Jupiter So, the head chef at Wollongong Japanese restaurant Roppongi, says there is more to Japanese cuisine than raw fish.
Tell us about your background as a chef.
I was born in Hong Kong. My father is Chinese and my mother is half Japanese, therefore I am a quarter Japanese. As my education is not good, when I was 16 years old I started to work in the food industry. I worked as a waiter, bartender and a kitchen hand in a Japanese restaurant. After a few years I had a chance to work under a Japanese master chef in a Japanese restaurant and from him I had learned a lot of Japanese cooking skills and knowledge until I immigrated to Australia when I was 30 years old.
What drew you to the food industry?
After the first seven years working in the Japanese restaurant, I started to have a passion and interest in Japanese cooking. I started to compare dishes between restaurants and created my own dishes. The greatest benefit was when I was in charge of the sushi bar. I had a chance to create my own signature dishes and it was a success - the turnover was triple.
What are the core ingredients of Japanese cooking?
The core ingredients to Japanese cooking are rice, dry seaweed, hondashi (dry fish soup made from bonito fish), mirin (Japanese sweet wine) and soy sauce.
What is the strangest ingredient you have ever worked with?
Live sashimi, which means to cut live lobster, snapper, eel or octopus and after they are slit into pieces they can still move. When I was young I did not think it was cruel, but now I do.
People often associate Japanese food with sushi. What other specialities are there?
Tempura was learnt from the Portuguese 600 years ago using a deep-fry method. Teriyaki (pan-fried sauce) can make a lot of stir-fry dishes. Sukiyaki (steamboat dish), which is a combination of selected vegetables and meats cooked by yourself in a deep pan with soup in it. Shabu shabu is similar to sukiyaki, but the soup is much milder in taste and the sauce is made of sesame paste, lemon and vinegar. Teppanyaki is a hot raw iron plate to hold stir-fry food.
What is the key to making a good sushi roll?
The key to make a good sushi roll is the vinegar and rice must be in a good proportion and good quality, dry seaweed can make a sushi taste better and stand out.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The most enjoyable things are I can create my own signature dishes and get praise from the customer.