The Rising Sun
What’s the fastest growing Asian cuisine at the moment? Go on – have a guess. Chinese? Taiwanese? Vietnamese? Try Japanese – according to research by Wing Yip, between 2010 and 2015 the number of Japanese-orientated restaurants in the UK rose by 67%. We can safely say that’s a good thing – it gave us the likes of Bone Daddies, Zuma, Tonkotsu, Nanban, and Roka.
Popularity in dining out on Japanese food has never been higher. Yet what we don’t often see – with the exception of Rainbo and Happy Maki – is traders who’ve taken inspiration from the Land of the Rising Sun and hiked it onto the big stage (The BSFA stage, that is). What gives?
Maybe we’re yet to see any new breakthrough talent. The sort of tenacious players who started young, and kept at it until they’d got something right. Bit like the newest permanent addition to London’s Maltby Street, Gyoza Guys – Amir and Kien developed a taste for dumplings when they were 16. ‘We would visit local Dim Sum restaurants in South London,’ says Kien. ‘As we got older and started to travel through work, we stumbled upon Japanese gyoza. The wrapper was so thin and the filling so subtle but decadent. We were hooked.’
The culmination of their research – which takes them to innumerable Japanese restaurants and beyond – is as pleasing to the ear as it is the mouth. ‘In the summer we served our gyoza with a cold soy, vinegar-dressed udon noodles (in the winter they serve them hot, because the Japanese don’t mess around when it comes to comfort food), and our tahini, wasabi and maple syrup salad. These bad boys sell themselves,’ he says. I’m not surprised.
Make no mistake, as Kien says, we’ve come a long way since sushi was introduced. But, at last, Japanese food is beginning to show its true colours.