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 

My happy moments from 2014, New Year’s resolutions and snow

The Snow Queen Milla.

The Snow Queen Milla.

It’s snowing from yesterday. Italy, the land of the sun around here looks pretty much like Winterfell, but I’m not Arya Stark even though I got her short hair and her surly attitude.

town hall square in Campobasso, Molise, Italy

Town hall square in Campobasso, Molise, Italy.

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Quite a lot of snow I would say.

Milla, my 9 year old cocker spaniel is snoring at my feet enjoying her cozy blanket. I guess in a perfect wintery scenario the only things that are missing in the picture are the sound of crackling fire and a hot chocolate with marshmallow. Too bad I don’t have either of them, but I can fake it with the virtual fireplace sound on a 5 hour long youtube video and a Nutella jar.

Usually the end of December leads to make new resolutions for the next year, but they almost never work, at least for me, like the classic losing weight, or spending less money on unnecessary stuff. Because let’s face it, these two are the hardest promises to keep for a woman, am I right?

The last couple of months have been really tough on both G and I, so there’s not as much enthusiasm to start a new year as the previous New Year’s Eves. However, I feel it’s necessary not to give up to negativity, so the one and only resolution I am making for 2015 and my future as well, is to work really hard on myself in order to start finding happiness in every little thing.

2015 will be a year of change and I know it for sure. It’s not just the holidays’ atmosphere to do the talking, but the recent circumstances that are pushing me to do something, more like a make it or break it kind of situation.

I like to keep this blog as a drama free place, so I want to start my important resolution from here.

As you might have previously read on The Weird Frittata, every month I like to write a chart/bucket list of products/places I loved and recommend. This time it’s different, because I’m going to write what made me happy during 2014 even what it looks like to be negative, because I want to believe there is a bright side in everything.

So, here it is:

  • The early months of 2014 spent at home in Italy with my family. Even the unemployment has its own bright side, because I could treasure every moment with my parents and relatives (you know, Italian families are quite big). I had the wonderful experience of reconnecting with my family and enjoy my Nonna’s cooking, which I tried to recreate and practice as much as I could. Needless to say that her special recipes will always be in my heart for ever.
  • Moving back to the UK. This time I discovered London from a new perspective experimenting with ethnic restaurants, discovering new recipes and hipster places, just what I needed after a long Italian winter. This rediscovery made me realise how much I love food and the industry that gravitates around it, to the point that I would like to blend in and be part of it. Even though I’m thankful to London for each life experience I had, my love-hate relationship with this city keeps going on, and I’m afraid it’s not going to last that long. It’s like when you get back with your ex and you know that after the initial happiness the old problems will rise again. In fact, here I am again in a “It’s not you, it’s me”, kind of phase and I am grateful for that, because I know that I need to look for something else in my life. Rather than something, it’s somewhere.
  • House sharing again, Thank you London rental prices! Seriously how could this be positive? You might ask, but I’m now more convinced than before of what I want for 2015. Respect is the first answer and I could go on, but anyone who has shared a property knows, for example, how hard it is to keep it clean without ending up in an argument with the other flatmates.
  • All the job interviews gone wrong. You can learn from your mistakes, they say and I’m sure to have learned something about myself and how to deal with these kind of situations. Luckily, it’s not all about me. There are lot of jerks who think they are entitled to treat applicants like trash, because they are in a position of power. I am thankful I don’t have to deal with them on daily basis.
  • Now something not about me. G. finally entered the career field he chased for a long time and I’m happy for him to have found his own path. It’s just the beginning and will be difficult but seeing the person I love being happy makes me want to work hard as well and pay him back with the same positivity he gives me every day.

I saw on Pinterest something called resolution jar and I believe it’s a nice idea to keep the positive mood throughout the year. What you have to do is just fill an empty jar with notes about all the good moments you have during the year and then, around the end of December, you can empty the jar and go through all of your notes to remember those positive moments that we tend to forget in favour of the negative ones.

