Chapter 73: The Ultimate Battle – Japanese Cuisine settled!
「Guh, guh, guh. “Cultivation Hero” Kyou. You actually came without running away. Are you ready?」
「Yeah, anytime. 」
The day of the settlement. My opponent greeted me when I arrived to the final match of the Demon King Cooking Battle, which seemed to be long and short at the same time.
「Then, we will start the 5th and Final Round of the Cooking Battle. We expect great food from you both. Okay… Start!」
Hell and I started moving at the same time upon hearing the declaration of the Gourmet Master.
Hell arranged countless monsters on the table and threw them into a prepared pot.
I see, a hot pot, huh. This was going to be an interesting battle.
I also lined up the monsters I raised on the table, but the judges were slightly surprised when they saw them.
「It seems that Kyou also prepared similar monsters in advance like Hell… No, wait! What do you mean by those!? 」
All the judges were confused when I spread on the table both monsters from the sea and land. Well, of course. Since all the monsters that I’ve prepared were…
「All of them are non-standard monsters that are not for sale in the market! Isn’t all of those monsters badly shaped and hurt!? 」
Yes, the monsters I prepared were Devil Carrots, Eggplant Venus, Killer Plant’s fruits, and Colored Fish, but all of them were badly shaped and some of them had a damaged appearance.
Devil Carrot had three irregular extra legs. The Eggplant Venus was overweight and torn, and the Colored Fish was hurt here and there.
Hell, who was watching me face-to-face, began to laugh.
「Fuh, what on earth are you going to do? It even hurts my stomach just to think that you can win against my cooking with such horrid monsters. 」
「Well. Cooking is not appearance alone. I will prove it to you. And I’ll make sure that my kitchen won’t fall short to yours. 」
I argued in a hurry with a slightly reddish face.
「Wha…What a rude person! How dare you mess with the venerable dialect of our dark demons! I won’t allow you to insult me! 」
Did she know the meaning of the word “Chuunibyou”*? Hmmm, the common sense in this world was too mysterious.
Anyway, I finished processing the ingredients and finally put something on the table to join the main part of the dish.
The same happened with Hell.
「This is interesting. Are both hot pot dishes? 」
Yes, I also chose one of the Japanese dishes, the same hot pot dish as Hell.
The genre of Japanese cuisine was strangely changed to the same hot pot dish, and the purpose was changed to which one of us would make a better hot pot dish. However, I also felt that it was an interesting outcome and my fighting spirit was burning up without knowing it.
Eventually, both hot pots finished. I heard the declaration almost at the same time.
「I am Kyou. I present you the special seafood Mizutaki**! 」
「Here is the “Dark Princess” Hell. I’ve also cooked Mizutaki. 」
Although the ingredients were slightly different for both, the underlying dish was the same Mizutaki. The two hot pots lined up at the same time in the jury table.
「I see. Did both of them result in Mizutaki dishes? Alright. Let’s taste Hell’s dish first. 」
With that said, the other members, including the judges, approached the pot and brought the ingredients up to their mouths.
As soon as they tasted the dish, the autumn scenery of wild plants spread in the judges’ mouths. The melody of taste, which was an art of ingredients, played in their tongue.
「This is fantastic! The taste of the broth intertwines with every single element while maintaining the taste of the ingredients! 」
「The prepared ponzu sauce# is also wonderful. The taste is different from soy sauce. A little sourness spreads in your mouth, but that is what deepens the taste of meat and edible wild plants. Above all, it is no longer just a soup when mixed with the broth! If you taste it with the ingredients, you will get an irresistible depth of flavor! 」
「Certainly…It’s quite delicious. The ingredients themselves shouldn’t have that much gimmick, but they have such a rich taste after boiling in a water pot. How…? 」
Hell’s Mizutaki was so exquisite that all the judges praised it, but as Fitis said, just Mizutaki shouldn’t show this much taste. Only the Gourmet Master noticed the mechanism behind this rich taste. He smiled with the food on his mouth. He pointed out.
「I see. The secret lies in the water inside this pot. 」
「Guh, guh, guh. That’s correct. 」
Hell had tofu in her right hand. No, it was not just tofu! It was the secret tofu used by my mother, who defeated my father in the first match!
「I see, Peanut Star Tofu, huh. 」
Yes, the mechanism was in the tofu, which dissolved in the water.
A tofu hot pot. Something like that existed. As the name suggested, the tofu melted well, and when mixed with the water, it transformed into a rich and tasty water. In fact, even after all the tofu dissolved in the water, the tofu hot pot became exquisite because of the taste of tofu.
That was exactly what Hell did.
She used special water and tofu in advance, and added it until the deciduous Peanut Star Tofu got completely dissolved.
After that, she added the ingredients. The water that had fully absorbed the taste dissolved in the ingredients themselves, making the taste many times richer.
