February’s favourites: 5 Ramen bars in London I love

It’s been a while since I thought about writing a post about the best ramen bars in London and whoever read my post in the previous months, knows how I was dedicated at finding the best place in town that could satisfy my ramen craving here in this cold part of Europe.

Aware of the fact that London is full Japanese restaurants and the ramen fashion is rapidly picking up, I decided to visit the most popular ramen bars in town. After careful consideration (as those many rejection email I’m receiving start) I decided to briefly describe my personal favourite places, ranking them for a precise feature that makes their product stand out.

For first starters: Shoryu Ramen. This is the first place where I had the chance to eat ramen in London after my sublime foodie experience in Japan. The Origin Tonkotsu has a pretty well balanced harmony of flavour between the the broth and the toppings. A nice place to start your ramen appreciation. Unfortunately I don’t have a review for Shoryu, because I went there before I started this blog. However I still remember a pleasant experience.

For broth: Ippudo. A bowl of ramen without the perfect broth would just be pointless (see instant ramen cups) Here the broth is creamy and milky as it’s supposed to be after pork bones are violently boiled for 20 hours and release their collagen. Taste is meaty, satisfying, but at the same time it’s almost sweet,  “clean” I would define it, meaning it does not leave a strong greasy aftertaste in your mouth. Read my complete review here.

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Shiromaru Hakata Classic @Ippudo

For noodles: Tonkotsu. These guys make their noodles on the premises thanks to their Japanese noodle machine and the use of local ingredients (let’s not forget the research for the perfect alkaline salted water) that perfectly abide by the original recipe. I love their tsukemen noodle so much for their “bite”. Unfortunately they are available only at their Tonkotsu East location. Read my complete review here.

Detail of the noodles.

Noodles for Tsukemen @ Tonkotsu East

For the marinated soft boiled egg: Kanada-ya. Ok, I know, you think I am kidding right? Simply, I’m not. Everybody who had the chance to try a real bowl of ramen (no, the instant one you had in college don’t count) know how extremely important the egg is to the whole flavour of the recipe. It has to be still runny, so the yolk mixes a bit with the soup, and white should have nicely absorbed the soy sauce overnight or more. In other words it should be a concentrate of Umami. Kanada-ya’s egg was absolute perfection, but unfortunately it comes with an additional price of £2. This is not a deterrent to hungry customers, because it seems to sell out very quickly. Read my complete review here.

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Kanada ya. That egg over there is to die for.

For strong flavours: Bone Daddies. Considering that when on a diet, ramen in general might not be the best choice for your calorie count, Bone Daddies’ speciality requires customers who want enjoy the full flavour experience and preferably without any sense of guilt after eating. Rich (or fatty maybe?) and intense broth, contrasting aromas and different textures in just one dish. Read my complete review here.

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@Bone Daddies

The winner or should I say winners

I think it depends on the occasion and the the atmosphere I’d like to give to my meal. In fact I would definitely choose Ippudo for a girls’ night out both because the place looks a bit fancier than the other ramen bars and because the broth base has an authentic flavour, but at the same time it tastes clean, not greasy at all.

However if I wanted a foodie date without frills or a highly satisfying solo lunch experience I would definitely choose Bone Daddies’ insanely rich Tonkotsu ramen.
What about you guys, have you visited any of these five places?

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Bone Daddies ramen bar, London: my review

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This place was on my list of ramen to try (see my idea here) since I read a while ago that Jonathan Ross crowned it as the best ramen bar in town. Well, considering that Bone Daddies’ director, Ross Shonan, is the former executive chef from Nobu and Zuma the success is assured.

I know, I’m always late and I should have visited Bone Daddies at that time, but I somehow trusted Jonathan Ross’ opinion as a connoisseur of Japan and its culture, so I left it on my list as the last one to try. Needless to mention how high my expectations had grown in the meantime. Finally, one freezing Friday of January I had the chance to verify if Bone Daddies’ ramen actually were the best noodle in town.