Now for all of you lazy people out there (including me), this is a lovely idea but also a commitment as well, so find whatever works best for you: a notebook, a board, a calendar or just an app on your smartphone, but never stop staying positive!

I’ll try my best, you should too.


Happy New Year, guys!

When healthy meets delicious: a chat with Tamara Arbib, founder of Rebel Kitchen.

Last month I was religiously visiting Wholefoods after ages, because it was absolutely necessary to keep myself updated with the latest food trends. So, while I was looking for new drinks, there it was, looking at me: the Rebel Kitchen Matcha Green Tea Mylk.

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Great, I thought, it should be similar to the drink I used to have when I was in Japan, Once again my choices are extremely connected with memories and emotions.

Luckily enough there was a very kind lady who was giving samples of the entire Rebel Kitchen Mylk range to customers, so I took the opportunity to taste them all and also to be informed about their sustainably sourced ingredients and the healthy bits; in fact all drinks are made with coconut milk, meaning dairy free, and are naturally sweetened with date nectar, which makes them ideal for both children and adults.

Ok, but what about the taste? One word: amazing. This is because ingredients are carefully balanced, so there are no overpowering flavours. I confess I have a bias against dates, as I find them too sugary, but in Rebel Kitchen drinks they perfectly blend with the other ingredients without resulting extremely sweet.

Healthy and delicious almost never go together in the same sentence, but these two adjectives truthfully sum up the characteristics of Rebel Kitchen Drinks.

I felt the necessity to know more, so I did some research and I contacted Rebel Kitchen’s founder, Tamara Arbib who kindly agreed to answer my questions:

Q: I read you came up with the idea of producing your coconut based drinks because you were desperately looking for healthy and appealing alternatives to feed your children, but it does not really happen every day to start company on these basis. What convinced you to do make this step?

A: I’ve always been passionate about food and nutrition and my husband and I set up a charitable foundation called the A team foundation to help support and promote this goal. After 5 years within the space it was crystal clear we needed to show that health can be achieved not only through charitable endeavours but also through a business channel.

Q: “It’s important to drink milk because it makes you grow up stronger” I remember my mother kept telling me these words for years, so what would you say to those mothers like mine who would fear rebel drinks cannot compare because of their dairy free nature?

A: I think that coconut milk is tremendously nutritious and provides other nutrients in the form of MFC (medium fatty chain acids like lauric acid) that promote brain function and support the metabolism. Coconut milk is an antiviral and anti-fungal. You can get calcium from other plant based sources such a dark leafy greens. Nutrition and growing up strong can be achieved through a diet of whole and unprocessed foods. Milk is not a necessity past the baby stage.

Q: Did you invent and test the recipes yourself? Can you explain the entire process, from the idea to actualisation of those recipes?

A: Yes we did! in the rebel kitchen! I cannot tell you more as that would give our secrets away! hehe!

Q: I see you have a Coming Soon section regarding snacks on Rebel Kitchen’s website. Any anticipation?

A: I have a lot of ideas and the list is long…you’ll have to wait and see! We don’t want to rush and we have a lot to do with the mylks first!

Oh, I will wait for sure, maybe while sipping my favourite Rebel Drink!

 

Click here to know where you can find Rebel Kitchen Drinks near you.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Rebel Drinks and I purchased the product myself for personal use unless otherwise noted. My opinion is completely honest and based on my own experience.

 

And now in Italian

Il mese scorso sono andata in “pellegrinaggio” da Wholefoods dopo secoli che mancavo, perché dovevo assolutamente tenermi aggiornata su tutte le ultime tendenze in fatto di cibo. Così, mentre cercavo nuove bevande, c’era lui, che dal banco frigorifero, mi attirava intensamente: il Rebel Kitchen Matcha Green Tea Mylk.

Perfetto, ho pensato, dovrebbe essere simile al latte al tè verde che bevevo in Giappone. Ancora una volta le mie scelte gastronomiche sono state fatte in funzione dei miei ricordi e delle mie emozioni.

