Gordon Ramsay’s Authentic Asian Cuisine

Lucky Cat

This spring Gordon Ramsay opened a new restaurant in London: the Lucky Cat. Offering Asian food in a restaurant inspired by Tokyo’s 1930s teahouses and Shanghai’s drinking dens. A pre-view opening night for critics and journalists triggered a debate about authenticity. Could Gordon Ramsey claim to offer ‘authentic Asian food’ or should he stick to mashed potatoes, fish and chips? Was Ramsay guilty of Cultural Appropriation (dominant cultures profiting from the preparations and traditions of other cultures while those cultures are unable to do the same)?

Which brings us to Authenticity. Can a country, a city, a culture claim ownership of food? Can Nice claim the Salade Niçoise, can France claim French Fries? Can Japan claim udon and soba?

Unfortunately the debate derailed because of the aggressive way people started to contribute (or contributed right from the start Gordon would say). A pity because it’s interesting to study the origin and background of food. Why do we eat the food we eat? Why do we cook the way we do? Why do we add certain herbs? What’s the origin?

Udon Noodles

Earlier this year we visited the inspiring city of Hakata, also to see the monument dedicated to Udon and Soba. There are not many food-related monuments, so this was special. The story is that Shoichi Kokushi (a Japanese Buddhist monk) returned from China in 1241 to Hakata where he founded the Joten-Ji temple. He introduced udon and soba (amongst other products) to Japan, notably to Hakata. People in Hakata claim to produce udon noodles based on Shoichi Kokushi‘s recipe. Authentic Udon Noodles.

Back to Gordon Ramsay

Cultural Appropriation is a nasty concept. It’s culinary theft based on perceived ownership. But in reality culinary traditions evolve and continue to evolve, for better and for worse. That’s how Udon became Japanese, that’s why you can order a Hawaiian pizza, that why some people prepare a Salade Niçoise with balsamic vinegar, cucumber, basil, croutons or even red bell pepper.

In the mean time Gordon Ramsay made a clever move: he dropped the tag ‘authentic’ and simply opened the doors of his restaurant.

(This week’s recipe: Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon)

 

Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon

Caesar’s mushroom (or Amanita Caesarea) is a true delicacy, especially when eaten very young. And raw. Since the young ones have the shape of an egg, they are called ovoli in Italian. It is not recommended to pick these young ones yourself, unless you’re an expert. The young Caesar’s mushroom looks very similar to young Fly Agaric, Death Cap or Destroying Angels. Ones we would not like to see on (y)our plate. The mature Caesar’s mushroom looks very distinct from these very dangerous mushrooms, so fewer risks involved.
When you’re in North America, you will probably be able to buy Amanita Jacksonii or Amanita Arkansana, which seem to be very similar, but not completely. As far as we know eating cooked Amanita Caesarea and Arkansana is not a problem; eating them raw could be.

The classic recipe for ovoli is to include them in a salad, with shaved white truffle, parsley, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Another option is to add them to your risotto.

In this recipe we combine the delicate flavour of the Caesar’s mushroom with lots of thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a touch of garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Best would be to use Calamintha Nepeta, but using thyme will also do the trick. A garlic glove must be added because the garlic will turn black if your mushrooms are poisonous (not a story to rely on).

Ideally served with Japanese udon because the noodles will be nicely coated with the cooking juices, but feel free to use good pasta as an alternative. One of the benefits of udon is that it is really white, allowing for the yellow of the mushroom to be more present.

We enjoyed our Caesar’s mushrooms with a glass of traditional Burgundy wine from France (100% pinot noir). The wine should have delicate fruit aromas (black cherries, plum) and some earthiness. The wine should be medium bodied and have a crisp acidity. Not too much oak, because oak will overpower the mushrooms. The pinot noir should also be relatively light, allowing for herbal and floral tones.
Pinot Noir wines from the new world are in general rounder and higher in alcohol, making these wines more like Syrah or Malbec. We don’t recommend these wines, however tasty, in combination with the dish.
A glass of Chardonnay is also an option provided it’s fresh with just a touch of oak and butter.

Here is what you need

  • 200 grams of Caesar’s mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Garlic glove
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Japanese Udon (for instance from Hakubaku)

Clean the Caesar’s mushrooms and remove the white veil (or volva). Make a bouquet garni with lots of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Start by making flavoured olive oil by warming the olive oil in a large skillet and adding the herbs and the garlic glove. Not too hot, you only want the flavours and essential oils to be added to the olive oil. After 15 minutes or so remove the garlic and the bouquet. Now add the sliced Ceasar’s mushrooms and very gently fry them. Just cooked is perfect. In parallel cook the udon. When ready (12 minutes in our case, you don’t want the udon to be al dente), drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. If there is too much starch on the pasta, then think Japan and wash your pasta with cold water. This will remove the starch and allow for a better result. Remove the Caesar’s mushrooms from the pan and keep warm. Add the pasta to the pan, stir and make sure the pasta is fully coated. Add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid to the pan. Add some grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Transfer the Caesar’s mushroom back to the pan and stir very gently, making it into one yellow, tasty mixture. Just before serving sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.