The downside of popular places is they are always packed with people, especially on Friday nights, so it can’t be helped but joining the long queue outside. Waiting is never pleasant, but in this case it was also painful considering the sub-zero temperature of the night. Anyway the staff managed brilliantly by offering us hot sake shots. Nice move, Bone Daddies, nice move.

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Can you spot me?

Finally our turn to get in. The interior is characterised by bold red and white walls decorated by Japanese rockabilly subculture related prints, the main theme of this ramen bar.

Unfortunately the dim lights affected the quality of the pictures I took, therefore thanks to this photo belonging to The Guardian, you can see what the place looks like in a natural light and without people.

 

Credits: The Guardian

Materials used are wood and steel, in line with the latest tendencies for places that target young professionals and creatives as their bracket of customers.

Packed.

Packed.

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We were seated next to a group of Korean girls that I shamelessly spied, to grasp the secret of holding the chopsticks correctly. Yes after studying Japan, its culture, after being to Japan twice, after having Japanese friend I talk to all the time, after cooking Japanese food at home, when it comes to ramen I still have problems managing my noodles not to slip off my chopsticks. Unfortunately the secret is not really a secret, it’s just practice.

We chose to order a classic ramen and a popular one, in order to see how the place interprets a standard and well known (among the Japanese food aficionados) recipe and how the same staff uses their creativity to innovate their noodle dish, to make it trendy, to make it viral as they say. According to this personal point of view we chose a Tonkotsu ramen, the classic one with its 20 hour pork bone broth, chashu pork and marinated soft boiled egg. As for popular dish we got a T22 with chicken bone broth, soy ramen, chicken and cock scratchings which seem to be pretty popular on reviews around the internet.

While waiting for the order to be ready, I looked around and I noticed behind me some shelves with sake on the top one and homemade shochu on the bottom one. Surely cherry and lemongrass and lime shochu are not really traditional flavour choices, so I think Bone Daddies’ staff should be acknowledged for their creativity and their will to experiment.

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Cherry Shochu

Cherry Shochu and lemongrass and lime at the left.

A shiny plastic thing folded in a decorated steel glass immediately caught my eye. I was a giant plastic bib with Bone Daddies logo on it. Usually ramen bars in Japan provide their customers with these bib to protect their clothes from splashes of broth, so everyone can enjoy their noodles without bending their back weirdly and awkwardly. Yes that’s what I normally do here in London when I go out for ramen.

Da bib!

Da bib!

So the bib thing brought me immediately back to Japan,  because it means authenticity, and I give you kudos for this, Bone Daddies!

Enough is enough, let’s go straight with the main dish, shall we?

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My Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu ramen – I admit the first taste of the broth left me a bit puzzled because it wasn’t piping hot to the point of burning the tip of the tongue, leaving it numb. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it, but this means the soup would turn cold in no time. Aside from the temperature, the flavour was rich, full with almost creamy texture given by the collagen of the pork bones. I usually am a bit fussy with this kind of broth because as soon as my tastebuds touch it I know if I’m really going to digest it. It’s just a sensation, in fact if it leaves a greasy feeling in my mouth it’s a no-no. This time the broth passed the exam and exactly as I predicted I had no problem digesting it. The noodles were thin but with a nice bite and both the pork and eggs were perfect and full of flavour.

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T22

 

T22

T22

T22 – This dish was different, that’s why G and I chose it. The broth was lighter, more transparent than pork one, but in order to contrast the delicate flavour I could taste a strong sesame oil, soy sauce and some chili pepper in the back ground. As for the toppings, the famous cock scratchings (every time I say it I chuckle a bit), they added crunch and texture to the dish.

My vote: 8.5.A satisfying interpretation of a classic recipe and a nice attempt to convey creativity into something new, younger and fresher. I don’t feel like giving a higher vote because I would have preferred the broth a little bit hotter, but this is really a minor flaw. What really matters is flavour and I can assure you won’t be disappointed with that. Is Bone Daddies really the best ramen bar in town? Maybe, but I believe it’s still a draw with Ippudo in my opinion, in my opinion even though the two differ in various aspects of the preparation.

