May 06, 2005

Iron Chef: Battle Banana

Theme Ingredient: Banana
Iron Chef: Kobe
Challenger: Hironobu Tsujiguchi, chef at Mont St. Clair in Jiyugaoka. Winner of 1998 World Cup of Desserts.
Remarks: $6000 worth of chocolate also used. Kobe's first dessert battle.

For the episode that aired Valentine's Day 1998 in Japan, Iron Chef staged a dessert battle. Hironobu Tsujiguchi won the 1998 World Cup of Desserts, the youngest patassier (dessert chef) to do so. He's also won seven other world-class competitions. He cooks at Mont St. Clair in Jiyugaoka. He challenged IC Italian Masahiko Kobe, who had not yet been in a dessert battle. Tsujiguchi was even more confident than Ron Siegel was, saying "I'm definitely going to win!" Bananas were the theme ingredient, and $6,000 worth of top-quality French chocolate (half of it melted in a big pot) was also available. Ten bunches of ripe Taiwan bananas, five of unripe Taiwan bananas (conventional supermarket-style), five of monkey bananas (smaller), and five of brown bananas (which need to be cooked because they're too bitter to be eaten raw) were used. Kobe remarked that he's unaccustomed to working with chocolate, which I think is odd for a European-style chef, but they don't celebrate Valentine's Day in Italy so he didn't have much to go on there. Kobe got out-sprinted to the ingredient stand, the first time I can remember that happening. Actress Akiko Hinagata (in her first appearance) and ballet dancer Tetsuya Kumakawa (in his first appearance) were the guest commentators. Lower house member Shinichiro Kurimoto and the stalwart Asako Kishi were the other judges.

Tsujiguchi propped his helpers in the post-cooking interview, one of the only chefs I've heard to do so. His theme was 'Valentine's Day Desserts for the 21st Century':

  1. Caprice chocolates and bananas. Hinagata said 'He doesn't have too much here, so it's easy to eat!'
  2. Grilled banana with chocolate. Split whole bananas stuffed with butter and a vanilla bean and grilled with thyme (a new trend in France). Kishi compared it favorably to a dish from her childhood, while pointing out that the challenger's version was definitly 'a dish for adults.' Kumakawa made one of many references to his own youth here. I was ready to boot him back to grade school after the seventh or eighth one.
  3. Corona chocolate dessert. Earl Gray tea was used as the base, and it was garnished with Japanese honeywort.
  4. Melting chocolate dessert. This was a variant of one of the dishes he used to win the World Cup. He used bitter chocolate and vanilla from Tahiti and garnished it with hard candy 'sculptures,' which the tasters loved. For some reason, Hinagata was surprised that the accompanying cake, which had been baked, was so hot.

Kobe's theme was 'Whispers of Love':

  1. Chocolate dip, three flavors. Wine, green tea, and herb base were the three dipping sauces for the grilled banana in this Thai-style presentation. Hinagata liked the tea dip. Kishi liked that it was char-broiled.
  2. Banana pudding and chocolate. Unripe green bananas and balsamic vinegar added flavoring elements.
  3. Banana peperoncino. Designed to clear the palate, it includes banana and white chocolate. Kurimoto called it 'punchy' and liked its placement at this point of the tasting but thought it would be too strong if served alone.
  4. Cocoa ravioli. He formed the ravioli into a heart shape, and used pureed banana and gorgonzola cheese for the sauce. Kaga thought the color was 'unappetizing,' and Kurimoto didn't like the color either, although he loved the sauce. Kishi called this one another dish for grownups.
  5. Chocolate banana gratin. The chocolate he used in the gratin was designed to make it a bit bitter, to draw out the sweetness of the dipping sauce. Kurimoto saw what he was trying to do, but didn't like it.

Tsujiguchi won 3-1: Kurimoto 17-16, Hinagata 18-16, and Kumakawa 18-14(!). Kishi scored it 19-17 Kobe. This marked the first time a challenger beat an Iron Chef in a dessert battle.

Posted by Chris at May 6, 2005 02:05 PM

Category: Iron Chef