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6 Waiheke Weekender
Yachiyo Rhodes was brought up in Kofu in rural Japan with some of
the country's most famous mountains rising from the horizon. On a
clear day, you could see Mount Fuji to the south. It was here she met
her ocean sailing husband Bernard who had arrived in a nearby port
as skipper of a small sailing boat on a peace mission.
Japan's cultural expectations for housewives, particularly the
importance of cooking for the family, are a measure of status and
esteem. It seems the philosophy is, if you are a good cook, you will
have a successful married life.
"Japanese women usually learn these skills from an early age from
their own mothers, but an ojou-san [elite young lady] might take more
formal cooking lessons in preparation for marriage," says Yachiyo.
At Yachiyo's cooking school she enjoyed completing her chef
certifcate so much she stayed on
as a tutor.
She had begun teaching English
at a language school when she
met Bernard and at the end of the
school term she followed him back
to New Zealand.
Home in New Zealand was to
be on another unfnished yacht but
Yachiyo found the stress of a new
country coupled with the cramped
quarters all too much, so the couple
found a fat in Auckland. A nearby
inner-city Japanese restaurant was
looking for staff, Yachiyo applied
and started the next day.
Over time the couple married, had children and enjoyed
a lot of time sailing around the Hauraki Gulf.
They spent some time in the Bay of Islands but with
friends and family visiting, Yachiyo wanted a home a little
closer to Auckland. They had discovered Waiheke on one
of their early sailing adventures and found a property over-
looking the boats of Wharf Road. Thirty years later, the
island is still a Utopia for Yachiyo.
In 1991, the couple decided to take their two young boys
back to Japan on the catamaran Flying Carpet that Bernard
had spent seven years building in a barn in their backyard.
Their three-year journey took them to Japan and back, with
Yachiyo dishing up most of the family meals at sea from
her well-appointed galley on board.
One of their sons now lives and works back in Japan,
with the other following in Yachiyo's shoes to become
a chef, working on various super yachts around the
These days Yachiyo loves tending her garden, something
she would never have had the opportunity to do back in her
hometown in Japan, and is a member of the organic food
co-op. She tries to always eat fresh and organi-
cally and places a high importance on feeding
her body balanced nutrition as she grows older.
Despite her 30 years in New Zealand, Yachiyo
still cooks in the traditional Japanese style which
tends to be very low in fat. Her pantry also boasts
a wide assortment of sea vegetables.
While still relatively under-utilised in New
Zealand, sea vegetables in many different variet-
ies are available here, with their many favours,
textures and nutritional qualities. They also
provide nutrients not readily available from
Another culinary tradition that has followed
Yachiyo to New Zealand is the preparation of the
Japanese persimmon cultivar 'Hachiya', widely
grown on the island. While the more common,
rounded persimmons are edible right off the tree,
the Hachiya variety has a high tannin content,
which makes the immature fruit astringent and
bitter, so the fruit is best left to completely ripen
before consumption. Yachiyo has experimented
over the seasons with hanging them up to air-
dry. The fruit takes about a month to dehydrate
and are ready when they turn completely white,
crystalised with natural sugars, and are similar
in texture to a date.
The health benefts of persimmons include
antibiotic, anti-infammatory, and anti-hemor-
rhagic properties, making them the fruit equiva-
lent of green tea.
Another favourite ingredient is tofu, and
while it can be tricky to perfect, Yachiyo shares
a recipe that adds colour and favour to this low
calorie, low fat, iron-rich protein.
Yachiyo says tofu is a cold food (ying) and is
best cooked with warm foods (yang) such as
miso, soy sauce or seaweed.
Take one block of frm type tofu and squeeze
between your palms to remove excess water.
Slice the block horizontally into three and grill
the slices on both sides.
10g fresh ginger
seaweed stock (dashi)
Mirin (sweet sake)
Peel and slice the ginger thinly and chop into
Warm the sesame oil in a frying pan and fry the
ginger on a low heat until softened.
Add the miso and fry together, adding the stock
slowly to make a creamy consistency.
Spread it onto a slice of tofu and grill. Garnish
½ tablespoon soy sauce
Roast the walnut pieces then grind with a mortar
and pestle to make a paste.
Add the soy sauce and mix, then add the stock to
make a soft paste.
Spread it one piece of tofu and grill. Garnish
with black sesame seeds.
30 grams of leafy green herbs, such as basil,
rocket or coriander
2 teaspoons tahini
2 teaspoon miso
After 30 years on Waiheke, the island is still a Utopia for
Wharf Road resident Yachiyo Rhodes.
Yachiyo Rhodes with her dried persimmons
which take about a month to dehydrate. The
natural sugars crystalise on the outside of the
fruit. Left -- hanging them out to dry.
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