Naoyoshi Motoyama presents maqluba, a Middle Eastern dish. (Hikaru Uchida)

KOBE--To cook dishes from all 196 countries is a considerable challenge, but Naoyoshi Motoyama rose to it in an Earth Marathon, an event that inspired his new cookbook of the world’s cuisine.

The 51-year-old cook spent two years serving up meals from across the globe at the rate of four per every two weeks at his restaurant, starting in 2010.

“I realized in the small kitchen of my restaurant how big the world is,” he said.

Motoyama says traveling to all 196 countries may be hard for many, but dishes from around the world could be eaten in ordinary households.

His cookbook “Zen 196-ka-koku--Ouchi de Tsukureru Sekai no Recipe” (World recipes that can be cooked at home: all 196 countries), published in December, features recipes that can be cooked with familiar ingredients.

It provides a culinary prism that offers a glimpse of the lifestyles and cultures of different nations.

Motoyama entered the world of French cuisine at the age of 20. He initially believed that French cooking was the best of all, but his mind was opened by the experience of eating spicy dishes in India, where a regular customer had taken him half-coercively.

Motoyama opened Palermo, a restaurant serving multinational dishes, in Kobe when he was 33. Before then, he visited 30 countries, and also approached foreign residents and embassy workers in Japan to ask them about recipes to learn about culinary cultures of the world.

The experience taught him that the cuisine of a country can be a window through which to learn about the lifestyles, culture and even history of that nation.

Motoyama cited gumbo, a spicy soup eaten in Louisiana and elsewhere in the southern United States. It is believed that the dish was born when a soup, which had taken root when the area was part of French territory, came across okra, which had been brought in from Africa along with slaves around the 18th century.

“The essential thing is to take an interest in other countries and the people living there,” Motoyama said. “I think that mind-set gives you consideration and kindness. And cuisine has the power to enable that.”

Motoyama closed his restaurant in March 2016 and shifted his focus to developing retort-pouch foods and giving lectures in hopes of having more people learn about cuisines of the world.

The idea for the cookbook came when he thought that people could give more thought to the residents of other countries and their lifestyles if they took it a step further and cooked for themselves.

“I think that was the genuine goal of my Earth Marathon,” Motoyama said. “I really hope that readers will replicate dishes from all corners of the world on their home tables.”