Meet Giada De Laruentiis’s Other Culinary Obsession: Japanese Food

Meet Giada De Laruentiis’s Other Culinary Obsession: Japanese Food

During the pandemic, lots of us have been getting cooking tips from the pros by Zoom.

So has celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis.

Related: Giada De Laurentiis Shares Her Best Healthy Eating Tips

When Japan House Los Angeles, an organization that fosters an appreciation of Japanese culture, approached De Laurentiis to do one-on-one virtual cooking lessons with chef Shinji Ishida of the Michelin-starred restaurant Nogizaka Shin in Tokyo, she jumped at the chance. The two teamed up to shoot a two-part video series about Japanese-style fermentation.

As a Food Network star, best-selling cookbook author and successful restaurateur, De Laurentiis is synonymous with Italian fare. But when it comes to other cuisines she loves exploring, Japanese fare tops the list.

“I think it’s something a lot of people don’t know me, but I’m marveled by the beauty and delicacy of Japanese food,” says De Laurentiis. “It’s so artistic.”

She first became acquainted with the cuisine when she was in her 20s, studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with classmates from Japan. She admired their light approach to food and artistic skill plating dishes.

Related: An Antioxidant-Filled Sweet Potato Rice Bowl With Fried Egg From Giada De Laurentiis

Ever since, she’s sought to bring that artistry to her own cooking, whether it’s plating a bowl of pasta or a platter of bruschetta.

“We Italians may be a little more rustic,” she says, but the two cuisines share a love of simplicity that allows the flavors of all ingredients to shine. Like Italian fare, she notes, Japanese food is vibrant, colorful and packs a big punch of flavor.

In this video, Ishida walks her through the steps to make pickled vegetables and miso fish.


“We forget how easy it is to make fermented foods,” says De Laurentiis. “Anything can be pickled!”

It’s a simple technique — time does most of the work — to boost virtually any food’s flavor, texture and nutrition. Fermenting creates gut-healthy bacteria that’s great for digestion.

Related: 50 Best Priobiotic Foods

Fermented food like yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha may be trendy, but it’s nothing new. “It’s been around thousands of years,” says De Laurentiis. And it’s a technique used in almost every cuisine. Chances are, you’ve already got the basic ingredients to pickle food: vinegar, water, sugar and salt.

“These ingredients really tie all of our cultures together,” says De Laurentiis. “We might use them in a different way, but they’re ingredients that we all use.”

In Japanese cooking, rice vinegar is the go-to for pickling. Another key ingredient is miso, a paste made from a fermented mixture of soybeans, rice or wheat, salt and koji mold. In this recipe, it boosts the umami in the fish.

Tip: The miso solution used to pickle the fish also can be used to pickle meat, vegetables and tofu. To avoid cross-contamination, be sure to pickle ingredients separately.

Pickled Vegetables and Miso Fish


Sweet and Sour Pickles:

  • 7 oz Japanese rice vinegar
  • 7 oz water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 2½ cups cut-up vegetables (such as cucumbers, onion and/or blanched tomatoes or cauliflower)

Pickled Napa Cabbage:

  • 1 head napa cabbage
  • 8-10 Tbsp kosher salt

Miso Fish:

  • 10 oz white or red miso paste
  • 2 Tbsp cooking sake
  • 2 Tbsp mirin
  • 4 (4-oz) fish filets
  • Vegetable oil
Key Tags


Sweet and Sour Pickles:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt until sugar and salt dissolve. Add vegetables. Refrigerate overnight; serve cold. (Makes about 2½ cups.)

Pickled Napa Cabbage:

  1. Spread cabbage leaves onto a surface in a single layer; let dry at room temperature for 8 hours.

  2. Rub salt thoroughly onto cabbage leaves. Place in a resealable plastic bag; refrigerate 1-3 days. (Makes about 3-4 cups.)

Miso Fish:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine miso, sake and mirin. Score skin on fish. Add miso mixture, rubbing to coat fish thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 day.

  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium. Wipe marinade off fish. Add fish skin-side-down to pan. Cook fish a few minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

Kitchen Counter

Serves 4.