Who are we?
Born in Tokyo, Yumi is a freelance consultant, curator and interpreter for film festivals/promotions, media producer and lectures multi-cultural communications at university. Growing up in Indonesia and Singapore, in a house with ‘an open culinary mind’, as she puts it – and later on living in Austria and Germany – meant that Yumi’s encounter with Jewish cuisine was not particularly challenging. “I visited Israel four times: I tasted Persian food in Tel Aviv and Kubbeh in Jerusalem,” she says. “I like Nir’s cooking and the vegetable salad he prepares with plenty of coriander (cilantro), although, in Japan vegetables are often cooked or grilled, and coriander isn’t exactly everyone’s favourite.”
Born in Tel Aviv, Nir is a tour guide in Tokyo and a partner at Million Steps, a consulting firm aimed at connecting Japanese industry with Israeli entrepreneurs. “My father always held a green onion in one hand – and a good salami in the other,” he says. “My grandmother, who came from a Russian home, made borscht soup and Vinegret salad. On my father’s side we also ate duck with Czech style dumplings and apples-horseradish mix. One thing that’s for sure: eating kosher was not something we practiced at home.” In 2011, Nir was appointed as Cultural and Scientific Attaché at the Israeli embassy in Tokyo. Japan, which until that point in his life had been “just about Suzuki Jeep,” as he put it, changed his life and his daily menu forever.
Born in 2015 in Tokyo, Kai is in nursery. His parents attest that he is a big lover of bell peppers in a variety of colors and an avid lover of the salads that Aba Nir chops. “But most of all he enjoys his grandmother Yoko’s tsukemono pickles. According to Nir, “our child is well-fermented”. “The land of fermentation – there are many options in Japan and tsukemono has traditionally been playing the same role as yoghurt.” says Yumi who thrives on fermented food.
“Our grandmothers make chicken soup that cures every ailment, while here in Japan they make tsukemono” says Nir. “In fact, this is the Japanese penicillin.”
where was the photo taken?
The family lives in Setagaya, Tokyo, one of the 23 wards that make up the central part of the Japanese capital. They usually meet friends outside of the home. It is not so common to host friends at home. “We prepare the food here in the kitchen – and then head out to the park for a picnic,” says Nir. “Corona Practice. Tokyo is a very big city, and the people here prefer to see each other and eat together outside“.
Our family kitchen
In the Matsushita-Turk family kitchen, you will find soy sauce and miso paste made from fermented soybeans, alongside olive oil, tahini, and also soup mandels that grandmother sends Kai from Israel. “He likes to eat them in miso soup,” his mother says, adding with a smile: “Every Japanese household has its own rules on how to prepare certain dishes like miso soup, but Nir inspired me to cook outside of the box.” In the past year, following the pandemic, Nir, an avid chef that had time constraints, has started cooking more regularly. “What’s nice here is that we buy the raw ingredients from neighbors who grow their own fruits and vegetables in small allotments.”
The house recipe: Schav (Sorrel) Soup with a Japanese twist
“When I make this soup I always think of my grandmother Fanny,” says Nir. “She immigrated to Israel from Russia and on those sweltering hot summer days she would cook us Schav soup.” The cold sour soup, which originally contains Schav (Sorrel lives) or spinach, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs, to which Nir adds Japanese ingredients such as daikon radish greens (when in season), shiitake mushrooms, yuzu – a Japanese citrus – and miso. “When served hot, we like the soup slightly thicker and with a richer taste: just add 2 tablespoons of roasted buckwheat during the frying step.”
10-15 cumin seeds
2 tablespoons roasted buckwheat groats (optional)
1 medium- sized onion, chopped or thinly sliced
1 medium- sized potato, chopped or thinly sliced
4 medium- sized Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2-3 handfuls diced radish (use white radish or a variety of different radishes)
1 large bowl radish greens, chopped (substitute with sorrel when not in season)
Yuzu or Kabosu, zested and juiced (if unavailable, Substitute with lime or lemon)
1.2 liters boiling water
2 tablespoon miso paste
4 eggs, washed
To serve (optional)
Plain tart yogurt
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or mix 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon butter) in a medium- sized stock pot over a medium heat. Add the peppercorn, cumin seeds (and roasted buckwheat groats, if using).
Add the diced onion, potato, mushrooms and radishes, mix well and fry for 5-7 minutes
- Add the chopped greens and mix well
- Add the citrus zest and juice, reduce to a low heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the boiling water and miso paste, stir well and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes
- Reduce to a low heat and gently add the eggs. Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove the eggs
- To serve, divide the soup into serving bowls and serve with tablespoon of plain yoghurt (optional). Peel the eggs, cut into quarters and serve with the soup.
Edited by Ofer Vardi, Photography by Tzvety Friedman