I like eating. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s a basic biological need, yes, that’s true. But when you’re just eating food that doesn’t taste good, that’s not really living, is it? Unfortunately, I never really learned how to cook. I do know how to cook the basic stuff. I can make a decent breakfast composed of scrambled eggs, bacon and oatmeal. I can also make other really simple stuff like stir fry vegetables and spaghetti sauce but nothing really complicated. It just seems daunting to make something spectacular from raw ingredients. There just doesn’t seem to be any room for error when it comes to cooking.
I actually should say I was afraid to try and experiment with cooking because that’s generally all in the past. I have started to be a lot more adventurous with cooking as I have tried more “expert” level meals lately. And it’s all thanks to an anime called Food Wars AKA Shokugeki no Soma.
Shokugeki no Soma, more famously known in the West as Food Wars, is about Yukihira Soma, a teenager who runs a family diner with his father. When his father goes oversees, he gets enrolled in the Totsuki Culinary Academy, an elite cooking school where all the best chefs have trained. Totsuki Culinary Academy that takes it’s cooking seriously; a student can be expelled for silly things, such as using the wrong shampoo as the scent could interfere with the aroma of the food. The school also allows challenges, called Shokugekis, to be issued between fellow students to resolve disputes. Yukihira Soma uses the cooking skills he’s learned throughout running the diner to try to best his fellow classmate and rise to the top of the Totsuki Culinary Academy.
I’ve watched cooking shows before but I never felt the need to really try out what they’ve made. I was satisfied with just watching them cook and prepare the dishes. Other cooking shows never really inspired me to try to cook something special. There have been other cooking themes animes like Yakitate Japan and Cooking Master Boy that I’ve watched as well. Like the “real” cooking shows, I was never enthralled enough to try making what they made as well. So why would Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars inspire a dope like me to try cooking more extravagant meals?
On paper, Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars sounds like your basic anime. It has an outlandish idea and runs with it. There are numerous likable characters, each with their own distinct quirks and personalities. You can even classify the anime as an echhi series as the female characters’ clothes just tear off their bodies in an orgasmic explosion whenever they taste something extremely delicious. To be fair, the guys get on the act, too. I guess you can say Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars is an equal opportunity exploiter in this regard.
I will be honest and say that the concept of showing the characters experience a super sensual experience when eating does make the food look tastier than it would in real life. But that’s just a tiny part of why the anime inspired me to start cooking. There are two bigger reasons for that.
The first one is because of Yukihiri Soma, the main character himself. While he’s proven to be an extremely fantastic chef, he’s not exactly the best nor the most naturally talented. His own father states that Soma wasn’t a good cook at the start. The only reason why he reached the level that he’s at is because of his tenacity. He wanted to beat his father at cooking ever since he was a young kid. So he kept on practicing and experimenting with all kinds of ingredients and styles of cooking that he just eventually got better. Soma even mentions after almost failing the 200 Dish Challenge at Totsuki Training Camp that he’s okay with failure as he actually can learn from those mistakes. That’s kind of inspiring to think that even someone with Soma’s skills that he can still flub a dish now and again.
But the biggest reason why Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars stimulated my want to try more exquisite cooking methods is the anime does show you dishes that you can actually make! Take the episode where Soma almost didn’t make the 200 Dish requirement. His main dish was an Omelette Souffle, a more fluffy manner of your everyday scrambled egg dish. Instead of just beating the eggs in a bowl, you separate the egg yolks from the whites, beat the whites until they become stiff, mix the yolks with cream, salt and pepper then fold the yolks into the whites. Afterwards, put the mixture in a pan, cover with a lid and fold it over after 3 minutes. Serve it with a special tomato sauce and, bam! You have an Omelette Souffle!
This looked extremely simple and it looked like anyone could do it. The ingredients weren’t anything special and they’re readily available for most people. If you have eggs and cream/milk in your refrigerator, you can go make an Omelette Souffle right now! It was also incredibly different from the scrambled eggs or omelettes I’ve made or seen made before. I guess I was ignorant because, while not all that common, people have been making Omelette Souffles before. I just never seen it before.
