Budo Sansho

The appeal of budo sansho
as told by professionals

Toshimasu Kumoi

Differing season by season, region by region, the uniqueness of budo sansho creates great harmony between ingredients from the same region

Toshimasu Kumoi
Shizen Mukuan

Interview date:2019.12.10

Toshimasu Kumoi

The charm lies in the seasonal flavor and texture

Sansho changes with the seasons. Lush leaves in the spring, unripe sansho berries in early summer, and the harvestable dry sansho in midsummer through fall. “It’s used differently in different regions. The way the flavor spreads throughout the mouth is different. When you strike and graze the leaves it releases the aroma, which is also spread by biting into the unripe peppercorn berry. The way the scent is released is totally different,” explains Toshimasu Kumoi of Mukuan. “That’s why we use sansho differently depending on the dish. Instead of crushing the unripe peppercorn berries, you can use the texture as is, or bring out the aroma without boiling it,” recalls Kumoi-san earnestly. The form of a dish can be changed through different uses of budo sansho, whether you use the berries to make a refreshing jelly garnish, or the spiciness to add to a sauce for sous-vide wild boar. The more he gains experience and broadens his thinking, the more Kumoi-san’s use of budo sansho will evolve.

Searching for and using local ingredients

Kumoi-san is originally from Nagoya, but has moved to Wakayama. That’s why he says he’s discovering new ingredients. “There are ingredients here that are obvious to the local people, but very rare for those from outside the prefecture. While out and about I’ll see an unusual fish in a fisherman’s net. Because these region-specific ingredients exist I ask the locals to teach me about them.” Kumoi-san stresses the importance of making such connections. “I want to cook food that you can’t eat unless you come to Tanabe.” For this reason, Kumoi-san spends his days off walking around his adopted home, slowly building relationships with the local people and looking for ingredients unique to Kinan and Tanabe.

When asked about a new ingredient he likes, Kumoi-san immediately answered ”Iwashimizu pork!” ”It’s completely different to any pork I’ve encountered before,” he says. Especially with regards to the sweetness, umami and color when it reacts to heat. It’s been five years since he came to Tanabe, but Kumoi-san still feels he hasn’t been everywhere yet. He’s looking forward to encountering new ingredients.

“Sous-vide roast pork garnished with budo sansho

Amago trout were brought live that morning from the hatchery in Shimizu, Aridagawa Town. “If the fish aren’t alive, they cannot be used for sashimi,” says Kumoi-san.

The happiness that comes from being told your food is delicious

The reason Kumoi-san became a chef was because of one word from his father. His dream as a young boy was to be a carpenter. However, when he was in his third year of elementary school, his mother was taken to hospital and he cooked for the first time. Upon tasting the food he made, his father said “delicious!”. “I couldn’t believe I was so happy when my father told me my food was delicious,” Kumoi-san thought. His aspirations soon changed to becoming a chef.

When he was a high school student, Kumoi-san took a part-time job in his native Nagoya at a large restaurant with a live seafood tank. Upon telling his seniors that he wanted to become a chef, they taught him as much as he could learn, took him out for meals to train his palate, and offered him a variety of experiences. On graduating from high school, he set his sights on becoming a Japanese cuisine chef and entered a culinary school in Kyoto. After working at a Japanese-style restaurant in Kyoto, he moved to Shimanto. Shimanto’s charm lies in the quality of its ingredients, which, according to Kumoi-san, were superb.

Creating food alongside customers

Kumoi-san moved to Tanabe thanks to the efforts of a Tanabe City immigration support program. He plans to stay in Wakayama rather than return to his native Nagoya, stating that “I want to serve food that you can only eat here.” At first he wants customers to experience the flavor of the raw ingredients, without changing them too much. After two, three, or even more times, he gradually devises ways to develop the flavors. This is Kumoi-san’s unique style. This Kumoi-style grows alongside the requests of customers, and he currently sees more customers from further away than he does locals. Many of his customers are seeking a ‘new world’. To this end, the garnishes on his sashimi use local edible flowers, and Kumoi-san uses techniques unbound by existing traditions, preferring a blend of old and new methods.

He is currently experimenting with desserts that incorporate budo sansho. We’re looking forward to seeing what ingredients he’ll come up with next.

Amago trout sashimi with budo sansho jelly”

The rice is cooked over the hearth in an earthenware pot, emanating a delicious steam

Homemade chili oil containing budo sansho tops the freshly-cooked rice

Shizen Mukuan

2-16-30 Takao, Tanabe city
Wakayama prefecture, 646-0028, Japan
Phone: 0739-26-5600

Opening hours: Lunch 11:00~14:00
Dinner: 17:30~
Irregular closures (please enquire)

◎Prix fixe menu by reservation only

Lunch menu (every day but Tuesday)
1,200 yen or 1,500 yen (tax-exclusive)

Prix fixe menu
Lunch and dinner from 8,000 yen (tax-exclusive)
Please reserve lunch seatings between 11:00~12:30,
and dinner seatings between 17:30~19:30.
The menu will be agreed upon via consultation
with customers about their budget


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