July 02, 2006

Iron Chef: Battle Pike Eel

Theme Ingredient: Pike Eel (Hamo), twenty live eels from waters near Akashi
Iron Chef: Morimoto
Challenger: Yoshimi Tanigawa, owner/chef of Kichi-sen, Shimogamo, Kyoto
Remarks: I'm posting this today in recognition of the Gion festival that starts each July 2 in Kyoto, since the festival is a major theme in this battle. This post is based on the 3 February 2001 airing of this battle on Food Network.

Kyoto-style Japanese cuisine has a 1000-year tradition that in recent years has gone a little overboard in the decoration department. To coincide with the annual Gion festival in Kyoto, Kaga invited Yoshimi Tanigawa, a Kyoto-style traditionalist, to battle in Kitchen Stadium. Tanigawa is trying to revive traditional Kyoto cuisine: style without over-decoration. He started cooking at age 15 and opened Kichi-sen in the Shimogamo district of Kyoto at 31. He entered Kitchen Stadium in traditional kimono and sandals--you know, the wooden platform jobs. He brought with him a group of Miko girls, who in my ignorance I could not distinguish from geisha, to cheer him on from the Royal Box. He challenged Morimoto. Guest commentators were actress Yukio Toake and actor Tsutaro Kataoka; the other judges were photographer Tenmei Kanoh and chanson singer Yoshiko Ishii.

The theme ingredient was a traditional Kyoto summer dish--Pike Eel (Hamo), twenty live eels from waters near Akashi. Tanigawa beheaded his eels right on the ingredient stand to keep them from thrashing and affecting the taste; he also cut the tails halfway through to drain the blood quicker. Morimoto killed his eels by spiking the head and running a metal rod down the spine to kill them quickly. Tanigawa's method may have been better, as one of Morimoto's eels briefly escaped.

Tanigawa chose the Star Festival (a particular part of the Gion Festival) as his theme and presented these six dishes:

  1. Pike eel appetizer in ground cherries. Served in hozuki bags (paper cherries) covered in gold leaf, with stewed liver and gourds. Toake thought the air bladder was "very nice" and Kataoka liked it a lot too.
  2. Grilled pike eel, Yoshino style. The eel was boiled, then covered with kudzu starch, then grilled with matsutake mushrooms.
  3. Grilled pike eel with seaweed sauce. Salt-cured wakame and white plum sauce Served with chilled sake. Kataoka liked it a lot.
  4. Pike eel shabu-shabu.
  5. Pike eel in rice soup, curry flavor. The soup included soy sauce, curry power, eggs boiled in a hot spring, and nutmeg. Cured eggplant garnish. Sliced from skin side to provide different texture. Kataoka called it "nice, but not overpowering." Toake didn't like the curry. Kanoh liked the whole combination.
  6. Bone crackers and tea. A traditional Kyoto-style finisher.

Morimoto's theme was "The Silk Road," designed to represent a 'cuisine path' ranging from Italy through India and China, and comprised these six dishes:

  1. Pike eel pasta. Fruit tomatoes, pepper, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and "a Japanese edible plant" served over pureed pike eel-based noodles (piped into boiling water, then iced) and eel marinated in white wine and vodka. Served with caviar.
  2. Pike eel dip, Italian style. Pike eel roe, stewed and served with an anchovy garlic dip.
  3. Pike eel & water shield.
  4. Pike eel stew, Korean style. Japanese ginger, udon, pike eel, sugar, sake, garlic, soy sauce, and ko-chu-ja (korean hot chili paste). Kanoh liked it, but Ishii thought the bones bothered her a bit. I think that's a polite way of saying she found some bones and didn't think Morimoto did a good job bonecutting.
  5. Spicy fried pike eel. Chinese herbs, fried garlic, eel, winter melon, celery, red bell pepper, and long onion sauteed in peanut oil and curry. Toake liked the curry flavor.
  6. Pike eel rice. Served with a soup called, I think, kawanishi (or maybe that was the name of the dish): broth, light soy sauce, minced eel, grilled eel bones, and sweet cooking sake.

In this battle, tradition won out over Italian-pan-Indian-Korean neofusion, as Tanigawa took it in a sweep: Kanoh 19-17, Toake 17-16, Kataoka 20-19, and Ishii 18-17.


Posted by Chris at July 2, 2006 12:43 AM

Category: Iron Chef