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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Introduction: Visiting and sharing Japan

Furoshiki – The art of wrapping with fabric

Japan – Eyewitness Travel

Learn Japanese with Eurotalk

Okinawa and Awamori - the spirit of the islands

Romantic Takayama

Serene Gardens

Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake

Ozeki Dry Sake

Sake - a History

Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries

Sake Cups – or perhaps a glass

The Saké Handbook

Shirataki Shuzo Atoaji Kiriri Uonuma Junmai Sake

Taruzake – cedar difference

Bento Love - Easy Japanese Cooking

The Chopsticks Diet

Donburi Mania – Easy Japanese Cooking

Easy Japanese Cookbook

Easy Japanese Cooking – Appetizer Rex

Food of Japan

Food Sake Tokyo

Hashi – A Japanese cookery course

Japanese Bible

Japanese Cooking – A Simple Art

Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata

The Japanese Kitchen

Japanese Pure and Simple

The Just Bento Cookbook

Kitcho - Japan’s ultimate dining experience

My Japanese Table

Sushi

Umami: THE FIFTH TASTE

Umami Kelp and Wasabi – an introduction

Veggie Haven – Easy Japanese Cooking

Recipe: Crunchy Chicken (or Pork) with Yutaka Panko Breadcrumbs

Recipe: Japanese Curry – traditionally cubed

Recipe: Rafute

Recipe: Salmon with Wasabi-Cream Sauce

Recipe: Wasabi Chocolate Truffles

Recipe: Yuzu Cupcakes with Matcha Tea Frosting

Japanese-English Food Dictionary
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Chisou - Knightsbridge

Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar

Ichiryu Hakata Udon House

Inamo – St James

Inamo Techno Restaurant

Itsu - Notting Hill Gate

Shoryu Ramen – Soho

Soseki

Tsunami - Charlotte Street

UMU of Mayfair

Interview: Hisashi Taoka of Kiku

Interview: Chef Yoshinori Ishii of UMU


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Travel Reviews
- Japan

Culture and Travel:

Introduction: Visiting and sharing Japan

Furoshiki – The art of wrapping with fabric

Japan – Eyewitness Travel

Learn Japanese with Eurotalk

Okinawa and Awamori - the spirit of the islands

Romantic Takayama

Serene Gardens

Sake

Food

Restaurants


Okinawa and Awamori - the spirit of the islands

Okinawa Awamori Awamori is the celebrated spirit originating in and unique to the Ryukyu Islands (Nansei Islands in Japanese) of Okinawa. It is made from long-grain Thai rice, which historically has been used in this region. The Ryukyu Kingdom was independent and ruled most of these islands from the 15th to the 19th century.

The name Okinawa means ‘rope in the open sea’ which refers to this long swathe of islands between Taiwan and the four main islands of Japan. It consists of around 50 inhabited islands and more than 100 uninhabited ones. It was a tributary both of China and of Japan and a convenient portal for Japanese trade with China. When Japan officially closed its doors to all European nations except the Dutch, Nagasaki and the Ryukyu Islands became the only Japanese trading ports connected with the outside world. It has therefore had a more open nature and has developed its own culinary culture.

Short-grain rice is generally used for sake- and shochu-making in Japan, but Okinawa uses long-grain Indica Thai rice instead. Centuries ago the islands had easier access to this rice than products from the rest of Japan. It is thought that sake was brought to Okinawa from Siam around the late 14th to 15th century. Okinawa’s distilled Awamori liquor is considered the forefather of the more widely known shochu which is popular throughout Japan. Unlike shochu, Awamori is made only from rice, where shochu can have other ingredients such as barley and sweet potato.

There are vintage Awamori bottles that are held in the same regard as fine whisky and wine, with age giving a richer and deeper taste. Those that are said to be aged more than 3 years are called Kusu (‘old liquor’), and are particularly popular. In reality it’s called Kusu when at least 50 percent of the beverage is aged for three or more years. It is distilled once, and afterwards the alcohol content is lowered with pure water to about 25 to 30 percent, although some Awamori is found at more than 40 percent alcohol. Awamori is traditionally aged in clay pots which is thought to improve its flavour and softness.

Okinawa Awamori Some Awamori has been aged for decades and there are subterranean cellars that are used for keeping bottles that are bought to celebrate the birth of a child or other important events. The temperature in these caves is a little too warm to keep wine but they are perfect for Awamori. The most popular way to drink Awamori is with water and ice. It can also be drunk straight, on the rocks, and in cocktails. I have been told that you won’t wake up with a hangover, either.

Okinawa is an undiscovered gem, at least by non-Japanese. It has a delightful tropical climate with all the associated crops. The cuisine is a little different from the rest of Japan, with more influences from China. Awamori pairs perfectly with these dishes. These islands should be a magnet for any lover of good food and those interested in a slightly different aspect of Japanese culture. The chance to sip Awamori in its place of origin, and perhaps to see it made, would be special.

Other things to do in Okinawa:

Okinawan music is popular in mainland Japan and the three-stringed sanshin is a beautiful local instrument which could be a striking souvenir for any music lover. Kokusai-dōri, Naha city’s main street, is where it’s possible to find all manner of gifts including traditional and contemporary sanshin. Kokusai-dōri (‘International Avenue’) is a 1.6 kilometre-long street of shops, restaurants and assorted bars. Yes, there is the inevitable McDonalds but the majority of the stores and restaurants are local or Japanese.

Okinawa Awamori The covered Heiwa-dōri Shopping Arcade and Makishi Public Market are the older and more colourful faces of Okinawan retail. There are souvenirs aplenty but also household goods, fabrics and toys. There are small family-run outlets that specialise in drink including awamori, snacks, tea and clothing. The food market is vibrant and bustling with people buying ingredients for dinner - glistening fish, still-live crabs, octopus, as well as condiments, local pickles, meat and vegetables. This will be the highlight of a visit for anyone looking for an authentic food experience.

Just outside the market is the area called Tsuboya or ‘pot jar shop’. This neighbourhood was once a major centre of ceramic production on the island and is still a magnet for those hunting for Japanese tableware or ceramics of any description. A whole dinner service might be too weighty to take back home but a set of chopstick rests would be light and affordable.

Most people will know of Okinawa from wartime documentaries. Historical World War II sites can be found throughout the islands, especially the main island of Okinawa, commemorating the huge loss of life and conflict in the region. There is the Peace Memorial Park in Naha, the navy’s former underground headquarters, and the Himeyuri Monument.

Find out more about Okinawa and Awamori here.

