Food, Home & Lifestyle

Balance in Kaiseki

Niki Nakayama

Lesson time 05:22 min

The order and composition of your dishes are key elements of the dining experience. Niki explains how to create balance in your meals.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Showcasing Nature


[MUSIC PLAYING] - The role of balance in a modern kaiseki meal or in any meal is the idea that you should always feel about 80% full. So to eat to a point where you feel 80% full is the perfect amount that you should eat. And I think when we're trying to put together the balance in the meal, we want to know that perhaps some dishes have a little bit more saltiness to it. And some dishes have a little bit more sweetness to it. And some have a little bit more freshness to it. Or some feel a little bit more heavy. It's always this consideration of these varying flavors and tastes and textures. When you're creating a dish for yourself or creating a whole menu for yourself, I think it's very important that you think through the dishes in terms of, number one, what you feel like eating and number two, how, in terms of the complete meal, how satisfying it is. I think when we are overwhelmed, or we take on just one dish, you might not feel that it's incredibly satisfying because you might be craving other types of food. For example, for Japanese cooking, we do-- we follow this method called ichiju sansai. And that basically translated means three dishes, one soup. And it's always understood in Japanese food that you eat it with rice. So I think the whole thing is to have it be balanced and feel a strong sense of harmony. And you feel like you've had this really well-rounded meal. There was a time in Japan where food was very rare and very-- you know, the availability to get really nice food was-- it wasn't even an option. And I think in order to sort of alleviate that want or that lack of, there is this feeling of incorporating very beautiful dishes or a lot of little kinds of dishes throughout the meal so that you could feel that it was still grand and not feel that you were having less than. [MUSIC PLAYING] One of the most inspiring things that we have is our home garden. And what is inspiring about it is before we even had one and built one, we actually had a year that we built it up prior to n/naka's opening. And I remember before that I hadn't really done any kind of gardening or learned much about growing my own vegetables. And it was so amazing to see the life process through it and, you know, just to notice how in every stage of a plant's life, there's so much being said. And you can just sit there and reflect on it being a part of your own life. And I love that every time I look at it, it's, on so many levels, some kind of inspiration for me. It's like, oh, look at the cucumbers. It's time to use them because they're at their peak. And that's what we should have on our menu. Because Japanese food has so little layers compared to other types of cuisine in that we don't use a lot of spices, we don't use a lot of herbs, there aren't a lot of things to sort of bring up the dish, we really need to take a look at the ingredient because the ingredient has to speak the loudest. It's so simple, far more simple t...

About the Instructor

The chef and owner of two-Michelin-starred restaurant n/naka in Los Angeles, Niki Nakayama is celebrated for her modern interpretation of kaiseki, a traditional Japanese cuisine. With her partner and sous chef, Carole, Niki will teach you techniques for preparing sashimi, tempura, perfect rice, and more. Learn how to make dishes that honor fresh ingredients as Niki shows you how to cook with care and gratitude.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Niki Nakayama

Niki Nakayama of two-Michelin-starred n/naka teaches you how to honor fresh ingredients with her innovative take on Japanese home cooking techniques.

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