DUBAI: Japanese restaurant and café KOBEYa hosted an onigiri making event for kids in Dubai on Feb. 18.
Around 10 kids, aged between 6-12, were at the eatery’s second branch famed for its gluten-free and healthy food options. The event’s aim was to teach children more about Japanese cuisine, by getting them hands on in making rice balls.
Along with making rice balls, the children were handed several shaped tools to help cut vegetables, create variously shaped rice figures and decorate their lunchboxes.
The rice was provided by Japanese rice company EcoRice Niigata. The company’s President Yu Toyonaga spoke to Arab News Japan about their environmentally friendly rice farm.
Toyonaga said he decided to enter the Middle East market, after seeing people in Japan moving away from rice to other types of carbs like bread. “I found out in the Middle East people eat a lot of rice, so it seemed like a good opportunity.”
The president said that EcoRice decided to produce gluten-free rice due to natural disasters.
“In Japan, there are many natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. Whenever they send food to victims of the disasters, they send rice,” he explained. “But many people have allergies, so gluten free rice can be eaten by anybody.”
When EcoRice first started to break into the Middle East market eight years ago, Toyonaga said he spent a lot of time studying Halal foods.
“Halal food is not very common in Japan, so I really had to study it and fully understand it, which was a big challenge,” Toyonaga told Arab News Japan.
“Products like this are usually halal anyway. But in Japan, many factories work on different foods that could be non-halal so they have to be manufactured separately,” he added. Even packaging and plastics have to be separated he explained.
Toyonaga said he was happy to be part of KOBEYa’s event as he said he thinks children learn early and fast, so introducing Japanese food and rice at such an event is an early learning opportunity for them.