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Visiting and sharing Japan

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Sake:

Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake

Ozeki Dry Sake

Sake - a History

Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries

Sake Cups – or perhaps a glass

The Saké Handbook

Shirataki Shuzo Atoaji Kiriri Uonuma Junmai Sake

Taruzake – cedar difference

Culture and Travel

Food

Restaurants


Taruzake – cedar difference

Taruzake Sure, the world of sake is new and mysterious to most of us. Japan’s national beverage is made of few ingredients but there are many styles and each one has its own history and its own character. We are being offered a wider range of sake in Japanese restaurants but it’s a shame that non-Japanese restaurants are not aware of the Sake Buzz, the sake wave of appreciation.

There is one variety of sake that has always intrigued me, one with a very pronounced flavour – of wood. No, not the taste of knotty pine nor the richness of mahogany (although I have never had a chew of either of those). Here we are talking cedar and that taste is there for a reason which dates back centuries.

Let’s put this into historic context. Until the beginning of the 20th century sake was stored and transported in wooden barrels made of Japanese cedar called sugi. It was only when it reached the sake shop that it was put into ceramic vessels. These vessels can still be seen if one is lucky enough to visit a sake brewery, many of which have been plying their trade for more than a dozen generations.

Taruzake – cedar difference Taruzake sake (also called Taru) is the name of this distinctive style of sake. It is aged in casks or barrels called ‘taru’ from which it gets its name, but these days the sake stays in wood for only a couple of weeks and then it’s bottled in glass.  It isn’t exported in wood as it takes too long in transit. Any longer aging than a couple of weeks impairs the delicacy and produces a sake which has overpowering flavour and aroma. The iconic barrel is usually made of cedar wood and is different in each region but cedar grown in the Yoshino district of Nara is considered the most prized for the job. The wood imparts a distinctive light smoky cinnamon scent and flavour which is quite unique and which I find rather pleasant.

Taruzake is a very popular drink in Japan on New Year’s Eve. It is essential at every kagami biraki cask-opening event. The fourth Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641 – 1680) is thought to be the first one to hold this lid-breaking ceremony. Before going to war he gathered his daimyo (feudal lords) at his castle to break open a sake barrel. The battle was won and so this colourful tradition was started and is seen at various celebrations and auspicious occasions.

A traditional kizuchi (mallet) is used to break open the lid of the small and ornate cask. These casks and associated accoutrements can actually be hired for events.  For smaller gatherings an extra barrel bottom is fixed half way up so as to reduce the quantity of sake within. A hishaku (wooden ladle) is used for dipping into the sake cask and pouring the taruzake into a square masu. Taruzake – cedar differenceThese are traditional wooden boxes which were originally used to portion out rations of rice.  The word ‘masu’ means growth in Japanese, and so these boxes or wooden cups are also symbols of good fortune.

Taruzake is delicious when paired with smoked fish and robust meat dishes, but surprisingly it works well with creamy cheeses. I was introduced to this combination at a cheese and sake pairing event with Kiko Ito of La Fromagerie in London. Here we tasted Taruzake with Burrata cheese mixed with Crème Fraîche garnished with Japanese soy sauce and wasabi. Masterful!

The weather is cool so an ideal time to sip a sake which has warming notes on both the palate and the nose.


food and travel reviews

Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries

I was told to expect a book. I was told to expect a big book. I was told to expect a coffee-table book. What I got was a book the size of a coffee table but one which will hold my attention long after the furniture would have lost its purely functional appeal.

sake Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries (yes, the title fits the proportions of the book) is organic in its style and appropriate for the subject. The cover is fabric in a cool winter-sky blue with simple black text. Unfussy, crisp and displaying Japanese taste for minimalism.  One naturally opens the volume with respect.

This is a heavy tome but not heavy reading. It’s a sake story book that will be the volume of choice for any lover of sake or things Japanese with which to snuggle. It’s a picture book over which to pore. Images of craft and continuity are showcased to beautiful effect. Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries is encyclopaedia of some of the most significant breweries (including 10 shōchū distilleries and 5 Okinawan awamori distilleries), looking at sake and those Japanese spirits. It features 60 or so breweries, with each chapter focusing on the families who have, often for many generations, dedicated their lives to the production of Japan’s iconic beverage. The book displays the diversity of brewing methods that produce such changes in flavour around Japan.

The striking photography is by one of the world's most renowned travel photographers, Jason Lang. He transmits to us the spirit both of sake and of those who labour to make it. He shows the reality of the process, its beauty and charm. Steam, warm rice, brewers and landscape populate these pages. He captures the environment with shots of rugged faces and frosted fields. Vignettes of traditional brewery slippers, high technology and natural wood. Anyone who has visited a sake brewery will be convinced that they can actually smell fermenting mash between these pages.

 Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries will appeal to a wide audience. For the untutored, it will open a door to sake and introduce the characters who make that distinctive drink possible. For lovers of sake who want to learn more, there is a raft of information to study and muse upon. It’s a book about sake but equally about people and the relationship between the two.

Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries
Authors: Hayato Hishinuma, Elliot Faber
Published by: Gatehouse Publishing
Price: £75.00
ISBN-10: 9810795289
ISBN-13: 978-9810795283

food and travel reviews

Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake

Founded around 1720 in Takayama Hida in Japan, Oita Shuzo brewery has been producing sake ever since. This is a beautiful region with several noteworthy breweries. It comes alive in winter, which is the sake-brewing season in Japan.
Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake
In the Edo era sweet sake was more highly esteemed than the dry version. Many dry sakes produced in Japan were sarcastically nicknamed ‘Oni Koroshi’.  Oni is the Japanese word for demon and koroshi is slayer or killer. Locals said that even those monsters would die if they drank such dry sake. Now drier sake is more popular and is my favourite style, being crisp, light and more easily paired with Western food. Try a chilled glass with your preferred evening snacks.

Oita Shuzo is now in its 15th generation of family owners and is under the watchful eye of Hideo Oita, although they have moved from their original site in Takayama. Such family business continuity is not so unusual in Japan. The company produces 400kL of sake and shochu each year. They respect traditional methods but are happy to incorporate new technology and practices where they improve the process.

Honjozo is sake that has a small amount of brewer's alcohol added to the fermenting sake mash after the yeast has completed converting the sugar in the rice. To be considered as a honjozo sake, the weight of the additional alcohol must be no more than 10% of the weight of the rice used.

This sake is available in convenient smaller-size bottles. Its reasonable price makes this a great entry-level sake.  Oita Shuzo of Hida produces this Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake with a slightly dry character, displaying an elegant smoothness and a hint of crispness, making this a versatile sake, and one that fits easily into a small sake carafe.

Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake is produced in 300 ml bottles
Alcohol Content: 15.5%.    
Rice polished to 68% (the % of rice remaining after the polishing process is complete)
The Japan Centre has an impressive selection of Sake. They are available online and from their shops.