Per fortuna c’era una signora molto gentile che stava facendo provare ai clienti l’intera linea Rebel Kitchen, così ho colto l’occasione per assaggiare tutti i loro drink e per essere informata riguardo gli ingredienti da agricoltura sostenibile e le loro proprietà benefiche. Tutte le bevande sono fatte con latte di cocco, ottimo per gli intolleranti al lattosio, e sono naturalmente dolcificate con sciroppo di datteri. Praticamente sono ideali per adulti e bambini.

Ok, ma il sapore è buono? Sì, incredibilmente buono. Questo perché gli ingredienti sono magistralmente equilibrati, quindi non ci sono sapori che prevalgono prepotentemente. Confesso che sono un po’ prevenuta contro i datteri, in quanto li trovo troppo zuccherini per i miei gusti, ma in queste bevande si fondono perfettamente con gli altri ingredienti, senza che il risultato finale sia estremamente dolce.

Sano e buono sono due aggettivi che quasi mai troviamo nella stessa frase, ma riassumono fedelmente la descrizione delle bevande Rebel Kitchen.

Dovevo assolutamente saperne di più, così ho fatto qualche ricerca e ho contattato il CEO Rebel Kitchen, Tamara Arbib, che ha gentilmente accettato di rispondere alle mie domande:

D: Ho letto che hai avuto l’idea di produrre le tue bevande a base di cocco perché eri disperatamente alla ricerca di una bevanda sana e, allo stesso tempo, invitante da dare ai tuoi figli. Non capita spesso di avviare un’ azienda su queste basi. Cosa ti ha convinta a fare questo passo molto importante?

R: Sono sempre stata appassionata di cibo e nutrizione,  per questo ho creato con mio marito una fondazione di beneficenza chiamato A Team per contribuire a sostenere e promuovere questo obiettivo. Dopo 5 anni dopo, era chiaro che dovessimo impegnarci per dimostrare che le sane abitudini possono essere instaurate non solo attraverso opere di carità, ma anche attraverso un canale di business.

D: “E’ importante bere latte perché ti fa crescere forte”. Ricordo che mia madre continuava a dirmi queste parole per anni, quindi cosa vorresti dire a quelle madri come la mia che potrebbero non essere convinte dalle tue bevande poiché non contengono latte?

R: Penso che il latte di cocco sia estremamente nutriente e fornisca altri nutrienti sotto forma di MFC (acidi grassi a catena medio come l’acido laurico) che promuovono le funzioni cerebrali e aumentano il metabolismo. In più, il latte di cocco è un antivirale e antimicotico. È possibile ottenere il calcio da altre fonti vegetali, come le verdure a foglia scura. Crescere forti e ben nutriti può essere possibile attraverso una dieta composta da cibi integrali e non processati. Il latte non è una necessità oltre la fase dell’infanzia.

D: Hai inventato e testato le ricette da sola? Potresti spiegare l’intero processo, dall’idea alla realizzazione?

R: Sì, l’abbiamo fatto! Nella Rebel Kitchen! Non posso dirti di più perché dovrei rivelare i nostri segreti! hehe!

D: Vedo che sul sito di Rebel Kitchen hai una sezione “Coming Soon” riferita a degli snack. Ci dai qualche anticipazione?

R: Ho tantissime idee e la lista è lunga … dovrete aspettare e vedere! Non vogliamo correre e abbiamo ancora tanto da fare per la linea Mylk!

Certo, aspetterò di sicuro, magari sorseggiando il mio Rebel Drink preferito!

Trovate i drink Rebel Kitchen da Wholefoods, Waitrose ed altre catene del Regno Unito (Clicca qui per sapere dove). Il sito ha una sezione shop che, per ora, spedisce solo nel Regno Unito, ma l’azienda si sta attrezzando anche per le spedizioni internazionali.

Disclaimer: Non sono in alcun modo legata all’azienda citata in questo post e ho acquistato personalmente il prodotto. Il contenuto del post riflette solo e soltanto la mia opinione e la mia esperienza del prodotto.

