I have had encounters lately with food purporting to be Japanese that has just floored me. It’s not that I object to experimentation and fusion, I just think you shouldn’t tell people it’s Japanese.
My first astounding encounter was on TV. Don’t believe everything you see on TV was being illustrated as I watched, jaw hanging open as the presenter said cilantro and soft shell crab were Japanese. Now that’s just lazy, did anyone do any research or maybe their viewership is so small it’s ok to make things up? There are probably 50 people out there now who think cilantro is Japanese. That was just an example of the liberties the programme took, but you get the idea.
The second happened in a restaurant, where the edamame came drenched in a sauce that was sweet and salty. The whole point of edamame as an appetiser is that it’s meant to be dry and salty to go with beer and sake. Because it is finger food, it can’t be drippy. But the ultimate was when they deep fried a sushi roll. Yes, the entire roll in batter and deep fried. I guess if you can do it to a Mars bar, then why not sushi. It was definitely strange, but not altogether bad. Just please don’t call it Japanese food.
Japanese are truly faddy and food in Japan is constantly evolving. But I think when you’re introducing a cuisine to a wider audience in another country, how hard is it to start by doing the basics right? There are plenty of restaurants in London that do that, from the extravagant to the humble. I do hope people will try those too.
I feel the need to balance out the rant above with a positive experience of unusual pairings. I went to a sake and chocolate tasting one evening last week. That’s not something that you think immediately would be a good idea. But the chocolates had been created especially to match the sake and the result was just sublime. We were told that actually sake and chocolate go very well together because the low acidity of the sake doesn’t fight with the chocolate.
As ever, London is a fascinating place where you can find just about anything. I am looking forward to my next culinary adventure, good or bad.