Japan Centre Food Hall and Book Shop
19 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 7ED

Visit Japan Centre here
Phone: 020 3405 1246
Email: foodshop@japancentre.com

Email: bookshop@japancentre.com

Read the blog at blog.japancentre.com

Join Japan Centre on Facebook here www.facebook.com/japancentre

Follow Japan Centre on Twitter at www.twitter.com/japancentre


food and travel reviews

Ozeki Dry Sake

Ozeki Dry Sake If we are new to sake we will likely be looking for a mild flavour and a light sake. Yes, sake does indeed have a different taste profile from wine, but Japan’s national beverage is distinctive, complex and can be rewarding to those who appreciate its layers and balance.

I found Ozeki Dry Sake particularly interesting as it is the first sake I have tasted that has been produced outside Japan.  In 1711 Ozeki Sake was established in Imazu, Hyogo prefecture, which has long been praised for its great water quality, and this year it hosted the IWC Sake judging.

In order to better provide fresh sake for the US market, Ozeki started its U.S. production in Hollister, California, in 1979. Ozeki was the first Japanese sake brewer to locally produce sake within the U.S. They use local rice grown especially for sake-making; water being the other key component, Hollister was selected for its clear water from the Sierra Nevada.

This is a Junmai style of sake that is made with water, the essential koji mold, yeast and rice. Junmai uses rice that has had 30% milled away, with 70% of each grain remaining. It’s refreshingly dry and smooth with fruit flavours. It can be consumed warm but I think its qualities are best enjoyed chilled when its crisp characteristics come to the fore.

Ozeki Dry works well with food. Yes, obviously sashimi and sushi but also Western dishes such as grilled oily fish like mackerel, or with chicken salad, and it’s exceptional with shellfish.  The alcohol content is 14.5% which is on the low side for sake.

Buy this sake with hot summer evenings and alfresco dining in mind.

Visit the Japan Centre here

food and travel reviews

Shirataki Shuzo Atoaji Kiriri Uonuma Junmai Sake

Japan centre This sake is fresh-tasting, dry and elegant! The quality junmai sake, made in Uonuma City in Niigata, is a pure sake made of just 100% Japanese rice polished to 65% of its original size. The key ingredients are water and koji mould, which turns the starch in the rice to the sugars necessary for fermentation.

With about 90 sake breweries, Niigata is one of Japan’s leading sake-producing areas. The snow and rain that falls on the mountains of this region create springs which feed the rice fields. Winter time is the traditional sake-making season and the cold weather here allows for slow fermentation, resulting in a particularly delicious sake.

The Shirataki Shuzo brewery was established in 1855 in Echigo Yuzawa Town, and began using the local water. The combination of this natural charcoal filtered water, locally-grown Koshihikari rice, and the same traditional sake making principles that have been passed down through generations, as well as modern technology, are what makes Shirataki Shuzo’s sake some of the best.

Uonuma is an area of Niigata Prefecture with celebrated natural beauty. The sake from here is easily paired with a variety of dishes, both Japanese and Western.  This particular sake is a pure sake, meaning that it contains no brewer’s alcohol. It is also of a high quality due to the degree to which the rice has been polished.

This and other fine sakes are available at Japan Centre. Visit them here



food and travel reviews

Sake Cups – or perhaps a glass

sake cups For those of us who love the delicious complexity of sake, the vessel from which we drink is often something of an afterthought. But it shouldn’t be.

A sake set is a generic term for the collection of items used for serving sake. It usually comprises a small flask and cups. Many sake sets are still made of ceramic, but they are increasingly made from natural wood, lacquered wood, glass or even plastic.

Let me liken a sake cup/glass/box to shoes. We have trainers for every day. On the other hand, we enjoy wearing high heels (if we are women, that is) as we know we move in a more elegant fashion. Perhaps the sakazuki, a flat saucer-like cup, can be likened to those classic shoes. So let’s consider the popular shapes and materials for sake cups both traditional and contemporary.

The oldest sake cup style, the wide saucer-like sakazuki, is more often seen at formal ceremonial events such as weddings these days. Shallow and refined, this cup is lifted to the lips with both hands: one to hold the bottom of the cup like a tray and the other to hold it on the rim. Sakazuki are available in a variety of sizes but typically they hold only a few sips. Sakazuki can be ornately decorated and are usually made from porcelain, earthenware or lacquer. These sakazuki are, in my opinion, the high heels of sake drinking accoutrements. Beautiful, elegant but not over-practical for a long night out.

sake cups A much more robust alternative is the ubiquitous wooden drinking box called masu. Traditionally these boxes have a volume of 180 ml. A 720 ml bottle of sake equals a serving of sake for 4 people! They were originally used to measure rations of rice. The masu can be filled to the rim as a sign of prosperity or a small glass can be put into the masu and filled to overflowing to symbolise abundance. Masu can be found in lacquerware but I prefer the pale wood of the traditional box. They are hard to break and able to hold a decent amount of sake, so have become the cup of choice for enjoying sake at festivals, cherry-blossom viewing (‘hanami’) and for me, picnics by the river. One can pretend it’s spring in Japan. Today, masu are often used at those iconic sake barrel-opening ceremonies called ‘kagami biraki’ and at traditional Japanese pubs (‘izakaya’). Some folks argue that the best masu for enjoying certain varieties of sake are those made from Japanese cypress, giving still more aroma and flavour from the natural material.

Anybody who has taken a sake course will have likely used a small, white, ceramic cylindrical vessel called ochoko or choko. These days ochoko is considered similar to guinomi which is the same shape, although ochoko are usually smaller than guinomi. Sake producers and tasters use a special large ochoko called kikichoko which has a circular blue and white design on the bottom of the inside of the cup. The blue hue and pattern are used in the evaluation of the sake's colour and clarity, and the cup's wide opening allows for the sake's subtleties of aroma to be appreciated.

sake cups Sake stemware is also available these days, with a sake cup being mounted on a wide base. Glass is now commonly used to serve chilled sake, where one can enjoy the dew forming on the outside of the vessel. A white or red wine glass with a wide mouth is suitable for enjoying the fragrant sake styles where aroma is most important. Sake is delicate and subtle so tasting from a wine glass instead of a small sake cup will heighten aromas and flavours. Crystal wine glasses are thinner than ceramic ware and can change the perception of sake’s body and complexity. Yes, sake can be served over ice and so sipping from a cut-glass whisky tumbler can be a pleasurable experience.

