Toyoo Tamamura’s diverse repertoire is the result of the various international trips, which sparked his interest in cooking, including a jaunt to Peru that introduced him to the joys of ceviche.
In Europe, the 71-year-old essayist learned to cook ingredients that were new to him from market stall keepers and would go back to his youth hostel and prepare them.
Although he began cooking his own meals to cut down on expenses, Tamamura was intrigued by the novel ingredients. When he was traveling around North Africa, local villagers invited him to lunch.
Everyone likes tasty food, and no one gets angry when they eat delicious things. Yet local flavors change across borders and are affected by such elements as history and religion. Along the way during his travels, Tamamura got hooked on cooking.
As he delved into cooking, he learned that people living on the islands and rim of the Pacific regularly eat raw fish. Japan has sashimi and South America has ceviche, a seafood dish cured in lime juice. In Tahiti, he found sashimi as well as “poisson cru,” a dish of raw fish tossed with vegetables and lime.
In Tamamura’s view, the original form of Japanese sashimi could have been fish mixed with salt or vinegar, given the distribution and storing methods in the early days. When he traveled to Peru about 20 years ago, he was so fascinated by that nation’s take on raw fish that he visited a ceviche restaurant daily.
“There were tens of different kinds of ceviche, and you enjoy just the ceviche at the counter. The fish, the clams were so delicious.” Thus ceviche became one of Tamamura’s favorite dishes.
Tamamura, who has tasted and also read books on world cuisines, says of the appeal of cooking: “The system of cooking such as adding seasonings and heating is the same. The meaning of people gathering around the meal, in other words, confirming ties with family members and friends, is the same, too. Yet what you eat and how they are actually cooked are different. My quest is endless. Cooking is fun.” Serves four.
100 grams each of fresh sea bream (tai) and salmon
Lime or other citrus such as lemon
Slice fish at an angle and lay in flat container. Sprinkle larger-than-normal amount of salt. Pour citrus juice, mix by hand and place in fridge. The amount of salt should be one or two pinches more than what you think of as the “right amount.”
After one to two hours, serve fish on plate.
While radish sprouts and chili pepper are used as garnish, sliced onion and cucumber, bell pepper and tomato cut in rounds may be added to be enjoyed like salad. Boiled potatoes and simmered beans are also good accompaniments.
The fish may also be chopped instead of sliced. But the key is to add generous amounts of salt and citrus juice and marinate the fish until it generates a white sauce. Choose your preferred time to marinate. It tastes like a fresh vinegared dish after an hour but becomes more like a pickled dish overnight.