Content - Seafood Doria as gift of Swiss chef Weil to Japan

  • September 22, 2014

Seafood Doria as gift of Swiss chef Weil to Japan

Tokyo (SCCIJ) - While Japan and Switzerland are celebrating the 150th anniversary of their friendship treaty of 1864 during this year, only a few Japanese and Swiss will think about the big contribution of the Swiss chef Saly Weil to the excellent relations between the two countries: It was Weil who started a revolution in Western cuisine in Japan. E.g., he invented two dishes which are so popular today in Japan that no one thinks of them as foreign anymore.

Seafood Doria invented by Swiss chef

Shrimp and rice casserole

Seafood doria is a shrimp and rice casserole with a white sauce topped with cheese. Here is the story of how this dish was invented by a Swiss cook. The Jewish born Saly Weil was invited to Japan as the first master chef of the newly opened Hotel New Grand in Yokohama. He arrived in 1927 at the age of 30, which was four years after the big earthquake in 1923. The newly built hotel symbolized the start of a new city and age.  

Weil was hired to introduce French cuisine to Japan. For nearly 20 years, he taught his employees at "The Café" in the Hotel New Grand the secrets of Western cuisine. Weil was an admirer of the French master chef Auguste Escoffier. Based on his recipes, he thought up new versions and served in Japan many kinds of European plates including Swiss, Italian, Austrian, German, Russian, British and others. 

Swiss chef Saly Weil with cooks at the Hotel New Grand Yokohama (Source: Norio Kouyama, Shodai Souryouricho Saly Weil, link see below)

Swiss chef Saly Weil with cooks at the Hotel New Grand Yokohama (Source: Norio Kouyama, Shodai Souryouricho Saly Weil, link see below)

"Hambaga Steiki"

Weil's "Seafood Doria" is an interpretation of a typical French gratin. Instead of potatoes, the Swiss chef used rice as an adaptation to Japan's eating habits and added shrimps and scallops which are abundantly available in Japan. The dish is simmered in fine quality butter and baked after being sprinkled with (Swiss?) cheese.  

Another of Weil's dishes is the now classic Japanese "Hambaga Steiki". He made balls of minced meat - 100 gramms each - and grilled them to a thickness of 1,5 centimeters. Today this dish is still served at the hotel New Grand as created by Weil with a demi-glace sauce and boiled vegetables. Later the hotel developed other dishes in his memory such as Spaghetti Naporitan and Pudding à la mode.

Helping Japanese cooks

After the war, Weil returned to Switzerland and helped Japanese cooks to find vocational experiences in Europe. In 1973, the Japanese government honored him with a high order. He passed away three years later at the age of 79. In Switzerland, little is known about his contribution to modern Japanese cuisine. But many of his students went on to become chefs themselves in other hotels and restaurants in Japan.  

Today, Weil is known as the "Father of French cuisine in Japan". "The Cafè" of the Hotel New Grand in Yokohama still serves some of his dishes. At weekends, there are often long lines of customers waiting to get a taste of them. From the window tables, you have a nice view of Yamashita Park and the Yokohama bay across the street.

This could be the perfect place for a Swiss and Japanese to celebrate 150 years of friendship between the two countries - of course, by eating a Seafood Doria or a Hambaga Steiki.  

A written recipe of Seafood Doria can be found here. A website in Japanese about Saly Weil is located here

More information about Saly Weil can be found in the 2005 published book "Shodai Souryouricho Saly Weil written by Norio Kouyama.


Text: SCCIJ; Photo at top: Screenshot Youtube    

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