Food I will travel thousands of miles just to enjoy it at any price, obsessed yes probably, it is the driving force in my life.

Where do I go to eat the best? Japan, surely the worlds best and most important food culture.
It has filtered through into other cultures food history, but the source seems to have been denied. kaiseki style has been adopted the world over the best ingredients in their peak, served in a series of small dishes of tastes and textures irrevocably linked to each other making an edible narrative of time and place.

Cuisine nouvelle a stripping back of the old layers of food history and heavy sauces an eye for detail and presentation and good health. this style owes much to Japan.
Sushi is currently taking over the world sometimes in a good way sometimes badly executed but a part of worldwide food culture.
Japan is food focused it has remained a closed culture for centuries looking inward has helped the distillation of the finest products and styles of cuisine. Could wagyu beef have happened anywhere else Zen vegetarianism a food style raised to greatness over centuries not decades.

All of the styles in Japan seen to have come to popular culture by the harder path, soba for instance is one of the most difficult things to make but perseverance pays off it has become an important cuisine generating much respect for the chefs and the worldwide demand for soba has even brought it to our shores.

Sushi a global phenomenon began humbly as a form of preservation rice was used as the preserving medium and the fish was buried within it and left for up to a year.
Osaka style sushi remains the closest to the old style it was normal to fill the cavity with vinegered rice and press it, some times wrapped in bamboo leaf which has antibacterial properties.

There was no refrigeration so sushi in its modern form did not make an appearance to much later in the 40s-50s even Toro probably the most revered cut of the tuna is a recent introduction to the sushi pantheon it was a government promotion to make use of all the tuna as before this cut was not eaten and discarded.

Product is all-important in Japan the source and the quality are of premium importance.
A certain reverence is directed to the product be it a eel or a chicken I think Shinto has played a large part in this attitude everything has its own soul from a grain of rice to a tin can.
Respect for what you eat is slowly filtering back to England the farmers markets are making their way into daily life, backlash to the supermarkets the markets are playing a part in this along with the media especially TV chefs promoting the joys of the organic and free-range the slow food movement making inroads into the uk.
More people are eating better products and being educated into going out of their way to get a better tasting chicken that has had a better life and been treated with respect.

Japan has a greater respect for the seasons, the anticipation is palpable waiting for the start of the season of Matsutake or Bamboo is so important.

An explosion of cherry blossom is a major celebration throughout Japan and as the trees blossom from the warmer south to the north a wave of matsuri celebrating the new beginning; sweep the country along with local seasonal foods being enjoyed again in their own season.
This is a very important yearly passage that the whole of Japan is totally gripped by,TV crews give daily reports from Yoshino on the state of the blossom.

Prefecture is so important the produce being promoted and transported throughout Japan to the countries markets and restaurants chefs who have started their own business seeking foods from their hometown and bringing it to a wider audience.
Akita is famous for its rice Kagoshima for its pork Ishikawa for fish and all are held in high esteem for their quality and flavour.

Sake Has made a return to popular culture but breweries are still closing now export of premium sake is starting to spiral as there is a global market for this wonderful product, it will save and promote the industry, this brings me back to the theory of the harder path makes things better.
Sake brewing is a difficult and physically intensive product but a wonderful flavour and depth just from rice and water koji and yeast hundreds of different flavours from the humble grain of rice.
Markets play an important part of the social structure of the Japanese not just buying food but keeping the farmers and producers funded holding the community together by meeting each other on a weekly basis, not of course forgetting the human need for the latest gossip.
In addition, cooked food stalls yatai featuring local dishes rarely seen out side of their locale keeping the locals and food history intact, long may they continue.
The big departo stores are full of historic foods, downstairs the food halls are filled with small independent specialists keeping food alive the products here are of great provenance and a high standard and many are produced in-store keeping it fresh and immediate.
As a foreigner the standards reached in food production and presentation in Japan is totally unrivalled anywhere else in the world, there are more food programmes food literature and quality restaurants here than anywhere I can think of.
The rest of the world is uneducated in the deep passion for food that the Japanese people have.
So much so that when lists of the best restaurants are made as they are, invariably none contain any restaurant from Japan when my feeling is that the best are in fact all in Japan.
Finally the Michelin guide has published the guide to Tokyo featuring more starred restaurants than Paris and this is only the first issue.
I feel now slightly justified in my long held views , It is also why I travel to japan at every opportunity to Travel to Japan just to eat.
Japanese chefs work hard and have a respect for food from their culture and others hence some of the best French and Italian restaurants in Japan are headed up By Japanese chefs.
I am in debt to them all for their hard work and skills to allow me my guilty pleasure to enjoy the greatest culinary culture in the world.

japan times
ryokan kurashiki
toyoko inns
danny choo
jean snow

© 2009 paul hughes Contact Me