One is spoilt for choice when it comes to sake drinking vessels. If one is tasting professionally then there is a lot to be said for the traditional industry-standard ochoko or a glass with a wide mouth. But for me, I’ll be sticking to my cheap Daiso-bought sake set. It’s a traditional design which might not allow the character of the sake to burst forth, but I feel I am really immersing myself in sake culture when consuming it in such a way. So try all the options, make your choice, but do drink sake!

food and travel reviews

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Saké - a History

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The Saké Handbook

sake
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Food:

Bento Love - Easy Japanese Cooking

The Chopsticks Diet

Donburi Mania – Easy Japanese Cooking

Easy Japanese Cookbook

Easy Japanese Cooking – Appetizer Rex

Food of Japan

Food Sake Tokyo

Hashi – A Japanese cookery course

Japanese Bible

Japanese Cooking – A Simple Art

Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata

The Japanese Kitchen

Japanese Pure and Simple

The Just Bento Cookbook

Kitcho - Japan’s ultimate dining experience

My Japanese Table

Sushi

Umami: THE FIFTH TASTE

Umami Kelp and Wasabi – an introduction

Veggie Haven – Easy Japanese Cooking

Recipe: Crunchy Chicken (or Pork) with Yutaka Panko Breadcrumbs

Recipe: Japanese Curry – traditionally cubed

Recipe: Rafute

Recipe: Salmon with Wasabi-Cream Sauce

Recipe: Wasabi Chocolate Truffles

Recipe: Yuzu Cupcakes with Matcha Tea Frosting

Japanese-English Food Dictionary
(opens new window)

Culture and Travel

Sake

Restaurants


Umami Kelp and Wasabi – an introduction

Turning Japanese London’s Icetank Studio was the venue for an informative and friendly seminar on Umami hosted by the Japanese Culinary Academy UK and supported by JETRO London (Japan External Trade Organisation). It showcased some of the exhibitors from the Japan Pavilion at this year’s Speciality Food Fair and they gave demonstrations to illustrate the significance of umami. This year, in the Japan pavilion, JETRO hosted 18 companies that provide authentic Japanese speciality products including rice, kelp, tea, sauces, noodles, seasonings and ingredients not yet familiar to UK shoppers.

We in the UK find the concept of umami to be somewhat elusive. We need educating in this element of flavour which can be recognised in all manner of foodstuffs – even those common and definitely not Japanese, such as Marmite. This event helped to demystify umami with flair and expertise from a group of Japanese food big-hitters.

Akemi Yokoyama eloquently conducted this fascinating forum and she was well-placed to do so. She is a chef and instructor at Sozai Cooking School and a respected Japanese food writer and presenter. She was born in Hokkaido, in the north of Japan and that’s the centre of Kombu production.  90% of this remarkable seaweed distributed in Japan comes from Hokkaido.

Chef Daisuke Hayashi was appointed executive head chef at the 2008 G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit, and is currently preparing for the upcoming TICAD Nairobi 2016 summit, where he will be overseeing Japanese cuisine. He is Executive Chef of Tokimeite restaurant and of The Japanese Culinary Academy UK.

Turning Japanese Chef Daniele Codini is Head Chef of Percy and Founders, although he has had plenty of experience working with some of the very best Japanese restaurants in the country. He understands Japanese ingredients and umami and his demonstration showed this to great effect.  First, he offered turbot with the traditional Japanese curing, and then contrasted that with the European, more passive, style cure with salt and sugar. We saw the difference between the two, and how such small changes in ingredients can have a huge impact.

There was an informative contribution from Ms Michiyo Itabashi of Yamao Co. Ltd, a yama-wasabi distributor from Hokkaido. Their horseradish is a natural product; grated, and kept vacuum-packed, it lasts from 3 to 5 years. Temperatures in Hokkaido range from -10 degrees C in winter to +30 in summer, which helps to generate the very agreeable spiciness and distinctive flavour. Wasabi isn’t just delicious paired with Japanese food, however. Use it to accompany roast beef, steaks and in any dish where one might use regular mustard. I have made chocolate truffles with wasabi-infused cream and they were addictive.

Chef Yasuyuki Ouchi of NOBU supported the showcase with a recipe demonstration of Ichiban dashi. This clear soup is used in many classic Japanese dishes with the purpose of imparting umami to the other ingredients. No Japanese food demonstration would be complete or so enjoyable without the addition of delicious and well-matched sake. This was supplied by Takara Brewery which has been a leading producer of sake in Japan for more than 150 years.

Takuro Takahashi and Kyoko Takahashi of Takahashi Food Industry Co. Ltd gave information on their kelp products which were key to the event. Kombu is a cornerstone of traditional Japanese cooking. This seaweed contains glutamic acids, which are the foundation of umami. But what is umami? We often hear that word mentioned with regard to Japanese food but also to Western ingredients, too, these days, and it’s considered one of the five basic tastes. It’s the savoury flavour found in kombu, as well as in other ingredients. Previously there were only four basic tastes, but kombu possessed a taste that could not, until the recognition of umami, be included in any taste profile. This savouriness has since become the fifth basic taste.  It is a vital ingredient of dashi stock, along with bonito flakes, and is at the heart of Japanese cooking.

Turning Japanese Kombu thrives in cold nutrient-rich water. Hokkaido has the benefit of ‘oyashio’ - one of the Sub-arctic ocean currents. Because of this, the Pacific side of the island is an excellent producer of kombu. There are only four main kombu varieties that are suitable for making the celebrated dashi. Kombu that is soft and easy to prepare has less umami, so is used for cooking rather than for stock. Kombu that is tougher and thicker takes longer to cook and is umami-rich, and so is used for dashi stock.

Mr Hayashi closed the event with these sage words: ‘The dishes we demonstrated didn’t have any butter, cream or oil. It is a characteristic of Japanese cuisine that without those three elements you can still satisfy your stomach. The benefit of the Japanese way of eating is to suppress salt and fat intake in dishes by introducing umami into one’s cooking. Obesity is a big issue around the world, but I believe strongly that the Japanese way of eating has a lot to recommend it, and that’s why chefs like ourselves have a responsibility to send a message so people can lead a healthier life. For our fellow-chefs in European countries, I’d like to send the message that the Japanese way of cooking and eating by using umami can inspire them and allow them to create more wonderful dishes.’

We in the West have much to learn from Japanese food and drink producers. Yes, this is evidently a healthy cuisine but it’s also a delicious one. Flavours have both depth and delicacy and dishes take advantage of seasonal vegetables as well as fresh fish. Sake is becoming more popular and is being paired with western foods as well as traditional Japanese fare. I see a solid future for Japanese restaurants and food and drink products around the world, and events such as this should become more frequent and should be supported not only by ex-pat Japanese in the food and drink industry, but also by those of us who want to learn more. Congratulations on a worthy culinary event.

Turning Japanese
Learn more from the following sites:

Visit Japanese Culinary Academy here.