Vegemite vs Marmite, an impartial comparison from an Italian perspective

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I remember missing hummus during my long months in Italy. I kept telling myself “what are you complaining about? Italian food is amazing.” Yes, undoubtedly true, although what I missed was obviously not just hummus, but the wide choice that London has to offer in terms of different products and cuisines. This testifies how travelling changes our own way of thinking and in this case eating, opening our minds to new food adventures.
For example with the exception of Nutella,I personally never considered spreads as fundamental. Yes, the occasional peanut butter on toast once in a while, but never a necessary pantry staple. Last week while I was pushing my trolley in a busy aisle of my local supermarket I saw Marmite, the British yeast spread, and something happened in my mind.

When I was in Australia 3 years ago I tried Vegemite, the Australian yeast spread, because I was curious about the flavour. “You can either hate or love it, there’s no middle ground” I was told. These words sounded like a challenge I had to take up, so I gave Vegemite a go and I ended up really liking it. So when I saw Marmite, its British opponent, on the supermarket shelf I knew I had to try it see for myself how different it was. Also to discover which side I have to take during the heated arguments between my British and Aussie friends on which spread is the best.

Before I start, for those of you who might wonder why anyone should eat a yeast spread, you will be surprised to know that both Marmite and Vegemite are rich in Vitamin B and folate.

My personal test:

Vegemite:

  • Colour: dark chocolate brown.
  • Aspect: thick almost jelly-like, in fact it doesn’t drip when trying to take a little quantity out with the butter knife.
  • Aroma: first mouldy, because of the yeast, and then you can smell traces of monosodium glutamate.
  • Flavour: extremely salty and of course yeasty because yeast is the main ingredient. Although Vegemite’s recipe includes spices and vegetable extracts, in my opinion they are not so strong to balance the combination of yeast and salt, that I would define overpowering .
  • How to eat it: Aside from the classic Vegemite toast (toasted bread, butter and a thin layer of Vegemite) and its variations, I would add it to stews or soup to give these recipes a nice umami kick.

 

 

Marmite:

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  • Colour: burnt caramel
  • Aspect: runny, it reminds caramel sauce or dulce de leche both for colour and texture.
  • Aroma: Yeasty as Vegemite but less strong in glutamate.
  • Flavour: As predicted by my nose, Marmite is less salted than its Australian opponent. After the savoury note comes the aftertaste which is slightly bitter, due to a combination of yeast, vegetable extracts and spices that, here in Marmite, I can definitely taste.
  • How to eat it: like Vegemite, on toast, but I would rather use it for the preparation of soups or stews because of its aftertaste that reminds stock cubes.

Yast spreads, you either love or hate them. I my case I ate them and my impartial choice is: Vegemite!

*In the meantime my auntie and my cousin came for a couple of days and I gave them a Marmite toast telling them it was a sweet spread like Nutella, just because I am evil and wanted to see their reactions. Both were surprise by the unexpected flavour but while my cousin was nauseated, my auntie loved it.

 

And now in Italian.

Ricordo che durante i miei lunghi mesi in Italia mi mancava l’hummus. Continuavo a ripetermi “ma di cosa ti lamenti? Il cibo italiano è tra i migliori del mondo .” Sì, indubbiamente vero, anche se quello che mi mancava davvero non era solo l’hummus, ma l’ampia scelta che Londra ha da offrire in termini di prodotti e cucine diverse. Questo testimonia come viaggiare cambi il nostro modo di pensare e in questo caso mangiare, aprendo le nostre menti a nuove avventure gastronomiche.

Ad esempio, con l’eccezione di Nutella, non ho mai considerato fondamentali le creme spalmabili. Sì, il burro di arachidi sul pane tostato una volta ogni tanto, ma non l’ho mai considerato un prodotto da non farsi mai mancare in dispensa. La settimana scorsa, mentre stavo spingendo il mio trolley in un corridoio affollato del supermercato vicino casa, ho visto la Marmite, una crema spalmabile a base di lievito, e qualcosa è scattato nella mia mente.

