Iron Chef is friggin’ awesome. There. I said it. It’s engaging, eye-opening, entertaining and full of grandeur. A multitude of culinary traditions come crashing together in front of a wild-eyed Chairman whose sole job is to maniacally set the tone for what’s at stake in Kitchen Stadium (via the Secret Theme Ingredient). What ensues is furious cooking, artistic cuisine and some spurious dubbing, but all in all, Fuji TV’s Iron Chef is a marvel to behold and I recommend you dive into it if you haven’t already.
The Iron Chefs themselves are all intriguing. Hiroyuki Sakai is truly a hardened master as Iron Chef French, while Michiba and Morimoto are awesome chefs in their own right as both Iron Chef Japanese. However, the Iron Chef that intrigues me the most is Chen Kenichi, son of Chen Kenmin, the God of Sichuan Cooking in Japan. Ironically, Iron Chef’s Chinese-themed battles are what opened my young eyes to what Chinese cuisine actually was in the late 90s, especially in terms of region. Iron Chef Chen was obviously Sichuan, but many competitors dabbled in Cantonese, Shanghai and other variants / fusions of Neo-Chinese cuisine. The fact that Chen was so into spice was what got me hooked on his battles. Therefore, I’m devoting this post to some of his most memorable battles that are personal favorites of mine, so please enjoy!!
Bamboo Shoot Battle: Chen tackles the young Munetaka Takahashi, an exponent of Kyoto cuisine. This is a personal favorite of mine since it shows off Chen Kenichi’s intricate skill in cutting (which Takahashi matches). A great battle indeed.
THE GREAT HEICHINROU WAR: Chen squares off against Japan’s oldest Chinese restaurant establishment Heichinrou in 3 battles. Heichinrou’s chefs duel with Cantonese cookery, but the gloves come off in the third match where Heichinrou Grand Chef Xie Huaxian comes in to settle the score once and for all. A must watch of epic propotrions!!
PRAWN BATTLE: Chen does battle with Takashi Saito, Chen Kenmin’s former protege as they go head to head with each other’s own Ebi Chilli!
So for the lot of you who haven’t indulged in Iron Chef, now’s a good time to do so. I would especially recommend this if you’re a fan of Chinese food and want to see how Chinese cuisine is made. I’ll conclude this with an awesome recipe video (in Japanese) of Mapo Tofu from Chen himself, which utilizes the original Sichuan recipe. Bon appetite my friends!