The Makanai is a captivating television show available on Netflix that follows the journey of Kiyo, a talented young chef in Kyoto, as she explores the rich culinary traditions of the region. Through her innovative approach to traditional dishes and her determination to make her mark as a Makanai (a culinary apprentice), Kiyo embarks on an adventure filled with heartwarming moments and delightful flavors.
The Makanai Episode Two, "Guardian Spirit," showcases the unique parallels between Kiyo and her grandmother. In this episode, her grandmother prepares an onigiri (rice ball) for Kiyo's friend, which turns out to be the same onigiri Kiyo herself makes as she embraces her role as a Makanai.
While this episode may not delve into the details of local Kyoto produce like the first episode, it does offer insight into the various confectioneries popular in Kyoto. In a scene set in the dance studio, a young aide is reprimanded for having only Senju Senbei, a renowned cookie that is often enjoyed as a souvenir. Interestingly, despite being called senbei, it is not a rice cracker, but a wavy wafer sandwich with a sugary sweet cream filling. The dance instructor actually wanted "Langues de chat," another cream sandwich cookie commonly made with matcha produced in Uji, Kyoto, as high-quality matcha blends perfectly with the white chocolate used in langues de chat.
The star of this episode is definitely Kiyo’s oyakodon (親子丼 おやこどん). This dish, whose name means a “mother and child bowl,” is a combination of egg and chicken, served over rice. During the episode, Kiyo simmers onion and chicken in what appears to be dashi-based stock, soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Observant viewers will notice that Kiyo doesn't scramble the eggs with her chopsticks but instead lightly cuts the yolks, creating a distinct separation between the egg whites and yolks. This technique results in contrasting layers of eggs, both in texture and appearance. Kiyo also adds a second layer of eggs towards the end, allowing them to remain slightly unset, resulting in a glossy and tender layer. Notably, she improvises by using toumyou (豆苗 or pea sprouts) in place of mitsuba (三つ or Japanese parsley), showcasing her resourcefulness.
The episode further explores the reactions of those around Kiyo to her cooking. While the other women in the Maiko house appreciate her food, their response is intriguing. They describe her dishes as ordinary yet delicious. Oyakodon is considered a comforting home-cooked meal, and Kiyo's ability to transform something ordinary into an extraordinary culinary experience shines through. This sentiment is echoed during her journey to Atago Jinja, where she meets a family and Takeshi from Episode 1. After tasting her simple yet flavorful salmon and rice onigiri, Takeshi acknowledges her talent, exclaiming, "You've got some sort of gift in your hands." Kiyo's skill lies in her ability to take the ordinary and elevate it, adding a touch of magic to her creations. This is a defining aspect of her character that endears her to audiences.
Overall, The Makanai Episode Two, "Guardian Spirit," offers a delightful exploration of Kyoto's culinary world, highlighting Kiyo's growth as a Makanai and her ability to infuse her everyday dishes with extraordinary flavors. As viewers follow her culinary adventures, they are treated to heartwarming moments, cultural insights, and a celebration of the transformative power of cooking.
About the author:
Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen. Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!