I will tell you more in my next post about the 5 places to eat ramen in London.

Stay tuned!

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar 31 Peter St, London W1F 0AR 

Review: Tonkotsu East, London

The first time I ever tried tsukemen was almost three years ago during my second visit to Tokyo. On a very busy sightseeing day, ruined by constant rain and freezing cold, a hot meal was just what could fix everything straightaway. The selected place was the popular Rokurinsha, in an area inside Tokyo station called ramen street. The last thing I wanted was to stand in a 1 hour long queue, but after I was served whatever I purchased at the vending machine at the entrance (that’s how you order and pay in some places in Japan), it was love at first bite. From that moment I decided I had a mission: to find that same flavour and texture outside Japan. So when ramen bar started to pop up like mushrooms in the London foodie scene, I felt that was a place to start.

I started trying the most popular ramen places in London, because I wanted to have an informed point of view about the current ramen scenario and also to create a personal ranking based on certain criteria like best soup, noodles, toppings etc.

Tonkotsu East was on my list of places to try for a long time and for two main reasons. The first is that they are the only ramen bar out of the four in the chain to make tsukemen. The second reason is that unlike other ramen bars, they prepare their ramen from scratch on their premises. A time consuming activity that the founder of the little chain researched thoroughly. Not only did they find a special English flour and alkaline water similar to the Japanese ones, but they also imported an interesting ramen machine that makes the job a lot easier.

The place: The place is located, like many others in East London, under an arch in what it looks like to be a former garage. Bright with a very modern hip style, wood and stone materials to decorate the atmosphere, the kind of interiors you would expect from the area.

We were seated at the bar, where we could observe the staff preparing the food and the famous noodle machine in the window, where one of the Tonkotsu guys was preparing the noodles.

The noodle machine @ Tonkotsu East, London.

The noodle machine @ Tonkotsu East, London.

G and I weren’t really hungry so we just ordered some karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and some tsukemen of course!

The wait wasn’t so long and staff was super kind to apologise for the few extra minutes we waited between the karaage and the tsukemen.

Karaage chicken.

Karaage chicken.

I am supercritical with karaage because I don’t find any other recipe that is as good as mine (sorry, just my humble opinion), but I’ll keep it short and I’ll just say it was crunchy and juicy but a bit bland in flavour.

Here we go, the moment I was waiting for, the tsukemen. Thick, elastic, porous enough to absorb the pork broth, in two words they were very good.

Detail of the noodles.

Detail of the noodles.

tsukemen

The soup was cloudy and tasty as it should be if pork bones are left to boil for more than 12 hours but unfortunately left a greasy film in my mouth. I usually have some problems digesting this kind of broth, because of course, let’s face it, it’s not the lightest healthiest thing on earth, but this time it went smoothly. The chashu pork was a bit dry for my taste but thick enough and the egg was perfect in cooking and flavour.

My vote is: 8! I believe that the fact that they prepare their own noodles is distinctive when compared to other ramen bars. In my case, the tsukemen I ordered were very similar in texture, thickness and elasticity to the ones I had in Tokyo, therefore the vote. Kudos, Tonkotsu East!

However, I feel I can’t give more because I didn’t have the ramen, which is the protagonist at this place, and my soup didn’t convince me entirely.

Have some of you guys been to Tonkotsu East in London? Let me know your thoughts about it!

Tonkotsu East, Arch 334,1a Dunston Street. London E8 4EB. Tel: 020 7254 2478

Kanada-ya ramen bar, London review: not bad.

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There’s always a tremendous queue outside Kanada-ya ramen bar. The place is undoubtedly small, but the fact that customers are willing to wait for their turn to eat, should often be taken as a good sign of superb food.

Kanada-ya was founded by Kanada Kazuhiro in Yukuhashi, Japan, back in 2009 but only recently their management has considered expanding abroad, with the opening of two new restaurants in Hong Kong and London. This one is located just opposite to the major competitor in town: Ippudo. Let the ramen war begin!