JETRO London (Japan External Trade Organisation)
MidCity Place,
71 High Holborn
London WC1V 6AL

Phone: +44 (0)20 7421 8300
Visit JETRO here.


Sozai Limited
5 Middlesex Street
London E1 7AA

Phone: 020 7458 4567
Visit Sozai here.

food and travel reviews

Crunchy Chicken (or Pork) with Yutaka Panko Breadcrumbs

by Chrissie Walker

It seems like anything fried in breadcrumbs is a winner with the whole family. The trick is to present moist meat with plenty of flavour and crunch. Yutaka Panko breadcrumbs certainly help with texture - sealing in those delicious juices and seasonings.

Here is a spicy coating to enhance the natural flavour of either chicken or pork. The quantities of the seasonings can be varied to suit the tastes of your family but this is a guide.

Yutaka

Ingredients:

1/2 pkt Yutaka Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp to 1 tbsp salt or to taste
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs such as Herbes de Provence
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp hot paprika
1 tbsp garlic salt
1 tbsp onion granules
60g plain flour
2 eggs
8 chicken thighs or 6 large pork chops
Oil for frying

panko

Method:

Combine the flour with all the herbs and spices and mix thoroughly. Spread on a plate.

Put the breadcrumbs on another plate.

Crack the eggs and put in a shallow soup plate, and lightly whisk.

Take each chicken thigh or chop and press firmly into the flour to coat well. Dip each of these into the beaten eggs and return to the flour for another coating. Return to the eggs and then into the breadcrumbs ensuring they are fully covered with the crunchy crumbs.

Heat a wide frying pan with enough oil to cover the bottom. Heat on a medium setting.

Place the coated meats in the oil but don’t over-fill the pan. Fry for several minutes without moving the meat. Check that the pieces are dark-golden brown before turning onto the other side. Cook for another 5 minutes, lowering the heat if the crumbs are starting to become too dark.

Oven bake:
Heat the oven to 180°C; place the meat on a non-stick baking tray. Gently brush with vegetable oil and bake for around 30 minutes.


food and travel reviews

Japanese Curry – traditionally cubed

japanese curry We might think that Japanese curry is a new invention. Perhaps Japanese tourists discovered the recipe for curry on recent trips to the Subcontinent. But, no! It’s a tradition adopted from the British Navy and has been popular for a century or so.

If one visits Japan and has the opportunity to stroll around a supermarket then it’s evident that Japanese curry has been whole-heartedly adopted. It comes in sachets and, just as often, cubes called curry roux. It’s there stacked on shelves in many varieties and is eaten with rice …with a spoon!

We don’t have to travel as far as Japan to enjoy a real Japanese curry, as Yutaka Japanese-Style Curry is now available in the UK. It can be used to top rice or breaded chicken or pork but many Japanese prefer the old-fashioned recipe of curry prepared with onion, carrot and potatoes. This makes a comforting and economic meal …and yes, it really is Japanese.

Ingredients:

1 large onion
1 medium carrot
2 medium potatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
800ml cold water
100g Yutaka Japanese-Style Curry

For serving: steamed white rice

japanese curry

Method:

Chop all the vegetables into small pieces.

Add the oil to a large saucepan.

Gently fry the vegetables on low heat until the onions are lightly browned and the potatoes and carrots are beginning to soften.

Add the cold water and bring to a boil.

Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked and tender.

Add all the cubes of Yutaka Curry to the saucepan. Stir until the cubes are fully dissolved and the sauce thickens.

Pour the finished curry over cooked rice.

Chef’s tip: You can also make this curry successfully in a pressure cooker.

Open a printable recipe page here.

food and travel reviews

Rafute - Okinawan braised pork belly

This is one of my favourite ways of eating pork. Rafute is flavourful, tender and moreish. It’s a dish popular in Okinawa in the far (very far) south-west of Japan. It’s traditionally made with two local staples – Awamori, which is Okinawa’s celebrated spirit, and the island’s brown sugar, which is often made into candy.

Rafute I have substituted Japanese sake or western vodka for the Awamori which isn’t very readily available outside Japan, and I have used dark brown sugar instead of the classic Okinawan sugar, kokuto, which I have never found in London. The flavour will be a little different from the original dish but it will still be delightful.

Ingredients:

1 kg piece boneless pork belly, skin on
250 ml dry sake or vodka
125 ml dark soy sauce – preferably Japanese
120 g dark brown sugar
130 ml mirin
8 thin slices fresh ginger

To serve: English mustard or French grain mustard, and soy sauce.

Method:

Place the pork belly in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat, discard the water and rinse any scum from both pork and saucepan. Return the pork to the pan and cover with cold water. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Or place in a slow cooker (crockpot) and cook on High for 2½ hours.

 Remove the pork from the pan or slow cooker, reserving the cooking liquid, then cut the meat into 5 cm squares. Place the pork pieces in another saucepan and add the sake or vodka, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and ginger. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to cover the pork by half a centimetre. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 1½ hours or until the pork is very tender. Remove the pork and keep warm but continue to cook the liquid to reduce a little. This should take 5 or 10 minutes. 

Arrange the pork pieces in a warm dish and pour over the braising liquid (you can freeze the remaining liquid for future use). Serve with Japanese vegetables and tofu, with mustard and extra soy sauce on the side.

Open a printable recipe page here.

food and travel reviews

Umami: THE FIFTH TASTE

It’s a buzz-word these days: Umami. It’s a very familiar taste, flavour, sensation on the taste buds but we have only relatively recently put a name to this savouriness, this deliciousness. That’s umami; but how is it viewed with regard to sake?

Umami Umami was originally a Japanese word and it’s all about a particular taste: of ingredients, of foods and drinks, and that includes sake. These days it’s considered by some to be a recognised flavour just like sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Parmesan cheese and tomatoes are very Western ingredients that can be described as having umami, just like some sake.

Umami is often associated with amino acid content. Glutamic acid is one of the main types of amino acids giving the umami flavour. This was discovered back in the early 1900s. Sake has much more of this than wine, which has 10-90g per litre, while sake has 100-250g per litre. Sake is considered rich in umami and pairs well with foods displaying those same characteristics. Umami in a sake is not always welcomed, as a surfeit can present undesirable ‘off notes’. Dry, light sake often lacks very much umami and would work well with fresh and lightly dressed salads, some vegetarian dishes and delicate fish dishes. Sake styles with an evident umami content pair with raw or lightly fried fish, and some miso-based and mild cream-based sauces.

