A man pours liquid fat over chunks of chicken through a wire strainer and his cooking station roars when the fat meets the crackling hot flames. Nearby a man is busy making waffles, and a woman cooks kaphrao gai.
Preparing Kyochu chicken.
This isn't an ordinary international cooking demonstration.
The row of food stalls next to the Kiito building in Kobe, Japan, was the site for a "takidashi" cooking and food tasting event, held by Design and Creative Centre Kobe (DCCK), earlier this month.
The stalls were a part of the "+Creative International Exhibition" that brought cases of disaster management from Asian countries, including Thailand, to showcase at its main hall.
Takidashi means food handout in Japanese, a concept borrowed from outdoor cooking at camps, where meals are usually cooked by the local government and volunteers in the disaster-affected areas for victims housed in temporary shelters.
The takidashi exhibition featured a case study from a shelter in Yamamoto, Miyagi prefecture, when the city was affected by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Imagine if you were forced to move into a shelter after your house had been washed away and were expected to stay there for days _ or weeks _ and eat whatever is donated in bulk from all over the country. You would probably eat the same food most of the time _ either cold or canned _ not knowing just what the ingredients were.
"Disaster victims need nutritious and warm meals," said Hirokazu Nagata, director of Design and Creative Center Kobe, who also organised the exhibition. "We need to serve their body and mind."
Fried gnocchi of potato and cheese is well-liked by the Japanese.
His project was to create easy-to-make recipes out of easy-to-find ingredients for a large amount of people at shelters, with the potential to be shared by emergency workers around the world.
The project came up with Italian gnocchi, Spanish bread and soup, French waffles, Chinese porridge, Kyochu charcoal chicken, Korean kimchi soup, Thai omelette and kaphrao gai, and Vietnamese chicken pho (noodle soup). Some were created by famous chefs in Kobe especially for the project.
But the purpose was to make tedious food not only more exciting, but also safe for everyone. A pictorial chart of ingredients is created to tell the affected, who may not be able to communicate, what they are about to eat at the food handout. Cooking on site also helps avoid food poisoning. Once an area is hit by a natural disaster, the case study at Yamamoto showed there were four factors to consider. First is the food and water shortage for those at shelters. Second is the amount of food to be cooked each day for the fluctuating numbers of people. Third is the shortage of eating utensils. And fourth is food allergies and religious obligations.
After the earthquake, said Nagata, the contrast between the shortage of water after the pipes had been broken and the increasing number of people moving into the shelter was seen.
Due to shortages, food ingredients must be easy to store and cook, such as dried and canned food. Root vegetables such as daikon (white radish) are less vulnerable and more suitable for cooking, compared to perishable leafy greens that also require hot preparation.
For example, Italian gnocchi is made from easy-to-store potato, which is liked by the Japanese, while the mild taste of a Thai omelette suits everyone's palate, from small children to the elderly.
As the number of victims fluctuate each day, and while the ingredients donated often arrive in bulk, the amount of food should be adjustable and the dishes should show variety.
A soup dish such as kimchi is another good option. The dish is not only easy to manage for a fluctuating number of people, but also warms bodies and minds. Since everything was damaged by the earthquake, eating utensils were rare. At the shelter at Yamamoto, a pair of chopsticks had to be broken into two to share. If there are not enough dishes, origami skills become useful by turning vinyl plastic, newspapers, square bowls or paper into plates, dishes or even compartment trays. The folded containers should be wrapped with aluminum foil or plastic wrap before being used so they can be immediately reused by throwing away the wrapping part.
The last factor to consider when cooking at the shelter is food allergies. Most dishes cooked at the shelter don't have ingredient indications, which can be conflict with cultural or religious practices, and dangerous for those with food allergies.
Pictograms or graphics can be made to display the food ingredients. Pictures are easier to understand if victims are of different nationalities.
The recipes demonstrated at the exhibition will be compiled into a book and published online in DCCK's soon-to-be-launched website next year.
Fried Potato and Cheese Gnocchi
1. Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
2. Grease a pan. Pour half of the dough into the pan.
3. Once a side turns brown, flip the dough and cook until the other turns brown. To check if the dough is cooked, press the centre _ the dough becomes springy if it's baked well.
Chinese Porridge with Meat Dumplings and Dried Scallop
Everyone can enjoy it, from children to elderly. You don't have to boil separately.
1. To make dumplings, mince pork, Add salt, pepper, sesame oil, and mix. From the mixture, make meat balls and boil.
2. Put rice and water in a pot and boil over a high heat. Once boiled, reduce the heat. Stir occasionally. Add dried scallops and dumplings, and continue to boil. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.
3. Sprinkle slices of fried dumplings as topping.
Kyochu Charcoal Chicken
After the disaster, power or gas supplies are cut. You can use charcoal or a portable stove to cook. Once the chicken is cooked, it can be kept longer.
1. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper.
2. Put chicken fat into a pot, followed by large chunk of green onions, garlic, and ginger. Heat briefly. Once the fat is melted and starts to generate an aroma, it's ready to use.
3. Put chicken on wire skimmer over fire. Pour the fat over the chicken. (The fire will explode and directly cook the chicken.) Once it's cooked, it's ready to serve.
Korean Kimchi Soup
This soup is popular in Japan. It was once a rare treat at shelters, but the dish was served after 1995's Hanshin earthquake and it began to spread across the country.
1. Cut kimchi and beef into tiny pieces. Cut tofu into bite sizes.
2. Put all ingredients in a pot and heat on high.
3. Once it has boiled, reduce the heat. When cooked, it's ready to serve.
The dish is not hot nor spicy, therefore, good for everybody. It's very easy to cook at any shelter.
1. Dice onions and tomatoes into 1cm cubes.
2. Stir-fry diced onions and tomatoes with minced pork, and season it.
3. Mix the stir-fried portion and all the eggs. Stir well.
4. Heat the oil in the pan. Pour the mixture into the pan. Wait until the first side is cooked, then flip the egg to allow the other side to cook.
5. Serve on a plate or on top of rice.
Pho is flat rice noodles, which can be boiled in hot water. It's easy to cook if you use instant soup.
1. To prepare soup, add chicken bones, pig bones, cow bones, chicken meat, green onion, ginger, grilled onion, with peel, to the water in a pot. Boil it for six hours.
2. Scald the noodles in hot water.
3. Put bean sprouts into a bowl. Then add the scalded noodles, sliced green onion, chopped onion, and chicken into the bowl. Add the soup, then serve.
Dal Vegetable Curry
Convenient food. You can simply use canned beans.
1. Soak the beans in water. Mung beans will require a shorter period of soaking.
2. Fry onions in the heated oil. Add spices and stir until it generates an aroma.
3. Stew dal in the water. Once it's softened, add the portion of the spice mixture and keep stewing for a while.
4. Serve with rice.