When I go to Japan, I don’t just eat all day long. But could you blame me if I did? Not only is Japanese food delicious, but at every price point, the variety on offer is so different to what we get in the UK. From convenience store snacks to fancy restaurants, there’s novelty for me everywhere I look. My philosophy is: we came all this way, let’s try it!
Here are my 5 top experiences from this summer…
There are convenience meals, and then there are convenience meals. This was one of the top o-bentō dinners from my summer holiday: karaage (fried chicken) with summer vegetables. Look at those colours! We picked these up on our way back from a long and tiring day trip, and supplemented them with homegrown tomatoes and a glass of cold beer. Although this was from a department store food hall rather than a train station, it was nowhere near the fanciest or most expensive lunchbox we could have picked. Even so, it showcases the best things about Japanese takeaway food: colour, texture, and presentation!
Japan isn’t really renowned for its desserts here in the UK, and I can understand why: they often look delicate and fussy, unlike the oversized, custard-swamped carbohydrate bombs we traditionally favour. But I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes you don’t need that sticky toffee pudding. Just looking at this little arrangement of matcha-flavoured warabimochi (bracken starch jelly) with fresh fruit and adzuki bean jam is enough to refresh you after a long meal!
Shabu-shabu is sometimes translated as ‘hotpot’ but I recently learnt that it’s an onomatopoeic word, describing the swishing of thinly-sliced delicacies in a pot of broth. That helped my technique somewhat! Cooking your own food at table is a really nice thing to do, either at home around a shared pot, in a dedicated restaurant, or in the fancy individual manner pictured. For some reason this was my third shabu-shabu in three days, despite it being more of a winter food, but the beautiful Kobe beef was a real treat.
Sashimi is pretty familiar to everyone by now, but due to the difficulty of procuring proper sashimi-grade fish in the UK, it’s extremely rare to see the same range of fish as in Japan. There’s a whole world beyond salmon and tuna, representing a broad spectrum of texture and subtle flavours. No matter how beautiful the garnishes, the main ingredient is always utterly exposed, so quality is everything.
5. out-there snack foods
While self-identifying UK ‘crisp fans’ are reportedly ‘outraged’ that Walkers might retire venerable flavours such as salt & vinegar, a trip down the snack aisle in a Japanese konbini is truly a walk on the wild side. For those of you who can’t read the text but have a horrible feeling about what the graphics represent, I can confirm that this is indeed a picture of ‘pineapple-flavoured potato chips’. I had to draw a line somewhere after ‘butter, mascarpone, honey & parsley’ and ‘crème brûlée & spicy cheese (half-and-half)’ so unfortunately I can’t review this probably awesome flavour.
So there you have it.
Hope you enjoyed this quick list of my stand-out food memories from summer 2017.
Credit where credit’s due: to chefs at the beautiful Arima Grand Hotel, where I took the middle three photos. Thank you!
Until next time…