Mi spiego meglio, quando ero in Australia tre anni fa ho provato la Vegemite, la crema spalmabile australiana a base di lievito, perché ero curiosa provarla dopo che avevo sentito più volte ripetere: “O si ama o si odia, non c’è via di mezzo”. Queste parole suonavano come una sfida che dovevo accettare, così ho dato un’occasione alla Vegemite e devo dire che mi è piaciuta. Così quando ho visto la Marmite, il suo competitor britannico sullo scaffale del supermercato, sapevo che dovevo provare questo prodotto. Anche per scoprire da quale parte stare durante le accese discussioni tra i miei amici britannici e australiani su quale delle due creme sia la migliore.

Prima di cominciare, a quelli che si chiedono perché mai dovremmo mangiare una crema spalmabile a base di lievito, rispondo che sia la Vegemite sia la Marmite sono ricche di vitamina B e acido folico.

Il mio test:

Vegemite:

  • Colore: marrone scuro come il cioccolato fondente.
  • Aspetto: denso, quasi gelatinoso. In fatti non cola quando si prende con il coltello.
  • Aroma: si sente un odore quasi ammuffito, per via del lievito, e delle tracce di glutammato monosodico.
  • Sapore: estremamente salato con retrogusto amaro di lievito, ovviamente perché è l’ingrediente principale. Sebbene la ricetta di Vegemite comprenda spezie ed estratti vegetali, a mio parere non sono così forti da bilanciare la combinazione dominante di lievito e sale.
  • Come mangiarla: parte il classico toast con Vegemite (pane tostato, burro e un sottile strato di Vegemite) e le sue varianti, personalmente aggiungerei il prodotto a zuppe e stufati per dare un pizzico di umami al piatto.

Marmite:

  • Colore: caramello bruciato
  • Aspetto: meno densa rispetto alla Vegemite, infatti cola dal coltello. Ricorda salsa al caramello o il dulce de leche, sia per il colore e la consistenza.
  • Aroma: odora di ievito come la Vegemite, ma risulta meno forte in glutammato.
  • Sapore: Come previsto dal mio naso, la Marmite è meno salata rispetto al suo competitor australiano. Dopo la sapidità arriva il retrogusto leggermente amaro, a causa di una combinazione di lievito, estratti vegetali e spezie che, qui nella Marmite, si sente decisamente di più.
  • Come mangiarla: come Vegemite, sul pane tostato, ma piuttosto la utilizzerei per la preparazione di minestre o stufati a causa del suo retrogusto che ricorda dadi da brodo.

Vegemite o Marmite, o si amano o si odiano. Nel mio caso si amano e la mia scelta è imparziale: Vegemite!

* Nel frattempo, mia zia e mia cugina sono venute a trovarmi per un paio di giorni e ho approfittato per provare loro la Marmite dicendo loro che era una crema spalmabile dolce come la Nutella, solo perché sono cattiva e volevo vedere le loro reazioni. Entrambi erano sorprese dal sapore inaspettato ma mentre mia cugina era letteralmente disgustata, a mia zia mi è piaciuto molto.

 

How living abroad affected my cooking and eating habits

Recently, some Italian Media have started to acknowledge the overwhelming phenomenon of young Italian immigrants, wondering whether they are still reinforcing the typical stereotypes, eating habits included. Without any doubt, this topic affects me personally, because I belong to that increasing percentage of young Italians hoping for new opportunities abroad.

As I previously mentioned a couple of posts ago, I come from Molise, a region with solid culinary traditions, a place where the only McDonald’s closed in a couple of years. Not to mention the very few Chinese restaurants that are always empty and offer a kind of cuisine that is excessively far from the original one.

It was 2009 when I left for the UK. I still remember how lost and confused I felt the first time at Sainsbury’s in Holborn: I couldn’t buy anything because I wasn’t familiar with products and brands that were different from the ones I was used to buy back at home. It goes without saying that my first year in London was a disaster, because even though the city offered everything you can think about, I always cooked at home as I couldn’t really afford to eat out often. I only cooked Italian food because I couldn’t prepare anything else and, obviously, it tasted nothing like my Nonna’s food due to the poor quality of the ingredients I used to buy.

