A Leisurely experience
I eat at restaurants pretty much everyday, but rarely do I learn how to make the dishes I am consuming from the chefs themselves. So when Leisurely, an app that offers experience cooking lessons by chefs in NYC, reached out, I jumped at the opportunity to give it a try. And that is how I ended up at Bessou, a cozy Japanese restaurant on Bleecker St., to learn how to cook up traditional dishes from owner Maiko and her father.
Leisurely makes things simple. All you have to do is choose the experience, book, and show up! Some of the experiences are hands on while others are “watch, ask, and learn”. At Bessou, I joined a small group of other attendees at the open kitchen in the back of the restaurant to learn some Japanese cooking techniques. We were greeted by Maiko and her father, who had prepared some cheat sheets (with hand-drawn pictures!) so we have the recipes for later.
In Asian cultures, rice is a staple, and everyone has a different recipe for making the best rice. Maiko and her father started by using a nabe pot, which can be substituted with a cast iron pot. These pots have less stick to them than regular pots, so the rice comes out of the pot easily once it is cooked. They then used the medium grain rice and showed us how to wash it (3-5 times) before putting in water at a 1:1 water to rice ratio. As we waited for the contents to boil and then simmer, Maiko and her father moved on to some of the other dishes.
The main dish of the evening was a miso salmon. Maiko explained that there are hundreds of kinds of miso (fermented soy bean) that usually fall into two main categories: white and red miso. White miso is a lighter, creamier miso that is fermented for a shorter period of time while red miso is much saltier and is often consumed in the summer to make you to sweat more. To make the marinade for the salmon, she had mixed the miso with some sake kasu, which is the sediment from sake brewing process. However, the sake kasu can be replaced by Fage yogurt! This step basically helps soften the miso, and the fish can be marinated in this mix for 12-48 hours.
As the salmon headed to the oven, Maiko’s father showed us the ingredients that go into making dashi broth, which is the base for miso soup. This included stewing giant kombu kelp (a seaweed) and dried anchovies, although a dashi pack containing ingredients necessary for dashi broth could also be used at home. Then to make it miso soup, a mix of different misos are added to the broth at the end before serving.
At this point, our fluffy and sticky rice was ready! Maiko’s father showed us how the grains of rice stand vertically once it is properly cooked and mixed the rice demonstrating how the rice did not stick to the nabe pot.
Once we finished the cooking demonstration, we went over to the dining room to the spread that Maiko and her father had prepared for us. In addition to the rice, salmon, and miso soup, they had also prepared a simple daikon and arugula salad on the side that paired nicely with the clean flavors of the meal.
Through Leisurely, you don’t just sit down for a meal but rather receive an immersive experience in the preparation of the meal as well. They have a wide range of cooking experiences from a vodka distillery tour to mochi making to wine and cheese tasting!
Right now through Monday (at midnight), Leisurely has their Black Friday deal! So head to their website for 25% off any experience by entering the code blackfriday.
Leisurely has events already set up that you can just book, but if you are looking for a private event for a celebration, corporate event, or other occasions, feel free to fill out their form so they can set up a custom event!
At Bessou, I would highly recommend sitting near the bar to watch Maiko and her father cook!