Chef Masahiro Kasahara’s father, Ken, once ran a yakitori restaurant in a shopping street in Musashi-Koyama, an area in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward.
In his childhood, Kasahara, who is now the proprietor of the Japanese cuisine restaurant Sanpi-Ryoron in Tokyo’s Ebisu district, would finish his homework in a corner of the place and eat his father's cooking.
Before graduating from high school, Kasahara hit upon the idea to become a pastry chef. But Ken’s suggestion was, “If you are going to dedicate yourself to cooking, become a chef of Japanese cuisine.”
The words touched Kasahara, who had grown up watching Ken at work, and he followed his advice. The decision was “amazingly smooth,” says the 45-year-old.
After graduating, he trained at a “kaiseki” restaurant in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward that offered traditional multicourse Japanese meals. When he was about to start his 10th year there, Ken fell ill and passed away after a short while. Not wanting to lose the restaurant that had been dear to his father, Kasahara took over the yakitori eatery in 2000.
But he ran into a wall. Although Ken’s former regular customers came at first, Kasahara began to lose business. He could not use expensive ingredients like he used to at the restaurant where he trained. He had to accept that he lacked the skill to serve dishes that were inexpensive and tasty.
Around that time, he found an old binder among Ken’s belongings. Inside, the pages were filled with recipes Ken had learned when training in Japanese cuisine. They also contained memos of dishes Ken had eaten at other restaurants written in fine-tipped pens.
As he turned the pages, Kasahara noticed from the paper and ink used that the part showing the staple dishes of his yakitori restaurant had been written recently. Although Ken had never asked him to take over his place, Kasahara felt that he had left the recipes for such a day as now.
Kasahara studied Ken’s recipes and also came up with new menus, and the restaurant eventually became as busy as before. Although he closed the yakitori restaurant to set out on new endeavors, Kasahara still keeps the binder close at hand.
The tulip-shaped fried chicken is one of the recipes left by his father. It is perfect for Christmas parties and the New Year season when people get together.
8 chicken wings (tebasaki)
Bit of salt
1/2 each of lettuce head, red onion, lemon
4 cherry tomatoes
Some Worcester-type sauce
Bit of mustard
Ingredient A (3 Tbsp mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp ketchup, 1 Tbsp vinegar)
Cut lettuce into fine strips. Finely slice cucumber and red onion. Immerse vegetables in water, drain and mix. Cut lemon into wedges.
Cut off chicken wing tip at the joint. Remove one of the two bones in the remaining middle section of the chicken wing. Push down meat to one end, turn inside out into tulip-like shape. Sprinkle with salt.
Dust chicken with flour, coat with beaten egg, cover with breadcrumbs and deep-fry for about 5 minutes in oil heated to 170 degrees.
Serve on plate with vegetables, cherry tomatoes and lemon. Pour Ingredient A on vegetables.
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From The Asahi Shimbun's Watashi no Ryori column