As much as the cold weather and the light rain put me off, the die-hard foodie inside me never surrenders, so there I was, waiting for my piping hot bowl of ramen.

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The queue was even longer.

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While waiting…

After 45 minutes outside in the freezing cold, I was actually questioning my intellect. “This is crazy, this ramen had better be the most amazing I ever had.” Which, of course I doubted, having tried the real thing back in Japan. Anyway, Finally G and I were seated at the main shared table, together with other 6 people.

The decor is minimal, with a dominant theme of aged wood tables and brick walls painted in white, that reflects the light from the two big windows and creates the illusion of a wider space.

At the table I immediately noticed a tall glass filled with reusable chopsticks and I could not hide a bit of disappointment. Just to be clear, I’m not some hygiene freak, and I don’t doubt the health and safety standards of the place. Plus I’m always in for green choices and reusable materials. The unbearable truth is: I can’t eat by using reusable chopsticks without looking stupid, because their lacquered surface lets slip the noodles and I end up splashing soup all over the place.

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Original Ramen

While I was wondering how to limit the damages, our order arrived quicker than the time spent queuing. Both G and I got Kanada-ya’s Original Ramen, which consisted in a bowl of noodles underneath a thick white and foamy 18 hour pork bone broth and topped with chashu pork belly, nori seaweed, wood ear fungus and spring onions. We both added the seasoned soft boiled egg, because without it, ramen would have been just profane, right?

I first tasted the soup, which was intensely rich, meaty, just as I imagined it would be after boiling for 18 hours, but unfortunately it left an unpleasant greasy residual in my mouth. Stop! I know what you’re thinking: pork broth is fat, no wonder that ramen is so high in calories. Yes, true, but I tried a lot of ramen places where broth tasted “cleaner”, without leaving any oily feeling on my tongue.

Noodles were thin, but with firm texture. As for the toppings, the seasoned soft boiled egg was cooked to perfection, with some of the yolk melting heavenly into the soup. However, I wasn’t really convinced by the pork belly, because it was sliced so thinly to the point of looking like prosciutto. It should be thicker, as everybody who tried ramen in Japan knows, otherwise the texture and meat juices are noticeably reduced to the detriment of the overall flavour.

I have to say that I was not super impressed with Kanada-ya’s ramen. I think that after 45 minutes queuing outside, I was expecting an almost perfect bowl of noodles. Unfortunately, some characteristics of this dish did not meet my expectations.

For this reason, my vote for Kanada-ya is 7, because although I find the product not bad, I think that some aspects of both the management of the place and the ramen itself should be improved.


Kanada-ya, 64 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LE London.

Ippudo London, one of the best ramen in town

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During the event “Nanban: Japanese Soul Food” (read about it here), chef Tim Anderson mentioned the famous Japanese ramen chain Ippudo was about to open its first ramen restaurant in Europe and London was the chosen city to start their European adventure. Ippudo has currently 43 restaurants all over Japan and other stores in Asia, but with the opening of Sydney’s and New York’s branches, the chain started another chapter of their entrepreneurial adventure for the promotion of ramen outside Asia.

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I never had the chance to try Ippudo in Japan as I always idealistically preferred the little family owned Ramen-ya (ramen restaurants), fantasising about secret recipes passed down from the old generation to the younger ones. However, I’m not in Japan at the moment – I would add unfortunately – therefore the combination of my insatiable curiosity and, most importantly, my weakness for food was enough to lure me into the brand new Ippudo London restaurant at the base of Renzo Piano’s bright orange building in Central Saint Giles Piazza.

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Japanese television filming.

The location is trendy and modern, perfectly embracing the urban design and the style of the area with a hint of sophistication. In fact, the restaurant is surrounded by glass walls, whose brightness contributes to create a contemporary ambience, enhancing the contrast between the wood materials and the bold interiors. In all fairness, I would expect such a stylish atmosphere to be associated more with high end restaurants rather than ramen bars, which in Japan are often unsophisticated, definitely less bright, and more cramped places.

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Entrance

 

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Ramen bowls decorating the wall.

