Food, Home & Lifestyle

Kaiseki Cooking

Niki Nakayama

Lesson time 06:20 min

Kaiseki originated from the multicourse style of dining practiced by Zen monks in medieval Japan. Similar to a tea ceremony, this elaborate meal is designed to slow the mind and attune the senses. Niki shares her modern spin on kaiseki.

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

Topics include: Modernizing Kaiseki


[MUSIC PLAYING] - When I traveled throughout Japan and ate my way through the country, I learned many things. I learned that with every region, the seasoning differs, in the strength of it and how sweet or salty different regions like things. And it all comes down to where they're located, and it all came down to seasoning. But how well the chefs were able to season their dishes really made the difference and differentiated a chef from another. Japanese food definitely has acidity, salt, soy sauce, and sweetness. And every single dish that you eat will have elements of that in some way balanced within one another. In terms of kaiseki cooking, it always comes down to the best ingredients and how we use the techniques we know to bring out, to draw out the best of those ingredients, because those are the core philosophies that we really want to practice and believe in. I think it comes from that tradition of cha-kaiseki, back in the 1500s. There was Sen Rikyu, who is a famous monk for teaching students about the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony is a very simple process, but very complicated in that it has many different mannerisms that you're supposed to follow when you're enjoying this tea. All of those traditional mannerisms are meant to bring your attention to what's happening at that moment, and kaiseki originated as the simple meal of vegetables that would be served as a part of the tea ceremony to represent traditional philosophies like ichigo ichie and wabi-sabi. Since then, it has expanded into the multicourse meal commonly served today. The simplicity, nature, and fresh ingredients remain foundational elements of the kaiseki meal. Ichigo ichie is that philosophy of this one time, one meeting. It's about this moment only will happen now and you must enjoy it before it goes away. And wabi-sabi being that there's perfection in imperfection. If we were to serve something that we've cut perfectly into a square, we would choose a dish that was completely opposite of that to always remind you that there was a conscious effort to create this, but in nature nothing is like this. And I think it's a reference to nature, how there are things that are so perfect in shape or in what it is, and yet there's also the opposite side of that. And that is the underlying idea of kaiseki, which is because it's so simple because it's such a very straightforward presentation of ingredients, that so much of the philosophies, like ichigo ichie or wabi-sabi, are experienced through having a kaiseki meal. My definition of modern kaiseki is taking traditional kaiseki and incorporating it with new ideas, with new cooking methods, introducing some different flavor profiles that aren't necessarily found in Japanese cooking. And the most important thing that we think about when we're creating any type of Japanese meal, or in our case, modern kaiseki, we always want to think about the ingredient. I think as you'll see in the lessons that we...

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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