The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores Kamameshi to Genshiyaki Hokkaido Restaurant
Reputation for Fresh Seafood Sourced Directly from the Producers
Hokkaido Dining Leading the Hokkaido Boom in Thailand
Bangkok / Thailand
Serving Food with the “Face” of the Producers at a Reasonable Price
The Genshiyaki Group operates three stores in Sukhumvit in Bangkok, an area that is home to many Japanese residents. The restaurants have an established reputation for their menu, harnessing the blessings of the nature of Hokkaido. Not only is the food popular among Japanese people, who are fussy about the freshness and tastiness of the food, but also among Thai people who are looking for authenticity.
The restaurant is always very vibrant. According to Mr. Yusuke Fujimoto, the manager of Hokkaido Restaurant Genshiyaki in Ekkamai, “We want to serve quality ingredients from Hokkaido at a low price. We would like Thai people to learn more about Hokkaido through the ingredients.” This motto is also conveyed in the menu. Items on the menu are accompanied with a large photo with the face and name of the local producer and are written in such a way, for example, “oysters grown by Mr. Oosawa in Akkeshi, Hokkaido,” that the customers can tell where the seafood is produced at one glance. Original products such as exceptionally large capitated hokke (Atka mackerel) and fish prepared using the shinkei-jime (nerve breaking) technique straight after they are caught are also noteworthy.
Genshiyaki, Fresh Seafood Cooked on a Robata Barbeque, is Popular
Most of the ingredients are imported via Genshiyaki in Hokkaido. They also select seasonal products from around Japan and source from the markets in Tsukiji and Osaka as necessary. Around 80 percent of the ingredients are from Japan. Their specialty is the “genshiyaki (primitive cooking)” series; the name of the restaurant derives from this cooking style. Fresh seafood and seasonal ingredients are grilled on a robata barbeque, in which the far infrared ray allows the outside to become crisp and aromatic and the inside soft and moist, allowing the customers to enjoy the natural flavors of each ingredient to the fullest.
Their original product “hokke hiraki,” which is hokke cut length wise, opened, and salted for drying, is very large in size that satisfies the appetite. Other popular grilled fish dishes include sanma (saury) from the oceans near Japan, yellowtail head, and ayu (sweetfish) from Kyushu. “Genshiyaki goshumori,” an assortment of five kinds of fish, allowing customers to eat a variety of genshiyaki dishes in small quantities, is popular among Thai customers who prefer to share. On this particular day, the mixed plate consisted of honmenuki (ocean perch) preserved in sake lees, ginkarei (silver flounder) marinated in mirin (sweet sake for seasoning), herring fermented in salt-marinated rice malt, hokke pickled in sweet Kyoto-style miso, and soi (black rockfish) cured in kelp-flavored soy sauce. “Hokkaido Scallop Ishinabe Gangan-yaki,” reputed for their sweetness and plumpness, are provided at a similar price to what you will find in Hokkaido. Dealing with the ingredients is an earnest endeavor for Hokkaido Restaurant Genshiyaki, but there are other reasons for their popularity. Their menu consists of other dishes that succeed in drawing the customers’ curiosity. Pasta prepared inside a huge cheese wheel in front of the customers or a luxurious rice bowl topped with a snow crab arranged in its original shape are so visually impactful that customers cannot help but snap photos.
According to Mr. Fujimoto, “Thailand’s younger generation is very familiar with Japanese chain restaurants, and Japanese food is already a part of their diet. There are quite a few Thai people who travel to Japan several times a year as well. Recently, there is an increasing number of Thai people who are well versed in Japanese food opening Japanese restaurants and serving Japanese food that suits the taste buds of Thai people at a reasonable price. We are also looking to capitalize on our strengths and develop our own competitive advantage.” Furthermore, strengthening customer service is also an aspect they have not neglected. Long time staff, Mr. Wan, is currently studying Japanese sake. When asked to suggest a label to accompany the meal from Thai customers who are interested in sake, Mr. Wan uses his Thai sensibilities in making the selection and attending to the customers.
Passing on Japanese Cooking Techniques to Thai Chefs
Another key person at Hokkaido Restaurant Genshiyaki is the head chef, Mr. Toshitaka Terashima. Whilst undergoing training to become a cook, he attended a technical school and acquired knowledge on nutrition and various subjects related to food. He not only works as a chef, but he has experience teaching at a dietitian training school. Mr. Terashima helped with the opening of the Bangkok store with his culinary skills and knowledge.
“Once we settle the terms for transport, I would like to start importing more vegetables from Hokkaido. It would be great to serve asparagus and daikon radish that are full of sweetness and umami, as well as colorful vegetables such as purple potatoes.” While Mr. Terashima is talking, a Thai apprentice approaches him, eagerly taking notes while looking at the pot in front of him. “You don’t need to give instructions to people who are eager to learn, because they take the initiative themselves. They make the staff meals and receive candid feedback from everyone, but they keep practicing. These young Thai apprentices are learning traditional Japanese cooking techniques that we also have had to learn.” Japanese food was registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The nucleus of Japanese cuisine is now steadily being passed on to Thai people.