While I was lost in this reasoning and in the meantime I was questioning the suitability of my casual clothes for the place, I was surprised, and admittedly a bit scared, by the entire staff greeting us with a loud “Irasshaimase!!!!” (lit. welcome) in unison.

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Counter

After few minutes I realised there were precise guidelines for greetings: every time new customers were assigned to a table, one of the managers escorted them while shouting in a very polite Japanese something like: “There are 2 new customers!”, so the staff would reply with “Welcome!”. Then, after placing the order the waiter/waitress would shout: “Table 13 has decided!” and the chefs would reply “Correct!”. Then when the order was ready the waiter/waitress would shout that the food was leaving the kitchen and again the chef would respond something like “Correct!”. Needless to mention the choir of “Arigatou gozaimashita!!!” (lit. Thank you very much) with the entire staff smiling and staring at the customers when they leave.

The hearty welcoming atmosphere and the related loud greetings seem, at first, to be tailored exactly to bring the authenticity and informality of the original Japanese ramen restaurant, which are mainly visited by students and salary men, therefore not a really refined or exclusive target audience.

However, in Ippudo London’s case, this way of dealing with customers seemed to me too much forced as well as clearly contrasting with the trendy environment of the restaurant. I really hope the members of staff don’t lose their voice at the end of each shift, otherwise it would be a huge problem!

I cannot judge the entire menu, as I was at Ippudo’s only for their famous ramen, but I can openly express a bit of disappointment because I sincerely expected more to choose from, rather than only 2 types of pork ramen along with their two vegetarian version with seaweed and fried tofu. Don’t get me wrong, it’s undoubtedly positive that they don’t have 20 or even more different types of ramen on the menu, otherwise I would start questioning the quality and the freshness of their products. However, another two variations – say a seafood and a seasonal recipe – would have been a nice addition.

My fiancé and I went for the two original signature recipes, the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and the Akamaru Modern.

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Shiromaru Hakata Classic

Shiromaru Hakata Classic  according to Ippudo’s menu: “Our original tonkotsu pork broth; homemade thin noodles topped with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, bean sprouts and spring onions.” The broth was so rich and thick that its opaque surface covered the noodles underneath. A bold statement of a full intense flavour, and it was indeed: meaty but at the same time smooth and mellow, I would say also reassuring.

Although this ramen was served piping hot as it should always be, noodles were al dente and kept their perfect texture for the whole time I was waiting for the broth cool down a bit. Pork was tender and succulent retaining all the juices of the soy sauce sake and sugar seasoning used for the marinade before being slowly braised. Kikurage mushrooms and spring onions added respectively earthy and acidic notes, contrasting the smooth flavour of the broth. I chose to add a seasoned boiled egg as extra topping for £1.50, because a ramen bowl wouldn’t be complete without it.

Akamaru Modern

Akamaru Modern

 

Akamaru Modern according to the menu: “A bolder translation of the original pork broth; homemade thin noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret Umami Dama paste, pork belly chashu, bean sprouts, sesame kikurage mushrooms, spring onions and fragrant garlic oil.” The bright red spicy miso paste slowly melting in the broth, together with the sharp garlic oil and the nutty sesame, gives the soup a daring kick to the overall well balanced meaty flavour.

So you liked your noodles very much and you almost finished them but still have plenty of soup, what do you do? if you are anything like my fiancé you would shout “Kaedama please!”, and soon a waiter would bring another serving of noodles for £1.50.

My vote for Ippudo London is 8.5 and here’s why: I loved their ramen because it’s prepared with excellent ingredients and traditional methods. I frankly believe it is one of the best, if not the best, ramen in town, but I don’t feel like giving Ippudo London a higher vote because I would like to try more ramen variations. Ippudo cherishes tradition, but the team behind it’s always open for testing of new ingredients and combinations, so who knows, let’s give them time to familarise with the European tastes and its influences and let’s see how it goes.

