Cynthia Chung Aki, founder and president of the Golden Lotus Foundation, works hard to promote the contributions of the Asian community to Colorado Springs. So it wasn’t surprising that she latched onto the idea of offering a Japanese cooking class to celebrate the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
She contacted Cortney Smith and David Cook, the owners of Gather Food Studio & Spice Shop, to explore the possibilities. As culinary instructors, they have become masters at teaching virtual cooking classes, and they suggested that option.
The Zoom class will be Aug. 3, with Smith and Cook demonstrating how to make chicken yakisoba and sunomono.
Never heard of these dishes?
Yakisoba is Japanese stir-fried noodles, which Smith said originated in the 1930s and later became a popular snack for children, mainly available at Japanese mom-and-pop candy stores in the late 1950s.
“It’s a popular Japanese street food,” she said, “and very easy to prepare for quick weeknight meals.”
Sunomono is a cucumber salad and a perfect small side dish for summer meals. Many recipes call for Japanese cucumbers, which are skinnier and have fewer seeds than regular cucumbers. Look for them at an Asian market, or substitute English or Persian cucumbers.
“Sunomono is super easy to make, healthy to eat and very refreshing to accompany any main dish,” Smith said. “It’s tangy but sweet. Who wouldn’t like it?”
Aki is Chinese, and her husband is Japanese. She offered some Japanese etiquette rules that she found online, which she thought might be new to you — some were even new to her.
“As a little girl, I was taught never to rest chopsticks across my bowl or plate,” she said. “I folded the paper chopstick wrapper as a chopstick rest.”
Other rules she pointed out:
• Slurping noodles is good. In Japanese culture, slurping them shows how much you’re enjoying the meal. The slurping process also cools down the noodles and enhances flavors.
• When served soup, you should use chopsticks to eat the solid food items from the broth. When those are gone, bring the bowl to your mouth and drink the broth the same way you’d drink a cup of tea.
• Do not stab food with chopsticks.
“I would add,” Aki said, “Japanese food is always cut into small, dainty pieces, bite size, so you do not have to cut with a knife at the table.”
In addition, she said, “Whereas Chinese and other Asian cuisines have sauces on food, Japanese food is rarely served soaked in sauces — usually plain, and you dip food in individual sauces. My mom was really great at cutting and portioning food with her chopsticks.”
Happy Maguire, whose mom was Japanese, offered some other nuances of Japanese cuisine.
“Japanese food is light and refined,” she said. “Flavors are very subtle and lightly seasoned to allow the natural flavors of the food to shine. Food is sliced very thinly so it cooks rapidly and pieces are small for ease of picking up with chopsticks.”
The August class will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and costs $25 per family. Attendees will get a cooking kit with ingredients — or shopping list if you prefer to shop for yourself — prep and equipment lists, and the Zoom link 24 hours before the class. Each of the recipes makes four servings. Ten percent of the proceeds will be donated to Golden Lotus Foundation, whose mission is to celebrate Asian traditions and inspire passion for Asian heritage through community resources and education programs, and to expand support for Asian projects. To register, go to tinyurl.com/y6x7yyhw.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.