I can’t clearly remember when my habits changed, but I think it was when I started to meet and hang out with people coming from all over the world. As it naturally occurs, everyone shares their experiences, advices, in other words: their culture.

So, in these years I learnt how to cook Indian, Chinese and Japanese food. I fell in love with baklava, Spanish tapas, the particular flavour of Thai cuisine or the reassuring one of the Lebanese food.

I even learnt, there is an English cuisine and yes, I’m talking about high amount of calories, but it’s not horrible as I was told hundred times by those who go to London on holiday, and then end up eating at the worst Italian restaurant in town.

Living in England has taught me to:

  • use spices.

  • broaden my knowledge of meat.

  • cook types of fish I had never seen before

  • eat vegetables and fruit I didn’t know existed, like turnips, rhubarb and tayberries.

  • question what I know about coffee, as I wrote here.

Fellow Italians would turn up their nose, thinking that “I have been contaminated” and maybe I have, but positively, because I firmly believe that all my experiences have contributed to broaden my knowledge about food. For this reason, I think that if I ever have kids, they would not wait to be 24 to eat food from different cultures, because I will try to cook it at home.

And no, I still feel Italian, especially when I come back in the UK from Italy and my suitcases are packed with goods that make me feel close to home.

 

And now in Italian.

Ultimamente, alcuni media italiani si sono interrogati sul fenomeno dei giovani italiani che scelgono di emigrare all’estero, domandandosi quali fossero le loro abitudini, e se continuassero ad alimentare i classici stereotipi da vari punti di vista, tra cui l’alimentazione.

Ovviamente, mi sono sentita chiamata in causa, perché anche io faccio parte di quella fascia di giovani che hanno speranza di nuove prospettive al di là dei confini nazionali.

Come ho già detto in precedenza, vengo dal Molise, una regione che vanta delle solide tradizioni culinarie, per questo motivo l’unico McDonald’s che c’era in tutta la regione ha chiuso. Per non parlare di pochissimi ristoranti cinesi perennemente vuoti e con una cucina molto lontana da quella originale.

Era il 2009 quando ho preso la valigia e me ne sono andata, destinazione UK. Mi ricordo ancora, appena arrivata, quanto mi sentissi spaesata nel Sainsbury’s di Holborn: non riuscivo a fare la spesa perché non ero abituata a prodotti e marchi diversi da quelli che trovo in qualsiasi supermercato italiano. Inutile dire che il primo anno è stato un disastro, perché anche se Londra mi offriva innumerevoli tipi di cucina da tutto il mondo, avevo sempre pochissimi soldi e cercavo di mangiare fuori il meno possibile, quindi cucinavo a casa. Sempre e solo cucina italiana, perché altro non sapevo fare. Che poi il sapore fosse ben lontano dalla cucina di mia nonna, quella è un’altra storia, ma io ci provavo, con prodotti di dubbia qualità, ma ci provavo.

Non ricordo precisamente quando sia arrivato il cambiamento, ma penso dal momento in cui ho cominciato a conoscere e frequentare persone di ogni nazionalità. Come accade naturalmente, ognuno contribuisce con le proprie esperienze, ci si scambiano consigli, si condivide la propria cultura.

Così, in questi anni, ho imparato a cucinare piatti indiani, cinesi e giapponesi. Ho capito che adoro i dolci turchi, le tapas spagnole, il sapore particolarissimo del cibo tailandese e quello rassicurante della cucina libanese.

Ho addirittura imparato che esiste una cucina inglese che, sì, ha un alto impatto calorico, ma non fa schifo, come dicono tutti quelli che vanno solo in vacanza a Londra e poi vanno a mangiare al peggior ristorante italiano in città.