I’m still not convinced about the contrast between the trendy modern interiors and the idea of the typical ramen bar, but if this strategy works for all their restaurants, then it’s a winning one.

http://www.ippudo.co.uk/

Nanban: Japanese Soul Food at SOAS

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Yesterday I went to a live cooking event held by the School of Oriental and African Studies called Nanban: Japanese soul food event. The protagonist was the  BBC1 MasterChef winner 2011  Tim Anderson, whose new book due next year gave the name to this event, focused on the foreign influences on what is now considered the Japanese traditional food. In his analysis, Anderson was guided by Dr. Barak Kushner, professor of Japanese History at the University of Cambridge and food historian.

Anderson showed a serie of slides about the meaning of Nanban referred to Europeans, mainly Portuguese, and translated as southern barbarians and their influences on Japanese cuisine: for example the use of spices, peppers, eggs and sugar. All these ingredients can be found in the recipe Chicken Nanban, that is a fried chicken dipped in an acidic sauce made with vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and red chili pepper.

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Castella cake according to one of the most ancient recipes.

To demonstrate the evolution of recipes throughout the time, he took Castella cake (sponge cake) and prepared samples from two recipes, an ancient one and a more modern one. The first one ( in the picture) was the most ancient one which had a consistency as dense as bread and a flavour that in my opinion was too sugary. The second and “most recent” one was slightly less dense and less sugary, but anyway it was far from the current lighter Castella recipe which evolved to suit Japanese palates as every other recipe.

With this in mind, Anderson guided the audience through the analysis of those Japanese traditional food, which is not originally Japanese and, specifically, he concentrated on ramen and its Chinese provenance. In particular he focused on Champon, now a speciality of Nagasaki cuisine, as what he defined as proto-ramen.

So, what is Champon? A noodle dish in chicken, pork and prawns broth topped with seafood, vegetables and pork fried in lard. Not really that light and healthy image of that Japanese cuisine designated as cultural heritage by UNESCO.

At this point Anderson started to cook Champon, or to be fair, he only stir fried the toppings and cooked the noodles in the broth he prepared the day before. This is because the broth for this type of dish and for ramen in general, has to boil violently for a significant amount of hours in order for pork and chicken bones to break and release their collagen which will add a distinctive taste to the dish. Anderson informed the audience that the broth he was using boiled for 12 hours, which his wife wasn’t particularly happy about, as the whole house was permeated with pork bones smell.

The chef used stir fried scallops, prawns, onion, bean sprouts and cabbage and some beni shoga or pickled ginger to add an acidic note in order to contrast the umami flavour of the dish.

After 5 minutes, the broth started to congeal, so I guess that those 12 hours did allow to release collagen indeed.

Unfortunately the audience was not involved into the tasting of Champon, but the chef had everything covered and brought two dishes prepared with ancient “barbarian” recipes: one was a sort of scotch egg made with mackerel, and the other one was fried chicken with a really unusually robust seasoned batter. While I don’t remember the name of the first, the second recipe seemed to be ancestor of the modern Tempura (again, a Portuguese recipe).

This event made me reflect about that Japanese food that we take for granted as the traditional and representative of the nation, or those culinary aspects of Japanese history of food that I believed I knew. Of course this discussion represents for me a starting point for a critical thinking about the various foreign influences also on Italian cuisine and on my own way of cooking in particular. This is a topic that I would like to thoroughly research and write about.
For all these reasons I am thankful to SOAS and the Alumni Association for inviting me and I will be more than happy to participate to other events like this.

And now in Italian.

Ieri sono andata ad un evento di cucina tenuto dalla School of Oriental and African Studies e chiamato Nanban: Japanese Soul Food. Il protagonista della serata è stato il vincitore di Masterchef 2011 Tim Anderson, il cui nuovo libro, che uscirà prossimo anno, ha dato il nome all’evento. Tema principale, le influenze straniere su quello che oggi è considerato il cibo tradizionale giapponese. Nella sua analisi, Anderson è stato guidato dal dottor Barak Kushner, docente di Storia giapponese presso l’Università di Cambridge e storico di cibo.