Umami: THE FIFTH TASTE is a beautiful guide to that elusive taste, that confuses some people to the extent that they still don’t believe it actually exists. With forewords by two world-renowned leaders in the culinary industry, chef Thomas Keller and food journalist Harold McGee, this book offers examples, recipes (including umami sweets by Regis Cursan and Keiko Nagae), history and many striking pictures by Akira Saito to illustrate the theme, and information on the science behind the recognition of umami taste. The volume also includes interviews with Michael Anthony, Heston Blumenthal, Alexander Bourdas, David Kinch, Virgilio Martinez, Nobu Matsuhisa, Yoshihiro Murata and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. A creditable line-up of gastronomic worthies.

Research has confirmed that our mouths contain taste receptors for umami’s savouriness. There are numerous examples of the appreciation of umami from all over the world. Marmite is one of those and I think it truly demonstrates the flavour profile of umami, albeit in a rather strident and un-Japanese way. August Escoffier, the celebrated 19th-century French chef, isn’t known to have been a lover of Marmite but he recognised that there was a savoury fifth taste. He incorporated this into stocks and it was this that was to become instrumental in his rise to fame. This isn’t a new flavour. It’s always been there but now we can put a name to it: Umami – the fifth taste.

Umami: THE FIFTH TASTE
Published by: Japan Publications Trading Company
Price: £25
ISBN-10: 488996391X
ISBN-13: 978-4889963915


food and travel reviews

Food Sake Tokyo

Food Sake Tokyo Tokyo is a vibrant modern city but tradition is still evident. We might be looking for the latest technology in Akihabara or fashion and pop culture in Takeshitadori but we all need food and many of us need sake and that’s found all around this sprawling town if you know where to look for it.

This compact and sturdy volume, Food Sake Tokyo, takes the reader on a culinary adventure through more than a dozen neighbourhoods to discover the best, the most intriguing spots showcasing the local food and drink scene. Yes, every guide book will devote a few pages to restaurant suggestions and even a mention of the town’s signature dishes but for a true food and sake lover that only teases. Food Sake Tokyo will be a worthy pocket companion of the dedicated gourmet.

The author, Yukari Sakamoto, was the first non-Japanese (she’s an American of Japanese extract) to pass the test to become a ‘shochu adviser’. She has taught classes on food, wine, and shochu (Japanese distilled spirit), and has offered culinary tours of Tokyo’s shops and markets. In Food Sake Tokyo Yukari introduces unfamiliar ingredients, traditional dishes, and culinary culture that make Tokyo such a mecca for food and sake lovers. She leads the reader to the best and most exciting food that Tokyo has to offer, explaining and sampling along the way. There is plenty of information on where to find the best knives (a souvenir for the serious home sushi chef), the indispensable lacquerware and pottery for displaying your Japanese cooking skills, and those kitchen gadgets that are both functional and beautiful.

We who appreciate sake will be looking for the opportunity to taste and buy the national beverage. Other visitors will be new to the world of sake but would likely enjoy the chance to learn more in situ. Yukari has penned a glossary of sake terms that will help when selecting an appropriate bottle or with understanding more about bottles with which you might be presented.

Food Sake Tokyo has a whole section on suggestions of where exactly to drink sake. Sometimes sake producers will display their products and offer free tastings. Many breweries have guided tours but mostly in Japanese so take your own interpreter. A sake student will be entranced by the smells of sake brewing. Izakayas (small Japanese pubs) have a range of Japanese drinks including sake which you can enjoy with traditional dishes and very local company. There are plenty of suggestions here and also for Standing Bars which are great for a quick sake fix but without the comfort of chairs. Less casual drinking and dining options are listed aplenty for those who are looking to push out the gastronomic boat.

Food Sake Tokyo
Author: Yukari Sakamoto
Published by: Little Bookroom
Price: £19.99
ISBN-10: 189214574X
ISBN-13: 978-1892145741
food and travel reviews

Salmon with Wasabi-Cream Sauce

   by Chrissie Walker

This is a versatile recipe than can be made when you are home alone, or increase the quantities and you have a dinner party for six. It’s simple, with few ingredients.

Ingredients per person

1 salmon steak or fillet
10g butter
½ - 1 tsp wasabi (available from Japan Centre)
2 sachets Shimaya Kelp Dashi Stock - Powder (available from Japan Centre)
2 tbs double cream
2 or 3 cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ pack Soba noodles (available from Japan Centre)
½ tsp powdered seaweed, made from 4tbs of shredded seaweed (available from Japan Centre), for garnish
Green vegetables as a side dish

Salmon with wasabi Put a quantity of shredded dried seaweed in a spice/coffee grinder and process to a coarse powder. Use ½ tsp of this per portion of fish as a finishing garnish, and seal the rest in an air-tight container for future use as a sprinkle on fish, salads and noodles.

Bring 1 litre of water to the boil and add 2 sachets of Shimaya Kelp Dashi Stock - Powder. More stock will be needed if you are preparing this dish for more than 2 people.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and melt the butter.

Add the tomatoes and salmon, skin side down, and gently fry till the fish is half cooked and the skin is coloured. Turn the fish and cook on the flesh side.

As soon as the fish is cooked through and coloured remove from the pan along with the tomatoes. Keep warm.

wasabi salmon Add the noodles to the boiling stock and cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile add ½ cup of stock from the boiling noodles to the frying pan and deglaze. Add the cream and wasabi and mix thoroughly. The sauce should bubble and thicken. If it looks too thick then reduce the heat and add more stock.

Drain the noodles and arrange on a serving plate, and top with the salmon. Sprinkle over a little of the ground seaweed and spoon the sauce and the tomatoes around. Serve with green vegetables such as steamed broccoli.

Tip: Reserve the stock in which the noodles were boiled to use as a soup base, with the addition of some cooked vegetables or tofu, to go with the salmon tonight or for tomorrow’s lunch.

Visit Japan Centre here

food and travel reviews

Yuzu Cupcakes with Matcha Tea Frosting

Looking for Japanese flavours in a dessert but using traditional Western techniques? This could be the recipe for you.

Yuzu Cupcakes with Matcha Tea Frosting are little fancies that would be a welcome addition to a very English afternoon tea, but they use very Japanese Yuzu juice giving a citrus tang; and then there is the equally iconic matcha tea which I have added to a 7-minute icing recipe.

Yuzu cake For the cupcakes:
110g butter, softened
110g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
110g self-raising flour
1 - 2 tbsp milk

For frosting:
50ml water
150ml granulated sugar
2 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 pinch salt
½ tsp vanilla
1 tbsp fine matcha powder (available from Japan Centre)

For Yuzu syrup:
30g sugar
30ml water
30ml yuzu juice – or to your taste (available from Japan Centre)

Method for cakes:
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Fill a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cupcake cases.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale. Beat in the eggs a little at a time.
Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon or spatula, adding a little milk until the mixture is of a dropping consistency. Half-fill each of the paper cases.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden-brown and well-risen. Cool on a wire rack.