It seemed simple enough so I actually tried making my own version of Omelette Souffle. I did pretty much the same steps Soma did, which was veritably kind of stressful. Remember, I generally have no idea what I was doing at this time! How long should you beat the egg whites with the mixture? How much milk should I add? Is 3 minutes long enough to cook the Omelette Souffle or do I need more time? I also didn’t like the idea of just using tomato sauce so I just chopped up some tomatoes and made a salsa of sorts.
The result was, well, kind of underwhelming. When I did plate it, a part of it broke but it was jiggling just like in the anime. The problem was that, after just a few minutes, the thing started to deflate and leak out the sides. It only got worse when I added the tomato salsa.
It didn’t look all that pretty but, hey, it looked pretty to me! It was something I actually made. Something that felt special! I was impressed with myself. What impressed me even more was it actually tasted great! But I felt I could do better. Ever since then, I have made numerous attempts at making Soma’s Omelette Souffle to increasing degrees of success. The Omelette Souffle holds better now but I still have trouble getting it out of the pan without slicing it at its side. The tomato salsa has been upgraded by “marinating” the chopped tomatoes with some salt and spices like marjoram and oregano, then cooking the mixture in red wine (another trick I learned from watching Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars). I can’t churn them out like Soma did but I can do one pretty well nowadays.
This inspired me to try out another dish: Risotto. In the show, Soma makes an Apple Risotto, which honestly sounded really good. The problem is it requires apple juice, something that I don’t have handy. What I do have is chicken stock, since we feed our pets with boiled chicken when we can. I generally followed the recipe from the show but I decided to adjust the recipe, just like Soma does.
I didn’t add white wine or mushrooms as I didn’t have them. I also didn’t have any “risotto” rice so I just used regular old while rice. But I did follow the basic Risotto cooking process. I fried some chopped garlic and onions in butter and olive oil, added the uncooked rice and then slowly added the chicken stock while stirring frequently. It takes a while but it’s quite fun watching the uncooked rice change to cooked rice, in my opinion. Once the rice is cooked, I add another glob of butter and some Parmesian cheese, give it a quick mix and there’s my version of Risotto. It tastes great on it’s own but, with bacon, it’s mind blowingly amazing! Not amazing enough to blow off my clothes but still super tasty! I’ve tried this Risotto with other dishes, like beef steak and even just a plain fried egg, and it just goes well with them! I made it twice and it was just as good as the firs time!
I have tried another dish from the show and it was a failure. That dish was the Chaliapin steak. It’s another simple dish. All you need to do is scour the steak, pound it and cover with a tons of chopped onions. The idea is that the onion enzymes will tenderize even the toughest of steak that you can cut it with chopsticks. That didn’t work for me as it was still tough. Okay, maybe I leaned into the hype of the Chaliapin steak a little too hard from an anime. But, to be fair, the steak tasted great. So it wasn’t a total loss. In fact, in true Yukihira Soma fashion, I’m planning to make some adjustments to my method and technique and willing to try again making the Chaliapin steak in the future.
In fact, the show has inspired me to try out different flavors as well. I’m looking forward to making the curry mapo tofu noodle dish, the Countdown Mapo Curry Noodles, from another episode, despite my not being the biggest fan of curry! I just like the creativity of the dish! And it looks so damn good!
I’ll probably not make it straight. I’ll break it down, like try making good mapo tofu first then a good curry sauce that I actually like. I’m excited just thinking about it! The idea of trying out new flavors and actually prepping just feels something fresh and new to me! It’s something that I never thought I would like doing. But I do now, thanks to the show!
I do realize that I will never be able to make food so unbelievable that it’ll rip a person’s clothes off in an orgasmic explosion of deliciousness like in Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars. After all, that’s just make-believe. But I will give credit to the show for stimulating my need to expand my current culinary knowledge. It made me want to aspire to level up my cooking game and explore the vastness of the cooking world.
Oh, and it’s a very good anime as well. That’s enough to make it worth a watch.
Have you seen Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars? Has any anime or TV show inspired to to try something different? Let me know in the comments section below!