Grazie all’Inghilterra ho imparato a:

  • usare le spezie

  • a conoscere meglio la carne

  • a cucinare dei tipi di pesce mai visti prima

  • a mangiare verdure e frutta che non conoscevo, come il turnip, il rabarbaro e le tayberries.

  • ad ampliare le mie conoscenze riguardo il caffè, come ho già scritto in questo post.

Gli italiani campanilisti storceranno il naso, diranno che “la mia italianità è stata contaminata” e probabilmente è così, ma sicuramente con una connotazione più che positiva, perché penso che  le mie esperienze abbiano arricchito la mia conoscenza culinaria. Per questo motivo, mi è venuto da pensare che se un giorno avrò dei figli, loro non aspetteranno di avere 24 anni per mangiare del cibo di culture diverse, perché sarò io stessa a provare a cucinarlo a casa.

E comunque no, la mia italianità non è stata in alcun modo scalfita, basta aprire le mie valigie quando torno in UK dall’Italia e scoprire la quantità di formaggi e salumi che mi fanno sentire più vicina a casa.

Fresh wasabi grown in the UK, it is possible at the Wasabi Company

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My first memories about wasabi are associated to the movie called exactly Wasabi, when Jean Reno nonchalantly eats the condiment out of the package causing a surprised reaction on his colleague. Then, after several years, I tried it and it definitely was something I have never experienced before.

Along with the growing popularity of sushi as take away food, the wasabi demand has increased exponentially. However, those sachet you find in your sushi boxes hide a secret: they contain a very little quantity of wasabi, when you are lucky enough! In fact, the content is a mix of mustard, horseradish and food colouring. Personally speaking, this is a disappointment because I have been to Japan and tried the real thing, so those sachets represent a fraud. Just like those fake Italian products that I always see on the supermarket shelves, but that’s another story.

So, I started to search on the internet for a way to import the wasabi rhizome here in Europe, already thinking about infinite customs procedures, and fairly complicated growing methods. At this point, I was more than surprised when I found the Wasabi Company, the one and only farm that grows wasabi in Europe.

Based in Dorset, England, The Wasabi Company managed to reach a very important goal with their willpower and entrepreneurial attitude. Already experienced in growing watercress, the people behind the Wasabi Company spent years researching and acquiring knowledge, before choosing wasabi, which is not the easiest plant to grow. In fact, it is particularly demanding, just as its farming method, called Sawa, which implies rhizomes to grow in fresh water, shade and a moderate temperature. Complicated? Sure, but the Sawa Wasabi is said to have a more refined taste if compared to the Oka-Wasabi, which is grown in fields.

As someone said, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. It took two years to before having tangible results, and I believe it was not an easy wait when money, time and hopes are invested, but finally the first rhizomes were ready.

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Obviously, all the research, care and time spent on a single plant increase its price on the market, going from £12.50 ($20/€14.60) for 50 grams to £250 ($401/€292) per kilo. It goes without saying that the significant cost makes wasabi not affordable for everyone, just like truffles. Moreover, the rhizome is so delicate that requires some care for preparing wasabi paste, because it needs to be grated in circular motion with a special wasabi grater. Once grated, wasabi will lose its unique flavour after 15-20 minutes, therefore it is advisable to grate only as much as needed.

I believe that the Wasabi Company is moving in the right direction, because the possibility of buying just 50 grams could really help to spread the popularity of the real wasabi out of the haute cuisine world. This is already occurring, because currently, wasabi is is used in different preparations, from dressings to snacks and even in chocolate, but, honestly, I am not sure about the percentage of genuine wasabi in these products. This might be an idea for the future, something to think about at the Wasabi Company if they decide to go further.

The idea of producing wasabi in Europe is brilliant, because it would respond to the needs of a market that is rapidly expanding. Moreover, since the Wasabi Company is the only farm in the continent, I am sure they will have a huge success in spreading the real wasabi in Europe.

For further information, visit The Wasabi Company.

Disclaimer: This article expresses my own opinions and no one is paying me to write reviews.

And now in Italian.