「The main character of the hot pot is its ingredients. Water is just a decoration that no one can see or taste. However, I thought it would be nice to add flavor to the pot itself to enhance the taste of the whole dish. This is my creative dish as the “Dark Princess” Hell. 」
Not only the ingredients but also the water had a delicious taste.
This dish had exactly what overturned the common sense of hot pot cooking. Usually this type of dishes left excess water inside the pot, but all the water in this pot was so rich and delicious that one wanted to keep drinking it with the ponzu sauce.
「Well then. Let’s taste Kyou’s hot pot. 」
After the Gourmet Master professed those words, everyone including the judges began to eat the food I’ve made.
「Hmm, this is. 」
「Quite surprising. All those clunky monsters have a good taste. 」
Hearing the impressions of the judges, I secretly rejoiced because I broke through the first barrier.
There were several gimmicks in my hot pot this time, and the judgment could greatly change depending on whether the judges noticed them or not.
Before, Gourmet Master noticed my hidden work at the previous Grand Cooking Tournament. Perhaps, he’ll know this time too.
「Hmm. Unlike Hell, this one has seafood broth, which is delicious. 」
「But is it somewhat pale? Compared to Hell’s dish, this one is not so refreshing. 」
I’ve received a straightforward impression from everyone, including the judges.
Since it was the same hot pot dish, the impression they had of mine was low because they ate the elaborate Mizutaki from Hell first.
「Hmm. It is a worthy of evaluation in that it makes the best use of the ingredients themselves, but when it comes to a whole, I can only say that Hell, who has added attention to the pot water, is better… 」
Eventually, when all the judges finished eating the ingredients inside my hot pot, the moment they tried to move on to the results.
「Please wait. My cooking isn’t over yet. 」
I approached the judges’ table who finished eating and I picked up the hot pot with no ingredients inside.
「What? But what kind of food are you going to prepare now…? 」
「There is no need to prepare. This is the final touch of my Mizutaki dish. 」
With that said, I took out the hot rice, which I’ve had prepared in advance, and put it inside the hot pot without hesitation!
「Okay, it’s done. I’ve named it my Mizutaki-style Ojiya##. 」
I poured the rice into everyone’s hot pots, including the judges’ pots, and mixed it lightly to turn it into an Ojiya.
At first glance, the finished dish looked rough, but when the judges, including the Gourmet Master, took the first bite, I heard voices of admiration that immediately changed the previous evaluation.
「…! This…This is! 」
「The seafood-flavored broth goes really well with rice! 」
「Wow, it should have been a normal broth for hot pot dishes… But, when it’s mixed with rice, the broth becomes much more richer than before! 」
This last touch gave the hot pot a spectacular change, just as a cocoon emerged into a butterfly, and just like a shabby-looking girl from the countryside after taking off her glasses to wear a dress on her social debut.
「I see. Because of this “extra”, you created a simple broth, which was made with the taste of the ingredients, into a far richer broth. All because it had a simpler taste at first. 」
「That’s right. 」
The Gourmet Master who noticed my gimmick smiled with an amusing smile. It seemed my second barrier by Ojiya has gone beyond expectations. I accomplished my purpose.
「…Then we will announce the results. 」
After a brief discussion, the judges, led by the Gourmet Master, were about to disclose the outcome of the final match.
「First, I will describe the evaluation of both dishes. “Dark Princess” Hell. The cooking method that you used to bring out the flavor of the ingredients by using a special broth with tofu in the hot pot was extremely wonderful. In terms of taste, it is undeniable that you win. 」
Hell looked proud after hearing the Gourmet Master’s evaluation.
「And, “Cultivation Hero” Kyou. You made a simple hot pot that focuses on the taste of the ingredients alone. At first glance, it was an ordinary hot pot, but with Ojiya, it enriched the simple taste. The fact that you pursued only the taste of the ingredients is truly worthy of our evaluation. 」
Hell or myself. After finishing the evaluation of both sides, the winner of this match would bring victory to the Valkyria side or the Demon King side. Finally, the mouth of the Gourmet Master opened. Which victory would it be?
「The winner is… 」
The Gourmet Master’s lips moved, and he announced the name…
*The character “Kitchen” (厨) is also used for 厨二病, which means “Chuunibyou”, behaving in a way characteristic of teenagers going through puberty. Hell misinterpreted Kyou’s word of Kitchen 厨 as Chuunibyou 厨二病.
**Mizutaki is a Japanese Chicken Hot Pot in which chicken, assorted vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu are cooked in a light kombu dashi broth. The freshly cooked ingredients are dip in the savory and citrusy ponzu sauce.
#Ponzu Sauce, the tangy soy-based sauce, is traditionally made with a citrus fruit and may have been inspired by visitors from Holland during the 17th century. Fresh lemon juice and orange juice give this sauce a citrus snap.
##Ojiya (おじや), which means rice gruel containing vegetables, fish, etc., and seasoned with miso or soy sauce.