Method for the frosting:
In a heatproof bowl whisk together water, tea, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Ensure the tea is dissolved.
Put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; beat constantly, preferably with an electric whisk, until the mixture holds stiff peaks. This takes between 5 and 7 minutes.
Remove from the heat and transfer the frosting to a cool bowl. Beat until the frosting is cooled, about 2 minutes.

Method for the syrup:
Combine water and sugar in a small pan over a low heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve. Add the juice to your taste. Allow the syrup to cool.

Assemble the cakes:
Prick each cake with a skewer. Spoon over the syrup. Swirl over the match tea frosting. Serve with green tea.


Visit Japan Centre here.

food and travel reviews

Wasabi Chocolate Truffles

This recipe is embarrassingly simple but will likely get you a heap of compliments. Anyone who enjoys a dab of wasabi with their sushi will appreciate the heat, the spice and the flavour of these truffles.

wasabi truffles 100g dark chocolate (70% or the best quality you can find)
100ml double cream
10g butter
1 - 2 tsp wasabi paste or to taste (available from the Japan Centre)
Cocoa powder for dusting

Break the chocolate into small pieces.

Gently heat the milk but don’t allow it to boil.

Put the chocolate, butter and wasabi into the warmed milk and stir till the chocolate is melted and everything is combined. Put aside to cool.

Use a small cookie scoop or a spoon to shape the truffle mixture into balls. Roll in cocoa powder to coat.

For extra flair add some edible glitter, pearls or beads.

These make an ideal end to a Japanese meal, served with hot coffee or green tea, for a meltingly-luxurious finish.

Visit the Japan Centre for more Japanese ingredients.


food and travel reviews

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Restaurants:

Chisou - Knightsbridge

Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar

Ichiryu Hakata Udon House

Inamo – St James

Inamo Techno Restaurant

Itsu - Notting Hill Gate

Shoryu Ramen – Soho

Soseki

Tsunami - Charlotte Street

UMU of Mayfair

Interview: Hisashi Taoka of Kiku

Interview: Chef Yoshinori Ishii of UMU

Culture and Travel

Sake

Food


Ichiryu Hakata Udon House

Ichiryu Ichiryu Hakata Udon House is from the same stable that brings you Japan Centre and the chain of Japanese restaurants, Shoryu. Ichiryu is a well-placed eatery on New Oxford Street, and even after just a couple of months it’s enjoying a loyal following of office workers, shoppers, and I hear it’s been discovered by a chef or two!

This is a light and contemporary restaurant and it pays creditable attention to detail. It’s the little things that one notices front of house that indicate how a restaurant is run. Chopsticks are uniformly parallel to the edge of the table. Serviettes are paper but they sport the company logo indicating an element of pride. The high bar table has handbag hooks which are a thoughtful touch; but there are more regular tables for those of us with no balance skills. Service is friendly and periodically animated with shouts of welcome and farewell punctuated by drum beats.

Tak Tokumine, who founded Japan Centre in 1976, has a passion for the food of his hometown of Hakata in Fukuoka prefecture. In fact this town is famed for noodles. As the name suggests, Ichiryu Hakata Udon House specialises in handmade noodles. Those noodles are indeed handmade as one can watch hands actually making them. Surely noodles don’t get fresher than that.

The noodles in question are Udon. These are celebrated for their chewy texture. All Udon are not created equal but of all those I have tasted recently, these are most to my taste. Well, perhaps the word taste isn’t quite correct: I really mean that they are to my texture with the preferred degree of bounce.

Ichiryu Ichiryu sells noodles but they do need to be floating in something, and in this case it’s a light and well-flavoured broth. Even this varies from restaurant to restaurant and from company to company. I have had delicious noodles that are coated by a much thicker white soup made from simmered bones and that’s wonderful, but the Ichiryo broth showcases the noodles and the garnishes rather than filling one with a soup as thick as sauce.

We started our meal with matcha tea to which I have become addicted over the past few years. Here presented in the largest tea bowls I have ever seen. This vibrant green liquid is becoming more popular worldwide as it offers greater health benefits than does regular leaf tea. One ingests the whole leaf rather than just drinking the liquor resulting from the traditional tea-brewing process.

Ichiryu My guest ordered Udon noodles with a garnish of Niku Beef. The marinated shaved meat was deliciously savoury and tender. Courgette tempura was our choice of side dish. It offered a light crunch from the batter enrobing the quarters of vegetable that still retained their form and natural flavour.

I grazed on Gyoza which are pot-sticker dumplings and well worth trying. There was the usual soy condiment, but this time with yuzu paste which was outstanding with deep citrus tang complementing the rich filling of the dumplings.

Hakata buns are here with various fillings. These, I believe, originated in Taiwan and are an Asian sandwich. The fluffy folded bread held, in our case, some fresh and flaky cod. One of these would make a substantial nibble with drinks but three would constitute a full meal. Chicken Cutlet is a simple dish which was elevated to the memorable by the associated spicy sauce. The coating was crunchy and the meat moist.

Ichiryu Dessert of mochi filled with ice cream is undoubtedly Japanese but is becoming popular internationally. It’s that agreeable combination of chewy ricecake surrounding an ice-cold filling. At Ichiryu the dessert arrives as a trio of sesame, matcha and yuzu-flavoured mochi. Kids will love this.

Ichiryu Hakata Udon House doesn’t put a foot wrong. The food is comforting, the ambiance relaxing, and it offers value for money.

Ichiryu Hakata Udon House
84 New Oxford St
London
WC1A 1HB

Email:  info@ichiryuudon.com

Visit Ichiryu here

Opening hours
Mon - Sat: Noon - 22:30
Sun: Noon - 21:30

food and travel reviews

Shoryu Ramen – Soho

Shoryu Ramen - Soho
Shoryu Ramen launched in November 2012 and has already been recommended in the Michelin Guide of 2014 and 2015. It has fast become a small but reputable London chain. They specialise in, well, ramen of the Hakata tonkotsu style originating in Fukuoka, Kyushu, Japan’s southern island. Hakata tonkotsu broth is a classic thick and rich pork stock. The ramen noodles are thin and straight (known as hosomen) and just the right texture to hold the celebrated soup. They offer the traditional version of the dish here, but also some variants which presented an epicurean adventure to this Japanese noodle-lover.

Noren curtains hung at the entrance of the Soho branch of Shoryu Ramen and a hungry queue of soon-to-be diners waited on the other side. It’s always refreshing to find Japanese restaurants frequented by ex-patriate Japanese. Shoryu has competition all around but is certainly ahead of the field in many respects. The décor is traditional pale wood, a paper lantern in a corner, an open kitchen, black-clad staff who hold the promise of fast service. A restaurant that prides itself in a quick turn-round.