Anderson ha mostrato una serie di diapositive sul significato di Nanban, termine riferito agli europei, soprattutto portoghesi, e tradotto come barbari meridionali. Ha inoltre delineato le loro influenze sulla cucina giapponese: per esempio l’uso di spezie, peperoni, uova e zucchero. Tutti questi ingredienti possono essere trovati nella ricetta pollo Nanban, che è un pollo fritto immerso in una salsa acida fatta con aceto, salsa di soia, zucchero e peperoncino.

Per dimostrare l’evoluzione delle ricette nel tempo, ha preso come esempio la torta Castella (Pan di Spagna) e l’ha portata in due varianti diverse, secondo una ricetta più antica e una più moderna. La torta nella foto è quella realizzata con la ricetta più antica. Aveva una consistenza densa come il pane e un sapore che, a mio parere, era troppo dolce. La seconda e più moderna versione, era leggermente meno “pesante” nella consistenza e anche meno zuccherina, ma comunque era lontana dalla ricetta attuale, che si è decisamente evoluta in una variante più leggera per soddisfare i palati giapponesi come anche altri piatti.

Con questo in mente, Anderson ha guidato il pubblico attraverso l’analisi di quel cibo tradizionale giapponese, che non ha origini giapponesi e, in particolare, si è concentrato sul ramen e la sua provenienza cinese. In particolare ha scelto il Champon, ormai una specialità della cucina Nagasaki, definito da lui stesso come un proto-ramen.

Ma cos’è il Champon? Un piatto di noodles in brodo di pollo, maiale e gamberi condito con frutti di mare, pesce, verdure e carne di maiale fritte nel lardo. Non proprio l’immagine di quella cucina giapponese sana e leggera designata come patrimonio culturale dell’umanità dall’UNESCO.

A questo punto Anderson ha iniziato a cucinare il Champon, o ad essere onesti, a cuocere le verdure e il pesce in padella e i noodles nel brodo che aveva preparato il giorno prima. Questo perché il brodo per questo tipo di piatto, e per il ramen in generale, deve bollire violentemente per una notevole quantità di ore, così le ossa di maiale e pollo finiscono per rompersi e rilasciare collagene, che aggiungerà un sapore deciso al piatto. Anderson ha utilizzato un brodo che ha bollito per 12 ore, cosa di cui la moglie non era particolarmente entusiasta, poiché ha finito per far impregnare la casa di puzza di maiale.

Lo chef ha utilizzato come condimento delle capesante, gamberi, cipolla, germogli di soia e cavolo e un po’ di zenzero sottaceto per aggiungere una nota acida che andasse a contrastare l’umami del piatto.

Dopo 5 minuti dalla realizzazione del piatto, il brodo ha iniziato a rapprendersi, quindi credo che quelle 12 ore di bollore abbiano davvero fatto sì che le ossa rilasciassero tutto il collagene che avevano.

Purtroppo il pubblico non è stato coinvolto nella degustazione dello Champon, ma lo chef non si è fatto trovare impreparato e ha portato due piatti preparati con ricette antiche e risalenti al periodo dei “barbari”: uno era un uovo sodo avvolto da una pasta di sgombro e fritto, e l’altra era fun pollo fritto in una insolita panatura dal sapore robusto.. Anche se non ricordo il nome del primo, il secondo piatto sembrava essere l’antenato del moderno Tempura (di nuovo, una portoghese).

Questo evento mi ha fatto riflettere su quel cibo giapponese che diamo per scontato come tradizionale e rappresentativo della nazione, o quegli aspetti culinari del Giappone che credevo di conoscere. Naturalmente questo dibattito rappresenta per me un punto di partenza per una riflessione critica sulle varie influenze straniere anche sulla cucina italiana e sul mio modo di cucinare in particolare. Questo è un argomento su quale vorrei approfondire le mie conoscenze e trarre delle conclusioni
Per tutti questi motivi sono molti grata alla SOAS e la Alumni Association per avermi invitata, e sarò più che felice di partecipare ad altri eventi come questo.