He has grilled meat in Paris, simmered jam in Helsinki and made mixed sushi in Prague.
Yoshiaki Takei is a seasoned editor of travel books who likes to stay for about 10 days at a hotel equipped with a kitchen when traveling overseas. The 52-year-old has been enjoying such trips for about 10 years, buying ingredients at local markets and shops to cook for himself.
Takei’s parents used to run a Japanese confectionery shop in Shizuoka Prefecture.
"My parents, grandmother, every member of the family would cook in the kitchen on a daily basis. We were fussy about how food tasted," says Takei, who also began cooking when he was around 10.
When he set off for college and began living on his own, he became hooked on cooking. He would buy exotic foreign seasonings at the Ameya-Yokocho shopping street in Tokyo’s Ueno district and tried using them.
After graduation, he joined a company that edited and produced guidebooks for overseas travel. When he was 33, Takei was invited by copywriter Shigesato Itoi to become an editor for the website "Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun." Takei edits and publishes books on cooking as well as writes articles on cooking and traveling online.
When he was visiting Paris in 2007, he was seized by an urge to cook, and came up with his current style of traveling. He carefully chooses meats, fish and vegetables at the shopping streets frequented by the locals and prepares a meal. This way, he can learn the food culture of the country. He says he was impressed by a customer who asked the butcher how aged the meat was.
He also drops by small restaurants that are not listed in the guidebooks. He encountered this week’s shallow-fried steak at a bistro in downtown Paris.
At the restaurant, the chef placed the steak in a frying pan, poured oil to about 1 centimeter deep and turned the meat with a pair of tongs as if rolling it. By exposing all parts to the heat, even thick meat will be cooked. Although the bistro used the rib, Takei tried it with "ichibo," a part of the rump, when he returned to Japan and found it excellent. He chooses sunflower oil for its smooth flavor.
Takei calls the method "shallow-frying" and "recommends it as the best way to roast meat." The steak is crisp outside and tender inside. The umami flavor that had been sealed inside unfolds on the tongue.
Born in Shizuoka in 1966, Yoshiaki Takei has been working as an editor at "Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun," a website launched by Shigesato Itoi, since 1999. As an editor he turned the home-cooking recipes posted by food stylist Nami Iijima on the website into the "LIFE" book series. Takei has traveled to more than 150 cities in 30 countries worldwide.
600 grams lump of beef "ichibo" (adjust amount to suit family size)
Herb of one’s choice (thyme, rosemary, oregano and others)
Salt, pepper, soy sauce
3 cloves garlic
Bring ichibo to room temperature. Place the meat and garlic in frying pan. Pour oil to 1-cm deep.
Over high heat, heat all sides as if deep frying by turning meat occasionally with tongs. When the surface is cooked, reduce to medium heat and add herbs.
Cook until surface is crisp. Remove meat from pan and wrap in aluminum foil and leave for about five minutes to warm with residual heat. Season with salt, pepper and soy sauce to taste.
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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column