Tokyo stories

By TPN/PA, in Food & Wine · 29-03-2019 16:26:00 · 0 Comments
Tokyo stories

The thing about Tokyo, explains chef Tim Anderson, is that it's so vertical. "It's not just that it's busy on one level, it's busy in three dimensions - it's a bonkers city."

And that applies to the food as much as the architecture, hence why it's the subject of the London-based, Wisconsin-born restaurateur's latest cookbook, Tokyo Stories.

There are physical and geographical layers to Tokyo's food, starting with the eclectic, hi-tech vending machines on the subway; the conbini convenience stores where you can order yakisoba pan (fried noodles in a bun) or rice balls; then the street food, like yakitori (Japanese chicken skewers), tempura and ramen.

Plus there's Japanese home cooking ("Kitchens in Tokyo are very small. You might just have a microwave and a two-ring electric burner," says Anderson), followed by really fine Japanese dining, high-end stuff like kaiseki (multi-course dinners) and sushi, as well as regional foods you can't get unless you go to that region (except you can get it in Tokyo).

"I wanted to get the whole range," says Anderson, who won MasterChef 2011, and who first visited Japan in 2002 after his parents bought him a package tour as a high school graduation present. "I was barely 18, and I remember Tokyo being so crowded and bright and crazy and just with so much going on that I was actually really intimidated by it."

Now 34, he's got something of a handle - as much as it's possible - on Tokyo's madcap culinary landscape, and uses his visits to explore "unusual parts of Tokyo to find different kinds of food".

His main aim with Tokyo Stories is to convey the diversity of the food available. "You can go to Tokyo, but also go to France," he explains. "There's fantastic French food and Parisian bakeries."

"There's not a lot of cities where you can just walk in and have a good shot of getting good food, but Tokyo is that place," he says. "It may not be great, but it'll be good."

Whether you cook from the book or not, Anderson just wants people to know that "Tokyo is just an amazing city".

HIROSHIMA-STYLE OKONOMIYAKI

Ingredients:

(Makes 2 okonomiyaki, which is actually likely to be enough for 4 people)

100g plain flour

120ml dashi

3 eggs

1/2 hispi or flat cabbage, finely chopped

100g bean sprouts

150-200g tin of sweetcorn, drained

4 spring onions , thinly sliced

About 40g beni shoga (pickled ginger, available on amazon)

Vegetable oil

6 rashers streaky bacon

200g prepared squid, scored and cut into 1-cm wide strips

2 portions fresh yakisoba/egg noodles (or dried noodles, parboiled)

About 150ml okonomi sauce (available on amazon)

Kewpie mayo (100g mayo, 1/4tsp dashi, 1/4tsp Dijon mustard, salt and white pepper), as needed

A few pinches of aonori (dried seaweed)

A few pinches of sesame seeds

Handful of katsuobushi (dried smoked tuna, available on amazon)

Method:

1. Whisk together the flour, dashi and one egg to form a thin batter. In a separate bowl, toss together the cabbage, bean sprouts, sweetcorn, half of the spring onions and half of the beni shoga. Set the griddle on medium-high heat and add a little oil, spreading it out into a thin layer with a spatula.

2. Use a ladle to pour out two pancakes on the griddle, reserving about a third of the batter in the bowl. Top each pancake with the cabbage mixture, then drizzle the remaining batter on the top of each cabbage pile. Press down on the cabbage pile to flatten it slightly, and cook for about five minutes. Top each cabbage pile with three rashers of bacon, pressing them down, then deftly flip each pile so the bacon is on the bottom and the pancake is on top. Press everything down again.

3. Stir-fry the squid in a separate space on the griddle and add the noodles on top of the squid. Toss them together with about a third of the okonomi sauce, then gather them into a circle the same diameter as each pancake. Transfer the pancake-cabbage pile to the top of each circle of noodles and cook for another five minutes or so (the noodles should be nice and crisp on the bottom).

4. Meanwhile, fry two eggs on the griddle - typically the yolk is broken, but I do like a runny yolk on my okonomiyaki. When the eggs are cooked, transfer them to the top of each okonomiyaki, then cover in okonomi sauce, mayo, aonori, sesame seeds, the remaining beni shoga and spring onions and katsuobushi. Enjoy straight from the griddle, if possible.

OMURICE

Ingredients:

(Makes 1 big omurice enough for 1 hungry person, or 2 not-that-hungry persons, or 2 hungry persons who are also eating other things, like miso soup and salad and whatnot)

30g butter

1 banana shallot or small onion, diced

60g shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and diced

1 chicken thigh, boneless and skinless, cut into 1cm cubes (optional)

300g cooked rice (from 150g uncooked; rice that has been chilled in the fridge works best)

Ketchup, to taste, plus extra to serve

Soy sauce, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 eggs, beaten with 1 tbsp double cream (optional)

Method:

1. Melt half of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, then saute the shallot or onion until translucent. Add the shiitake and the chicken (if using) and saute until the mushrooms soften and the chicken is cooked through.

2. Add the rice, breaking up any clumps, and stir in the ketchup, soy sauce, salt and pepper.

3. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat, then tip in the beaten eggs and season with a little salt.

4. Cook the egg until set on the bottom but still runny on top, then gently fold the eggs over themselves so the runny bit is now in the middle. Scoop the fried rice into a mound on a plate, then tip the omelette onto the top of the rice. Serve with more ketchup, if you like.

MAPO RAMEN - SICHUAN SPICED TOFU NOODLES

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

600g-700g firm or extra firm silken tofu

Water

Big pinch of salt

2tbsp Sichuan pepper

4 dried red Chinese chillies

4tbsp vegetable oil

2 anchovy fillets (optional)

1 bird's eye chilli (or more, to taste), finely sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

15g piece of ginger root, peeled and finely shredded

300g minced pork

1tbsp preserved black beans

80g doubanjiang (black bean sauce)

1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

500ml chicken stock

1tbsp sesame oil

1 1/2tbsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with a little water

Worcestershire sauce and/or soy sauce, to taste

4 portions thick ramen noodles

For the garnish:

Small handful of coriander, roughly torn

Sesame seeds, toasted until deep golden brown

Plenty of sansho pepper

Method:

1. Cut the tofu into 2.5-cm (1-in) cubes and bring a pan of water to a low simmer along with the salt. Carefully add the tofu to the salted water and poach for 10 minutes.

2. Remove gently with a slotted spoon. Toast the Sichuan pepper and dried chillies in a dry frying pan until aromatic and beginning to colour, then leave to cool and grind to a coarse powder.

3. Add the oil to the pan and place over a high heat, then add the anchovies, if using, and the bird's eye chilli. Fry for a minute or two, then add the garlic, ginger and pork and fry until the pork is browned. Add the black beans, doubanjiang, sugar and the ground Sichuan pepper and chillies. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, so the flavours meld.

4. Add the chicken stock and sesame oil and bring to the boil, then stir in some (not all) of the cornflour-water mixture. Let the sauce boil for a few minutes to thicken, stirring continuously; add more cornflour slurry if you want it thicker (it should be quite thick so it clings well to the noodles). Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with Worcestershire and/or soy sauces. Gently stir in the tofu, using a pushing motion with the back of your spatula and shaking the pan to coat the tofu without breaking it up.

5. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the noodles until al dente. Drain well, then transfer to four bowls. Top with the hot tofu mixture and garnish with the coriander, sesame seeds and sansho.

Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Hardie Grant


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