Nikkei Yuca “Soba” at Maido

By Sean Kenniff

By

Sean Kenniff
Master of Nikkei cuisine, Peruvian Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura takes over the main stage at the 11th ICC
Master of Nikkei cuisine, Peruvian Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura takes over the main stage at the 11th ICC

Nikkei cuisine has “2 DNAs,” according to its master, Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura. The same could be said for Tsumura, his restaurant, and the dishes he presented on the main stage of the 11th Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress. 

Distinct to Peru, Nikkei combines ingredients and techniques from its home country and Japan in an open exchange of ideas, concepts, and identity. It’s not so much fusion as an endless feedback loop of the two cultures. Tsumura grew up in Peru and went on to apprentice for three years in Japan, learning the art of sushi. Maido, his restaurant in Lima, is the culmination of his heritage, time abroad, and his evolving philosophy of cuisine. The restaurant also is ranked number 13 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. 

One of the most recent additions to the menu at Maido is Tsumura’s Hyamugi de Yuca, a dish of chilcano, a homey Peruvian seafood soup, served with chewy, soba-like noodles. Instead of straight-forward Peruvian, Tsumura prepares the soup with a dashi base, clams, and chalaca (the Peruvian trinity of cilantro, aji, and onions). The noodles are a technical feat, with a structure built from the South American staple yuca.

“You can get the same results [with this pasta] as if you were using gluten,” says Tsumura. To achieve the texture of springy Asian noodles, Tsumura says you need to use a root with at least 30 percent starch content. Here’s the step by step: 

1. Place 300 grams raw yuca in a Vitamix with a small amount of water and blend to a paste.
2. Transfer yuca to a saucepan over medium heat, add 200 milliliters water, and stir continuously with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes, until completely cooked. 
3. Transfer mixture to a bowl, add 140 grams flour and 1 egg yolk. Mix by hand until dough starts to come together.
4. On a lightly floured surface, briefly knead dough, forming it into a ball; cover and refrigerate.
5. When chilled, knead dough three times, resting in between, until smooth and elastic.
6. Using a pasta machine, roll dough into a thin sheet. Cut into noodles, cover, and refrigerate.
7. Cook noodles 40 to 45 seconds, shock in ice water, and drain.

Tsumura serves the noodles and chilcano cold in separate bowls over a bed of ice (à la zaru soba). “Peru is a melting pot. It’s bio diverse and enriched by all cultures,” says Tsumura. “There’s a whole world to explore with this technique.”

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