to the major restaurants in Holland asked how bonito flakes were made and how the taste differed depending on the part of fish. Tamura answered each question thoroughly.

    As the culmination of the session and as the last program of the workshop, tasting followed. Two kinds of Chawan-mushi (savory egg custard) made of completely same ingredients except one made with dashi and the other without were served. After having the first one without dashi, everyone who tasted the second one immediately recognized the difference and understood the importance of dashi. After fully inspired by the demonstration, the participants enjoyed the second dish of seasonal ingredients cooked in pirmary dashi, tasting harmony between umami from dashi and delicate flavor of the ingredients. The Chirashi-zushi (sushi in scattered style) in the theme of spring and the Japanese doll festival was treated as the courtesy of the restaurant and impressed the participants how deeply Japanese cuisine related to the sense of season and event.

    Tamura and Noritsuke joined the tasting and heated discussions took place at the table. Gerrit Greveling from Chalet Royal rated one star by Michelin mentioned, "I knew the word "umami" before coming to Japan but I had absolutely no idea what it was. Now this workshop made me understand this completely new concept." Dick Middleweerd from Restaurant De Treeswijlchoeve, also rated one star, commented, "I would definitely like to create my original dish featuring dashi and umami in my own kitchen when I get back to Holland."

    Tamura surprised everyone by giving each member his own hand written calligraphy in memory of the event. While everyone was still very excited by the surprise gift, Bruin delivered a thank-you speech. The workshop for about two hours concluded with the tour of the restaurant and the kitchen.

    Thanks to Tsukiji Tamura, the workshop which was short yet fully informative and inspirational ended in great success and all the participants deepened their understanding about umami, dashi and Japanese cuisine. They departed promising that they would make the most of this experience and incorporate the concept of umami in their own work.

    Last but not least, UIC would like to express our deepest gratitude to Tsukiji Tamura who generously provided wonderful location for the workshop and shared great expertise with us in spite it was a national holiday.

  • Lecture on umami

    Demonstration of primary dashi

    A chef sampling the aroma of primary dashi

    The head chef Noritsuke shaving dried bonito into flakes

    Chirashi-zushi (sushi in scattered style)

    Tamura and Noritsuke with the delegation members

  • Demonstration of primary dashi

    A chef sampling the aroma of primary dashi

    The head chef Noritsuke shaving dried bonito into flakes

    Chirashi-zushi (sushi in scattered style)

    Tamura and Noritsuke with the delegation members