I miei primi ricordi riguardanti il wasabi sono associati al film, che si chiama proprio Wasabi, in cui l’ imperturbabile Jean Reno mangia questa pasta verde dal tubetto, suscitando stupore nel suo collega. Dopo molti anni ho potuto provarlo, e devo dire che era qualcosa che non avevo mai provato prima.

Con la crescente popolarità del sushi come cibo da asporto (purtroppo in Italia siamo ancora indietro), la domanda di wasabi sta crescendo in modo esponenziale. Purtroppo però, le bustine che troviamo nei cestini, nascondono un segreto: contengono una piccolissima quantità di wasabi, quando siamo fortunati! Infatti, il contenuto è un mix di mostarda, rafano e colorante alimentare. Personalmente, penso che tutto ciò sia molto deludente, poiché sono stata in Giappone e ho provato il vero wasabi, quindi quelle bustine rappresentano un vero e proprio raggiro. Esattamente come quei falsi prodotti italiani che vedo sempre sugli scaffali dei supermercati, ma questa è un’altra storia.

Ho cercato su internet un modo per importare in Europa i rizomi di wasabi, già pensando ad infinite procedure doganali ed a complicatissimi metodi di coltivazione. A questo punto, ero più che sorpresa quando ho trovato Wasabi Company, l’unica azienda agricola che produce wasabi in Europa.

Con sede nel Dorset, Inghilterra, la Wasabi Company ha raggiunto un importante obiettivo con molta determinazione e spirito imprenditoriale. Già esperti nella coltivazione del crescione, i fondatori di  Wasabi Company hanno impiegato anni per ricercare ed acquisire conoscenze prima di scegliere il wasabi, che non è la pianta più semplice da coltivare. Infatti, è molto impegnativa, proprio come il metodo di coltivazione, chiamato sawa, che prevede la coltivazione del rizoma in acqua fresca, all’ombra e ad una temperatura moderata. Complicato? Sì, ma si dice che il wasabi sawa abbia un gusto più raffinato rispetto alla varietà oka, che cresce nel terreno.

Come disse qualcuno “Sperare nel meglio, ma prepararsi al peggio”. Ci sono voluti due anni per avere i primi risultati tangibili, e penso che non sia facile aspettare quando vengono investiti denaro, tempo e speranze, ma alla fine i primi rizomi erano pronti.

Certamente, la ricerca, la cura e il tempo impiegati per una sola pianta aumentano il suo costo sul mercato, partendo da £12.50 per 50 grammi a £250 per un kg. E’ ovvio che il costo importante rende il wasabi non accessibile a tutti, come per il tartufo. Inoltre, il rizoma è così delicato che richiede alcune attenzioni nella preparazione della pasta di wasabi, poiché deve essere grattugiato con movimenti circolari su una grattugia specifica per il wasabi. Una volta grattugiato, il wasabi perderà il suo sapore dopo 15-20 minuti, perciò è consigliabile grattugiare solo quello che serve.

Credo che la Wasabi Company si stia muovendo nella giusta direzione, perché la possibilità di comprare anche solo 50 grammi potrebbe contribuire a diffondere la popolarità del vero wasabi al di fuori del mondo dell’alta cucina. Tutto ciò sta già accadendo perché, al momento, il wasabi viene usato in molte preparazioni, dai condimenti agli snack e perfino il cioccolato, ma, onestamente non so quale percentuale di vero wasabi ci sia in questi prodotti. Questa potrebbe essere un’idea per il futuro, qualcosa a cui alla Wasabi Company dovrebbero pensare in caso volessero sviluppare i loro prodotti ulteriormente.

L’idea di coltivare wasabi in Europa è geniale, perchnde ai bisogni di un mercato che è in rapida espansione. In più, poiché la Wasabi Company è l’unica azienda agricola nel continente, sono sicura che avranno successo nel diffondere il gusto del vero wasabi.

Per informazioni, visitare The Wasabi Company. (Spediscono anche in Italia)

Disclaimer: questo articolo esprime il mio punto di vista e nessuno mi ha pagato per scriverlo.