202403201Date and Time:  Wednesday, March 20  9:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Venue:  Cooking Room, Abista

Instructor:  Ms. Masayo Yamaguchi, a translator and announcer of IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) World Service, Radio Japanese

Participants:  15 people (2 AIRA members, 10 non-members and 3 staff members)   No.23-24

Facilitated by Ms. Sakazume, the cooking class started.  Ms. Yamaguchi lived in Iran from 2002 to 2023 and has lived in Abiko since she returned to Japan.  She is well-versed in Iranian history, customs and food culture.  In her opening remarks she said, “Today, March 20, is the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, when Iranian people lavishly cerebrate the beginning of spring.”

The participants learned how to cook three dishes.  recipe.pdf

1. Rice cooked with lentil and raisins

2. Shirazi salad

3. Kotlet, Iranian meat patties

Ms. Yamaguchi demonstrated cooking techniques while giving explanations.  The participants, divided into six groups, took notes and started cooking cooperating with group members.  Ms. Yamaguchi gave advice to each group.

They took interest in the cooking methods that were different from those in Japan.  One of them was “Yutori”, a Japanese word meaning “draining hot water.”  They boiled rice, drained it, layered the rice over sliced potatoes, and then steamed them.  Other unique ways of cooking were sautéing raisins and chopping cucumbers by hand instead of using a cutting board. Crispy, slightly-burnt crust cooked in the “Yutori” method is a delightful treat for Iranian people.  They joyfully cooked chatting about different food cultures and their past overseas trips.

After cooking they ate in each group. It seemed they were able to get closer through eating together.  The dishes were simply seasoned and tasted exotic, making most of the original flavors of the ingredients.  The taste and flavor of olive oil and lemon were impressive.

Many participants applied for this cooking class after reading Abiko City Newsletter or AIRA website.  Among them were a mother and her junior-high school daughter.

Through Ms. Yamaguchi’s lecture they seemed to have deepened their understanding of Iranian culture and cooking while also learning about the differences in cooking and eating habits.

AIRA will provide cross-cultural exchange opportunities through cooking classes for various national cuisines.

Reference: “Shirazi salad”, which they cooked this time, was named after the central city Shiraz in Fars Province in the southern part of Iran.  There’s a legend which tells how this salad was born. There was a rumor that Shirazi people were lazy.  The king held a contest of elaborate cooking in order to wipe it off.  Citizens joined the contest and a delicious salad won the prize, succeeding in wiping off the bad rumor.  (from a book “Letters from Teheran” by Ms. Masayo Yamaguchi, “Shirazi salad” in the chapter “Introduction to Iranian Home Cooking”, published in April, 2021)

(Translated by Chizu Yamaguchi)