Our third kitchen series lowdown takes place in Roam Tokyo, at arguably the most artistic and poetic of all the Roam locations. Japanese cuisine, most popularly known for sushi and tea ceremonies, encompasses much more than what is often tasted internationally. Japan’s four distinctive seasons allows for a not only a range of varied produce, but also dishes that are designed to mark the arrival of the new calendar months. Yama no sachi, meaning “fruit of the mountains” is celebrated along with umi no sachi, “bounty of the sea”, forming the core of Japanese cooking – rice and fish.
At Roam Tokyo we spoke to Community Manager Marika-chan (“chan” being the endearing diminutive for “cute”). An artist and photographer, Marika is also a big foodie, favoring a more international lineup of cheese, croissants and brussel sprouts! Born in Japan, Marika helps new Roamers experiment with new flavors, and in turn she has broadened her palate, introducing more fruit and vegetables as a result of meeting so many health-conscious Roamers who pass through her kitchen.
Hi Marika-chan! What are 3 great local ingredients you discovered through living at Roam?
Tofu, Hijiki & Mirin!
Tofu: Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. The soft flavor allows it to take on the seasoning of the meal being cooked.
Hijiki: A black seaweed slowly cooked with soy sauce, sake, mirin. (This is a traditional home food!)
Mirin: Mirin is a common staple used in Japanese cooking. It’s a type of rice wine, similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol and higher sugar content. (This is the vinegar responsible for the slightly sweet/acid taste of sushi rice).
What dishes do you use these ingredients in? What local dishes are they typically used in?
I use mainly use Tofu for miso soup, but sometimes use Tofu for burgers, salad. Japanese people often eat The Hiyayakko, a chilled tofu dish with toppings. Hiyayakko is usually topped with katsuobushi (fermented and smoked skipjack tuna), green onions, grated ginger and it’s seasoned with a little bit of soy sauce. Japanese people often make Hijiki with carrot and Aburaage (fried tofu). It’s delicious on its own, but I sometimes mix with white rice and make rice ball.
We often use Mirin for cooking, especially when you make the sauce. I always use Mirin for make Gyudon* sauce. *Gyudon, literally beef bowl, is a Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with beef and onion simmered in a mildly sweet sauce flavored with dashi, soy sauce and Mirin.
Have you had any interesting fusion dishes come out? Do you have people from different countries cooking at the same time?
Yes, many people from other countries enjoy cooking together…. especially in the morning! I haven’t had any fusion dishes yet, but one of our Roamies made us a Sake mimosa at family Brunch last Sunday.
How do Roamers relate in your kitchen? Are there dinner parties, does everybody pitch in, or do people take turns cooking?
The kitchen is the best place to get together. Sometimes they host a dinner or serve their favorite dishes to others. We had guests from India once, and they made traditional Indian curry appetizer for us! Also, many Roamies are joining our family dinner every Wednesday and everyone enjoys cooking together.
Have your meal habits changed since moving here?
Roam Tokyo kitchen is wide and beautiful. Usually Japanese kitchens are small and tidy, so I am really enjoying cooking here! My meal habits changed a lot. I was so surprised how healthy people eat here at Roam. I’ve had to reconsider my eating habits. I eat more veggies and fruits now.
What are your favorite restaurants, grocery stores, or street markets that locals go to?
My favorite restaurant is “Sushi Shin-tanaka” Best Sushi Restaurant in Tokyo! My favorite market is Farmer’s Market @UNU. ( Marika-chan tip: Organic Veggies and Bio Bread is the best!)
What’s your favorite part about the Roam kitchen at your location? Any hidden surprises?
I love the oven here, and kitchen equipment is extremely nice, and all from Kappabashi, a shopping street where one can find every kind of restaurant equipment imaginable. (All Roam locations are equipped with state- of the art appliances and tailored to local customs). And of course the Takoyaki Pan (a heavy cast-iron frying pan used to make the traditional specialty snack Takoyaki, fried batter balls which are filled with octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion.