WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 5, Episode 11 of Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, now streaming on Crunchyroll.
The time has come: in one of the semi-final matches of the esteemed BLUE tournament, Soma Yukihira and Asahi Saiba are facing off to see who will challenge Erina in the final round. From the very start, Saiba has intended to not only marry Erina to claim the God Tongue but also rule both halves of the culinary world, light and Noir alike. He's even got Mana Nakiri backing him up, but Soma has a secret weapon that Asahi could never have dreamed of.
Presenting The Dishes
The match is proceeding as planned, and Soma and Saiba each have three hours to meet Mana Nakiri's exotic theme: to combine French, Italian, Chinese, Turkish and Indian cuisine into a single dish that elegantly embodies them all. Only top-tier chefs like Soma and Asahi could even attempt that, and Asahi Saiba is feeling more confident than ever. He has a vast arsenal of cooking styles and equipment at his disposal, and he's using it all to create a pie-like basty that meets Mana Nakiri's terms. He is visibly exhausted as he offers the dish just ahead of Soma's own, and the judges are blown away. They can hardly believe how well this basty, a quaint Japanese dish inspired by foreign foods, could so powerfully and tightly contain the five great flavors of cuisine like that.
Mana Nakiri tries it herself, and she is optimistic about the results. Sure enough, the famed Gifting begins, a phenomenon unique to the Nakiris. Nearly everyone in the audience gets their clothes flung right off, showing how strongly Mana approved of Asahi Saiba's all-in-one basty. Saiba proclaims that he is indeed the ultimate chef, that no challenge or theme is beyond his seemingly infinite arsenal and knowledge of cuisine. Soma acknowledges that Saiba really is a devastating chef, but Saiba is missing a critical element, and that could sabotage him. Saiba is skeptical of this claim.
Trial And Error
Soma has prepared a dish of his own, and once again, it seems like he is taking things too lightly, while in fact, he has a cunning plan in mind. He presents a fried rice dish. It has little fragrance but is positively sparkling on the plate, and the judges can hardly believe what they're tasting. One bite of this fried rice sends them into an eating frenzy since the flavor is so addictive and welcoming to the tongue. Soma followed all of Mana Nakiri's guidelines for this dish, but that's just the start. Soma has his mother, Tamako Yukihira, to thank for this recipe.
As Soma has explained to Erina, his mother Tamako was a second-rate chef at best, but her love of the kitchen was genuine, and she learned through trial and error and bettered herself as a chef through sheer grit. Her son learned this lesson well, and for years Soma has tried and failed to concoct recipes that could best his father, Joichiro, in cooking duels. All that experience has culminated at this moment when Soma used his mother's trademark dish and his wealth of personal knowledge to create the ultimate dish. This is the taste of failure, and although Asahi Saiba scoffs at the idea, Mana Nakiri cautiously tries it herself, and her Gifting response is strong enough to rival the one that Saiba's dish set off. Clearly, Soma and Saiba are neck and neck.