In this blog, we touch on diverse topics about Japanese food cultures, practices together with the culinary secret, TREHA®, and its important role in the Japanese food industry. We hope our blog helps you obtain in-depth knowledge of the secrets and science behind Japanese cuisine, shared from our kitchen, to yours.
This post features an exclusive interview with Chef Nobuaki Masaki, the head of Masaki Cooking School in Okayama, Japan. Standing by his belief that "home cooking is the foundation of food culture," Chef Masaki consults with food manufacturers and industrial-sized delicatessen providing advice on product concepts and recipe development.
After training at a Japanese restaurant, a long-time favorite of locals in Hiroshima, Chef Masaki subsequently pursued his career as a master of Japanese cuisine (Washoku), gaining over 50 years of teaching experience at numerous schools. Graduates of his cooking school tally more than 30,000 so far. Chef Masaki actively promotes the enjoyment of home cooking, practical use of seasonal ingredients, and education of food and nutrition (known as "Shokuiku" in Japanese) in Okayama through various appearances on TV and radio, lectures, newspaper columns, and as an author.
The first interview was conducted in 2006, with additional interviews in the fall of 2022.
Team TREHA®: How long have you been using TREHA®? What motivated you to start using it?
Chef Masaki: I've been using TREHA® since around 2005. I was motivated to try TREHA® because I was tackling the difficult task of creating the best flavor in the season while living in a world where almost all produce is available year-round, thanks to modern farming technology. The further I tested TREHA®, the more I learned about its properties in maintaining and bringing out the utmost feature of ingredients. Now I use TREHA® every year for my Osechi-ryori (おせち料理). Unlike a preservative, TREHA® is a natural saccharide that maintains the stable quality of the New Year's delicacy.
Team TREHA®: Could you tell me how you use TREHA® and what features you like about it?
Chef Masaki: In particular, the benefits of TREHA® are noticeable when used for starch or protein-based foods. TREHA® maintains the original flavor of vegetables and fish, of which tastes and textures are sensitive to heating. I have never encountered anything else that works as same as TREHA®. For example, snap peas cooked with TREHA® retain their natural sweetness, even after sitting for a while. It's not just that TREHA® helps maintain their bright color; it appears that TREHA® preserves the sweetness of the peas.
Chef Masaki: Dishes with a certain degree of sweetness and desserts require a delicate adjustment of sugar content. Although the Japanese are typically not keen on overwhelming sweetness, sugar content is necessary to maintain ideal moisture in sweet items. TREHA®, with less than half of the sugar sweetness, plays an essential role in rounding the edge of sweetness while adding moisture.
TREHA® provides a chef with many discoveries through experiments and research. The appropriate amount to use may only become apparent after trials and errors. For first-time users, it's vital to understand the properties of TREHA® while trying many applications. From my experience, I know people in the food service industry must always offer freshness. I strongly recommend they learn about TREHA®.
Team TREHA®: What are your expectations for TREHA®?
We live in an era where world cuisine can be enjoyed wherever we are. We want to obtain the freshness of ingredients as if they were harvested right there on the spot. I anticipate TREHA® to play an unreplaceable role in this nearly impossible challenge.
For instance, wagyu beef is known for its fantastic flavor but can dissipate when stewed or grilled for a long time. That's where TREHA® comes in. I expect TREHA® to preserve the wagyu beef's exquisite flavor. This means that even more affordable cuts of wagyu beef can be used to make flavorful bento boxes that impress consumers.
Team TREHA®: Thank you. TREHA® not only helps maintain the juiciness of cooked meat but enhances its flavor while reducing unpleasant odors. As a result, TREHA® helps affordable beef cuts to pull out the flavors at best. As you pointed out, TREHA® also maintains the freshly cooked taste of vegetables and other protein sources than beef. We believe it will help you tackle your culinary challenges.
Niku-jaga (肉じゃが, Japanese meat and potato stew)
Sekihan (赤飯, festive red rice)
Tsumire (つみれ, minced fishballs)
Hambāgu (ハンバーグ, Hamburg steak)
1. Niku-jaga (肉じゃが, Japanese meat and potato stew) [Click here for the recipe.]
Nikujaga, one of the classic homemade flavors, is a stew made by simmering meat, potatoes, and other ingredients in a soy sauce-based soup. The term "nikujaga" is said to have been coined in the mid-1970s. There is a significant difference in the type of meat used between the Kanto region (Greater Tokyo Area) and the Kansai region (Greater Osaka Area). While pork is commonly used in the Kanto style, beef is preferred in the Kansai style.
