Food Carving

I recently had the privilege to host a food carving event for the Jewish Community of Japan in my home with Chef Hiroshi Nagashima.  Chef Nagashima is the head chef of the Honganji Temple restaurant Shisui in Tsukiji and has received numerous culinary awards.  He has been chosen to prepare the cuisine for the Crown Prince of Japan and was a chef at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC for an international event.  Additionally, he has written several books related to food and preparation, including The Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carving, on which our program was based.

Chef Nagashima did not speak English, but fortunately my friend Tomoko translated for those of us with more limited Japanese skills {meaning me!}.

With a simple strip of paper, twisted into a knot, he taught us to create a template for a carrot slice.  We then cut a slit into each side and curved the edges.  And finally, we carved a small bit of petal out for depth.


After some rather failed attempts to get us all to create paper-thin butterflies from daikon slices, we realized it was much more fun to let the Chef go to town with his knife and create while we simply oohed and aahed.

Because look what he made in a matter of minutes!


Look at that beautiful delicate daikon butterfly sitting on a cucumber branch!

And here’s a closeup of that adorable little frog {which fortunately there were two of, as The Cuties arrived home and promptly popped one in each of their mouths!}


One of the most amazing things was that Chef Nagashima made all those fragile little designs with the large knife in his hand and barely touched his extensive tool rolls.


And to console us in case we were feeling down and out at our lack of talent in the art of food carving, the Chef brought us bento lunches from his restaurant.  Gorgeous boxes, stacked two-deep with all sorts of delicious food.


I’m off to sharpen my knives and practice my carrot flowers in time for matzoh ball soup for Passover next month.  I’m sure I’ll only need about forty!

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