By alexandrawilson on 13th December 2016

Japanese food has been long reaching for many years with sushi boxes now an everyday lunch staple in supermarkets. But the influence of Japan and the country’s food culture runs much deeper than a few California rolls.
Attention to detail is laced through the Japanese approach to tasks, whether it’s the construction of a reliable car, or the fine fishmongery of a whole tuna. Nowhere else do you see such dedication, reliability and a work ethic hell-bent on perfection.
Ramen has proved an incredible global food trend, with everyone from line cook right down to customer appreciating what makes a good bowl of ramen and the need to build flavour in layers. The springy alkaline noodles being the vital conduit for the rich, wholesome broth.
Back in the day, many of you will remember I’m sure, but kitchen knives were mostly German – you were a Wusthof, or a Henckel guy – with a few rogue supporters of the French Sabatier. But in the late nineties and early 2000’s, Global began to change all that and Japanese blades infiltrated kitchens at an alarming rate. There is probably not a single restaurant kitchen that doesn’t have one of these light knives knocking around somewhere.
Today, higher quality, traditional Japanese knives are increasingly common in restaurant kitchens. Purchased from specialist knife dealers, or on extravagant research trips to Tokyo. The western obsession with Japanese knives even gave birth to a hybrid knife of it’s own, the gyotu.
Japanese cookery has always been about balance, this is a country that acknowledged and embraced umami years before we began to take note. Today dried seaweed like konbu is available widely and it’s uses go beyond traditional Japanese dishes. Of course, I can hear a few readers bring up Welsh/Cornish laverbread, but the significant difference here is that konbu has been used to enrich other dishes with glutamates, as opposed to being the main ingredient of a dish.
High-end kitchens such as Copenhagen’s Noma, to London’s Clove Club and New York’s Momofuku are utilising Japanese ingredients such as katsuobushi, and have even begun using Japanese fermentation techniques to create their own native ingredients too. Innoculating dried meats with strains of Japanese bacteria, creating a type of miso from pulses is happening more and more, with some chefs beginning to use koji as a seasoning.
Yakitori is also coming to the fore, the Japanese bar snacks are cooked and served on wooden skewers and cooked over a small grill, often charcoal, and basted with a slick of tare sauce. The bars that serve these tasty sticks of meat and fish are called izakayas and are weaving their way into UK cities. The izakaya is very similar to a stripped down tapas bar, a concept we British are all too happy to adopt.
The thing is, we still have a lot to learn and admire from the Japanese, but the way forward might not be simply copying their dishes, but utilising traditional techniques in food preparation and putting them to work in a way that fits your restaurants locality.