BEECHWORTH’S own Japanese vegan street food truck is tapping into the past as much as the future.
Internationally-acclaimed chef Osamu Uchino and his wife Rico founded Haha vegan three-and-a-half years ago to travel to farmers’ markets and events around the Border and North East.
Known as Aussie to Beechworth locals, Uchino said many of his dishes were inspired from growing up in rural Japan near Saitama, 70 kilometres north of Tokyo.
“In the mid-1960s there was not much dairy in Japan; there’s lots of dairy and meat now from the US and Australia through trade,” he said.
“My parents’ place was 100 kilometres inland so there wasn’t much fish and not a lot of meat.”
Having gained an apprenticeship aged 18 at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Uchino then worked at the Japanese consulate in Chicago as well as fine dining restaurants in London, Stockholm, Melbourne and Perth.
The couple opened their own French and Japanese-inspired restaurant Chez Uchino in Perth during 1989.
Four years ago they settled at Beechworth, where Uchino develops vegan dishes for the mobile business and tends to a vegetable garden.
Haha means The Mother in Japanese and had a nice ring to it in English!
What's your favourite summer dish?
Chilled udon noodle salad
What's your favourite season?
Spring and autumn; In Victoria I like the leaves changing colour on the trees.
What are the staples in your pantry now?
Dried shiitake mushrooms
What is your earliest cooking memory?
Making noodle soup for myself when I was about 10 years old. My parents ran a rice and wheat farm 70 kilometres north of Tokyo. They changed to strawberries when I was about 10 and my brother and nephew still run it today.
Which ingredients do you grow yourself?
Pumpkins, herbs, rhubarb, cucumber, tomatoes, strawberries, shiso, daikon and artichokes.
Which six people would you invite to dinner?
My wife Rico, my son who lives in Sydney, his girlfriend and her parents.
What is your favourite foodie ritual?
Enjoying sticky rice. It’s a glutinous type of rice that can be served in a sweet or a soup.
What are you bingeing on TV? If anything.
I don’t watch much TV.
What did you have for dinner last night?
Moussaka with tofu instead of meat and a bechamel sauce made with soy.
What are you drinking at the moment?
Phone: 0430 811 393