・Inhibits potatoes from falling apart during cooking.
・Makes the meat tender and cooks potatoes evenly with a fluffy texture.
・Maintains soft, fresh texture of potatoes and meat after cold or frozen storage.
2. Sekihan (赤飯, festive red rice) [Click here for the recipe.]
Sekihan, meaning “red rice,” is steamed glutinous rice with azuki read beans, a source of a reddish pigment. The preparation includes soaking uncooked glutinous rice in azuki bean water overnight to let the red shade transfer to the rice. Red has long been considered auspicious, bringing happiness while warding off evil.
Because of that, sekihan is regarded as a celebratory food during the festive occasion, including the Shichi-Go-San, a formal event celebrating children’s growth featured in a past blog post.
・Maintains the softness of glutinous rice after it cooled or freeze-thawed.
・Minimizes heat inconsistencies, preventing red beans from falling apart during cooking.
・Gives luster to the glutinous rice.
See how TREHA® maintains the color of azuki bean water:
Bean water without TREHA® on the right looks cloudy due to the pulp from ruptured beans during cooking. On the other hand, bean water with TREHA® on the left has a clear reddish shade due to fewer ruptured beans from the boiling process.
3. Tsumire (つみれ, minced fishballs) [Click here for the recipe.]
According to Wikipedia, "tsumire" is a meatball made of fish or meat. It is often used as a topping for soup dishes like "oden" or "nabe.” There is a similar food item called "tsukune," but while "tsukune" is formed into balls or cylinders before being cooked, "tsumire" is not pre-shaped and is pinched off by hand or scooped with a spoon before being cooked in hot water or broth.
・By reducing fish odor, TREHA® makes seafood more appealing for non-fish eaters.
・Maintains a fresh texture after freeze-thaw.
See how 11 taste testers evaluated tsumire samples with or without TREHA®:
Evaluation of "tsumire" after freezing and heat-thawing. TREHA® reduced the odor of sardines, which is a main ingredient in "tsumire." Additionally, the texture of "tsumire" with TREHA® was noticeably softer than that without TREHA®.
Three tsumire samples with 2%, 1%, and 0% (control) TREHA® were prepared to evaluate based on three attributes: odor sensed by smell, odor sensed by taste, and softness in texture. For each attribute, 11 testers blindly selected the sample with the slightest odor (by smell), the sample with the slightest odor (by taste), and the sample with the softest texture.
4. Hambāgu (ハンバーグ, Hamburg steak) [Click here for the recipe.]
Hambāgu is one of the Japanese children’s favorite dishes. The meat patty called "hamburger steak" or "Salisbury steak” in English has uniquely evolved into a pan-fried meat dish prepared with ground meats, sautéed onions, breadcrumbs, eggs, and seasonings. When the Japanese were exposed to Western food culture during rapid economic growth in the 1960s, hambāgu quickly became a hearty and budget-friendly comfort food because the recipe allowed options to mix less expensive pork ground meat.
・Enhances the flavor while reducing off-notes.
・Contributes to a moist and tender meat texture.
・Reduces water release from the cooked meat when reheated in the microwave.
See how TREHA® works on frozen hambāgu patties:
Hambāgu patties* with or without TREHA® were cooked, frozen for one week, and thawed in the microwave. Compared to the control sample, hambāgu with TREHA® had less water release containing the meat flavor.
（*The samples were prepared at the same weight.）
Other than Chef Masaki's recipes, we would like to introduce Kuromame (黒豆, black soybeans), a celebratory dish typically eaten during the Japanese New Year as part of "osechi-ryori” cuisine, but it is also a year-round household dish. If you want to learn more about the wishes behind "osechi-ryori” and "kuromame," please read this article. You can also find recipe here with TREHA®!
・Cooks the beans evenly while preventing them from falling apart.
・Extends shelf life without adding extra sweetness.
Stay tuned for the second part of our interview with Chef Masaki. He’ll delve deeper into dashi as an umami enhancer in Japanese cuisine and what he learned using TREHA® for it.
Please share it with your friends in the food service industry.
We regularly update the blog about the food culture of Japan, where TREHA® was discovered for culinary applications.
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