Photo/Illutration Rice bowl dish with egg, Chinese chives and tomato (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

Editor’s note: In the Taste of Life series, cooking experts, chefs and others involved in the field of food introduce their special recipes intertwined with their paths in life.

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Japanese rolled omelet, known as “tamagoyaki,” is a classic dish loved by children. Yet, Hiromitsu Nozaki was not too fond of it.

The kind served at home was hard in texture and sweet with sugar. Although eggs were so valuable back then that people brought them as gifts for the sick, he did not like the dish.

He was in the upper grades of elementary school when he came across a completely different rolled omelet.

A neighbor cooked him a fluffy rolled omelet containing flour in return for baby-sitting her son, who was five years younger than him. It was like “okonomiyaki,” savory Japanese pancake.

Cooked with green onion and Chinese chives, the rolled omelet was seasoned with soy sauce. Young Nozaki was struck by how good it tasted.

Around that time, gas became available at his parents’ home in Furudono, Fukushima Prefecture.

Although men rarely worked in the kitchen around that time, “I asked my neighbor how to make it and cooked secretly when no one was home.”

He managed to re-create the rolled omelet the first time he tried. After that, he started cooking what he wanted to eat for snacks.

This motivated him to become a cook and Nozaki went to Tokyo to enter a training school for nutritionists.

After training, he became the chief chef of Tokuyama, a restaurant located in Tokyo’s Nishi-Azabu district offering pufferfish dishes, when he was 27.

Photographers Tadahiko Hayashi and Shotaro Akiyama were among the frequent guests at the restaurant.

Once Akiyama told Nozaki, “Cooking and photography have something in common. They draw out the best in the ingredients and subjects.”

Nozaki said: “What I learned from exchanges across the counter has become assets in life.”

Nine years later, he was told to take charge of Waketokuyama, the new restaurant that serves “kaiseki” traditional Japanese multi-course meals. Hayashi came up with the name of the restaurant.

Nozaki eventually became the grand chef who oversees all affiliated restaurants.

For this week’s rice bowl dish, Nozaki gave a twist to the rolled omelet he had at his neighbor’s house.

Not only enhancing the flavor by adding Chinese chives and tomato, he also paid attention to the coloration of red, green and yellow. The egg should go on the rice while it is still half set.

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Hiromitsu Nozaki: Born in 1953 in Fukushima Prefecture, Nozaki became the chief chef of Waketokuyama in 1989. He has written books including “Oishiku taberu: Shokuzai no techo” (Enjoying food: Memo on ingredients), released by Ikeda Publishing Co.

Hiromitsu Nozaki (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)


Main Ingredients (Serves two)

3 eggs, 3 stalks (15 grams) Chinese chives (nira), 100 grams tomato, little less than 1/2 Tbsp (8 grams), light-colored soy sauce, bit of pepper, 1 Tbsp oil, 2 bowls warm rice, some dried seaweed sheets (yakinori)

1. Cut tomato into cubes and cut Chinese chives into pieces 5-mm wide.

Cut the tomato into cubes. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

2. Break eggs in bowl, add tomato and Chinese chives and mix. Season with light-colored soy sauce and pepper.

3. Pour oil in frying pan, place on heat and pour in egg liquid. Heat until softly cooked.

Finish cooking while egg is still half set. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

4. Serve rice in bowl. Tear dried seaweed with hands and sprinkle on rice. Place cooked egg mixture on top.

About 530 kcal and 1 gram salt per portion
(Nutrient calculation by the Nutrition Clinic of Kagawa Nutrition University)

You can capture the sense of the seasons by changing herb vegetables from Chinese chives to shiso leaves, “myoga” or daikon radish sprout (“kaiwarena”). Adding “edamame,” or green soybeans, is another fun twist.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Jinsei Reshipi (Life Recipe) column