Okku chef Hugh Sato

Japanese restaurant's chef gives us his 29-minute meal

Interview
Interview
Interview
Interview
Interview
Interview
Interview
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Describe your personality.
Very laid-back, but always thinking.

Describe your personality in the kitchen – do you change?
In the kitchen I’m very excited and very focused on how the team is operating so I can react quickly and effectively to any situation. I work as hard as I can to maintain quality and consistency with the team, and
I cook from the heart.

Describe you cooking style.
I like to surprise, so I always look at how to create interesting flavours. It’s important to carry on evolving to keep people interested and avoid being predictable. Combining contemporary and traditional styles of cooking and presentation is almost as important as the taste. People eat with their eyes first!

What items do you have in your fridge at home?
Various soy sauces and misos, home-baked organic white bread similar to that found in Japan (my wife, Masako, bakes this religiously every other day), kimchi and tsukemono (Japanese pickles) and many vegetarian side dishes. I love sandwiches, so there is always an interesting selection of cold cuts.

What was the last dish you cooked for yourself?
Imo-nabe, a kind of potato soup in a clear dashi broth.

What was the last dish you had cooked for you?
My wife made omurice – a Japanese omelette stuffed with fried rice.

Who would you have cook your last meal on earth?
It would have to be Japanese chef Chie Shirahata, who is an amazing chef and someone that I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from. It has been an honour for me to be around her and it would be an honour for her to cook my last meal (don’t tell my wife).

What one dish could you happily eat for the rest of your days?
I honestly believe I could have In-N-Out burgers every day.

What dish would you be happy never to eat again?
Basashi or horse ‘niku’, which is essentially horse sashimi. My three children love horses – they have images of them on their pyjamas – meaning that I can never look at a horse as something you should eat.

Describe Dubai’s dining scene in three words.
Changing very quickly.

If you weren’t a chef, you’d be…
In big trouble – cooking has become more of my life than ever, especially with my three musketeers, who I am very passionate about cooking for and teaching as they grow up.
Okku, The Monarch Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.themonarchdubai.com (04 501 8777).

Homestyle chicken tsukune

‘I picked up this particular recipe from eating at a restaurant in Manhattan in NYC where Chie Shirahata was working. I found it so mind-blowing because of the ease of preparation and the flavour and texture of the tsukune. You can find all ingredients at Spinney’s, Dean’s Trading near Lamcy Plaza, or 1004 Mart in Al Barsha. Almost everybody loves chicken skewers and they’re so versatile – you can experiment by adding dry seasoning or spices.

Ingredients
• 450g ground chicken mince (use different parts – thigh, breast, skin or even cartilage – to get great flavour)
• ½ small onion (minced)
• Splash of soy sauce (optional)
• Mirin-fu (Chinese rice beverage, optional)
• Salt, white pepper and sugar to taste

Method
1 Combine all ingredients and knead gently for 10 minutes. Remember to add soy sauce, mirin, salt, pepper, and/or sugar very sparingly. The onion will provide the natural sweetness that goes well with the chicken. If you find that the mix is becoming soft, place in the fridge to firm up. Alternatively, if the chicken mince is too loose, you can add a touch of potato starch to help bind it. But the real secret is how you knead
it – do it properly and there’s no need for any binding agents.

2 Divide the mixture into eight balls. Keep refrigerated until cooking time.

3 Preheat the oven to 180°C.

4 Flatten each ball into an oval around a skewer.

5 Use a dash of vegetable spray on your baking sheet and add the skewers, allowing at least a centimetre of space between the patties.

6 Cook for 20-25 minutes. Check the internal temperature with a thermometer (it should be 82°C).

7 When almost done, brush on some store-bought teriyaki sauce or serve with citrus and salt on the side.

8 This base is very flexible. For instance, I add pressed tofu and hijiki seaweed to this for my children. Try adding shiitake mushrooms, ginger or spring onions, or whatever you think will work.

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