The menu offers the expected ramen noodles but also some alternatives that will gladden the hearts of those who love the silky texture of tonkotsu but would periodically enjoy a different flavour profile. It also sports a creditable array of unmissable starters andShoryu Ramen - Soho a surprisingly good selection of Sake.

We ordered a carafe of Taru sake. I am a Sake Sommelier and have been blessed by being able to try many different bottles, but this is unique. It is aged in wood and the essence of that barrel impregnates the brew. It’s full of distinctive character and charm. A must-try.

Shoryu Buns (gluten-free are also available) were the first of our starters. These steamed hirata-style buns are amazingly light. They are snowy-white with the Shoryu character branded onto each one. Shoryu means 'to bring good fortune' …so have a couple! They are served from individual wooden steamers and filled with barbecue char siu pork belly or soy-marinated chicken karaage or ginger salmon tatsutage. These buns looked impressive …and rather formal. They were flavourful and moist. A signature starter.

Hakata Tetsunabe Gyozas are another Fukuoka dish and they are moreish. A trio of pork and vegetable-filled pot-sticker-type dumplings arrived hot in a cast-iron pan. The stuffing was delicate and the dough a perfect texture. Morsels to nibble while waiting for noodles; but be warned – those bowls of ramen are substantial!
Ramen runs to around £10 - £12 a portion but that constitutes a full meal. There are numerous garnishes included in that price; other restaurants offer a list of toppings as extras. Shoryu use Burford Brown eggs to make nitamago (soy-marinated soft boiled eggs with glistening yolks); these, along with ginger, slow braised marinated pork, caramelised black garlic oil, kikurage mushrooms, spring onion and nori seaweed are all included unless otherwise stated!

My guest ordered Dracula Tonkotsu which was a dark soup with the deep-roasted notes of garlic in every guise.Shoryu Ramen - Soho This was a hearty bowlful with warming complexity. This might not be the choice for a quick before-business lunch but it’s an exceptional dish on other occasions. Very different from the original Tonkotsu.

I chose Curry Ramen. This is also a very different dish from the white-broth Fukuoka staple. The soup was rich with spice but not to the extent of heat overpowering taste buds. There were generous chunks of karaage chicken, nitamago, nori seaweed, menma bamboo shoots, naruto fish cake and a garnish of chopped spring onion. This curry soup isn’t a faux-Indian curry but something that has evolved as a truly Japanese preparation. It was a delicious and substantial bowl and one which I can highly recommend.

Truffle Mochi was my guest’s dessert. Japanese sweets are about texture rather than overwhelming sweetness. Mochi is a traditional favourite and is made from rice flour producing a rather elastic dough. In this case the mochi was filled with a matcha (green tea) truffle. Delightful with a cup of Japanese tea from a beautiful pot.

Shoryu Ramen Soho is vibrant and traditional but pushing the culinary envelope away from the ubiquitous white broth. I was impressed with service, sake list and the food. I will return to try more from the menu – both food and drink.

Shoryu Ramen SohoShoryu Ramen - Soho
3 Denman Street
London
W1D 7HA

Mon – Sat: 11:15am -midnight
Sun and Bank Holidays: 11:15am - 22:30pm
Last orders 30 minutes before closing

email: shoryu.soho@shoryuramen.com

Visit Shoryu Ramen here



Japan feature

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Chisou Japanese Restaurant, Knightsbridge

asian restaurant review Restaurant review: A decade ago there were few Japanese restaurants in the UK. It was partly due to the fact that we hadn’t had the close ties with Japan, as have the USA and Australia; but it seems that a corner of London has a history of Japanese cultural exchange and now it’s developed to include all things culinary as well... Read More

Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar - Park Plaza Westminster Bridge

asian restaurant review Restaurant review: There are lots of sushi bars in London but you will find surprisingly few reviewed here. Well, to be honest I have visited quite a few but the majority have been disappointing. Poor quality ingredients or, even worse, good quality ingredients ruined... Read More

Inamo – St James

asian restaurant review
Restaurant review: Following the success of the Soho original there is now a second restaurant, on the former St Alban site on Regent Street – a prime location for a Japanese restaurant in a parade that has several shops and restaurants of the same ethnic persuasion... Read More

Inamo Techno Restaurant

restaurant review inamo
Restaurant review: Wardour Street is celebrated as one of London’s night-owl alleys. Its selection of clubs and eateries are legendary so it’s no surprise that it also hosts one of the world’s few computerised restaurants. No, a robot doesn’t make the food... Read More

Itsu – Notting Hill Gate

restaurant review Restaurant review: This turned out to be one of the most laid-back and chilled lunchtimes I have spent in a long while. I now realise why this style of dining really works. It’s the ideal spot for lone lunchers – those who have their dietary horizons set somewhat higher than a curly sandwich or a sugar-laden muffin... Read More

Soseki Japanese Restaurant

restaurant review Soseki Restaurant review: This restaurant is a vision of dark wood, tatami mats and kimono fabrics. There are intricate wooden shutters and painted ceiling panels. I wouldn’t, however, describe Soseki as “themed”; that word denotes a contrived style. There is nothing that seems artificial here. It’s more transported than themed. More engaging than engineered... Read More

Tsunami – Charlotte Street

restaurant review Tsunami Restaurant review: Tsunami is at the quiet end of Charlotte Street. It’s just a stone’s throw from Goodge Street station but this is a tranquil spot away from the rush of Tottenham Court Road. It isn’t a huge restaurant. A narrow front leads to a wider area which is cosy and welcoming. The walls curve into the ceiling giving an agreeable intimate effect... Read More

UMU of Mayfair

asian rstaurant review Restaurant review: Mayfair isn’t ashamed of its style and quality. It shows it along every boutique-trimmed street, it flaunts leafy squares and is bejewelled with Blue Plaques celebrating the famous who have called this neighbourhood home. The likes of King Charles X of France lived here; Jimi Hendrix, who will be remembered for... Read More

Hisashi Taoka of Kiku – Fish aficionado

Japanese restaurant review Interview: Kiku was first established in Mayfair in 1978 and has gained a reputation for serving authentic Japanese cuisine. The owners, Mariko and Hisashi Taoka, are dedicated to presenting the freshest of food in a calming cocoon of blond wood... Read More

Chef Yoshinori Ishii of UMU of Mayfair

asian restaurant review
Interview: All chefs, one would hope, have a passion for food and most channel all their energies into culinary excellence. But Yoshinori Ishii is a true Renaissance Man, a talented polymath. His influence in UMU is evident in every corner. His skills take him from the heat of the kitchen... Read More
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