Japanese dishes and ingredients are having a culinary moment right now in the U.S., with chefs and home cooks drawing from the Japanese pantry, and incorporating dashi and koji in their sauces. And it’s a new rite of passage for chefs to travel to Japan to eat their way through the noodle restaurants (ramen, soba, udon), izakayas and kaiseki restaurants. But without an understanding of the language and culture, a food lover needs an insider to share their knowledge of the culinary heritage of Japan. While I am Japanese-American, there is still so much I want to learn about making Japanese food and I met Sonoko Sakai, who is the perfect person who can guide me (and you) around the Japanese kitchen.
Sonoko Sakai, is a Japanese-American home cooking teacher and food writer based in Los Angeles who founded Common Grains as a cultural and educational project dedicated to providing a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japanese food and culture. Sonoko’s classes on soba and onigiri, and pop-up dinners in Los Angeles are popular gatherings for the food intelligentsia.
She is teaching a workshop coming up where she will focus on Soba Making and the Japanese Pantry, and teach buckwheat noodle making techniques in a hands-on class at San Francisco Cooking School; and will do a Soba and Fermented Food Dinner at the new SHED in Healdsburg on August 18.
Sonoko Sakai is a Japanese home-cooking teacher, food writer, and the founder of Common Grains, a cultural and educational project dedicated to providing a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japanese food and culture. She wrote The Poetical Pursuit of Food: Japanese Recipes for American Cooks, and her articles are regularly featured in the Los Angeles Times and Zester Daily, and a story for Saveur magazine. Sonoko travels to Japan regularly to see her family, research stories and gather ingredients. She is working with Kenter Canyon Farms and Maggie’s Farm to locally grow and mill buckwheat and grain with a grant from Anson Mills.