Photo/Illutration Tender Chinese cabbage and chicken wings simmered in soup (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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When eating something we enjoy, we usually use the description, “It tastes like something from a restaurant.”

Cooking expert Ryuta Kijima feels that the meaning of the remark is changing, however.

He thinks that although restaurants used in this context had once meant places where chefs and professionals worked, now they could mean casual dining restaurants known in Japan as “family restaurants.”

To cater to a wide customer base, dishes served at family restaurants have a strong, good flavor from the first bite.

Recipes for dishes that “taste like something from a restaurant” are said to abound on Twitter and YouTube.

“I don’t deny it, but it’s different from the home cooking I hope to introduce,” Kijima says of the trend.

His aim is to offer simpler dishes people would want to eat every day.

This week’s “tender Chinese cabbage and chicken wings simmered in soup” is a dish Kijima, now in his 40s, likes making.

The main ingredients are just Chinese cabbage, the mid-section of a chicken wing and shimeji mushrooms. Only a few seasonings such as salt are used but the simmering process draws out the gentle umami from the ingredients.

“The dish is nothing flashy, but it tastes good in a soothing way,” he says.

He recalls that dishes his grandmother and mother created changed as they aged. For example, the eggplant dish “nabeshigi,” introduced in the first installment of Kijima’s series, was a staple recipe of his grandmother Akiko Murakami.

When Murakami felt that deep-fried eggplant was “heavy” as she approached her 70s, she changed the recipe to reduce the fat absorption rate. She microwaved the eggplant to reduce its water content instead of deep frying and stir-fried it.

His mother, Naomi Kijima, is also said to be changing direction from creating dishes catering to young families with children to light dishes that elderly couples can enjoy.

“What I want to cook will probably change as I get older, but all I want is to make dishes that are presentable to my grandmother and mother,” Kijima says. “I hope to stick to this profession even when I am 80.”

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Ryuta Kijima: Born in Tokyo in 1981, Kijima is third in line following his grandmother and mother, who are also cooking experts. He has an official YouTube channel called “Kijima Gohan.”

Ryuta Kijima (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)


Main Ingredients (Serves 2)

250 grams chicken “sparerib” (“teba-naka,” or the mid-section of the chicken wing), 1/4 (600 to 800 grams) Chinese cabbage, 100 grams shimeji mushrooms, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 1/4 tsp salt, Seasoning A (500ml water, 1 tsp grated ginger, 1 tsp salt), Seasoning B (some salt, bit of coarsely grated black pepper)

1. Pour sesame oil in frying pan. Lay chicken wings skin side down. Sprinkle salt and place on heat.

2. Cut leafy end of Chinese cabbage into 2 cm in width. Hold rest of Chinese cabbage vertically and slice downward.

Hold the base of the Chinese cabbage vertically and slice downward. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

3. Flip chicken, add Chinese cabbage and place lid on. Steam and roast on medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes.

4. Add Seasoning A and shimeji mushrooms after pulling them apart, place lid and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add ginger and other seasonings, as well as loosened shimeji mushrooms. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

5. Add Seasoning B.

About 300 kcal and 4.2 grams salt per portion
(Nutrient calculation by the Nutrition Clinic of Kagawa Nutrition University)


Chicken “spareribs” are the mid-section of chicken wings split in two. By laying them skin side down in a cold frying pan before the pan is placed on heat, the fat will emerge from the skin and the umami will go around the entire pan.

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