FOOD from the Far East is as popular as ever, so learning more about Japanese cuisine proved a rewarding evening. The pop-up restaurant night at the Albany in Deptford last month was a warm affair – communal tables, Tsingtao beer, while artwork from local primary school pupils provided a welcoming backdrop to sticky rice and miso.
The Yam Yam festival, a celebration of the arts and food running until March 15, is an opportunity to explore culinary prowess and feast on creativity. I picked an evening with Yuki Goma (of Yuki’s Kitchen), which mixed conversation and demonstration with a whole lot of eating.
Things kicked off with sushi and we made tempura prawn cones – in my case not particularly well. Dipping them in wonderful Japanese mayonnaise that’s made from bean curd and a hint of chilli, it was a good start.
After many struggled to find conical perfection but tucked in regardless we were then served courses prepared by Yuki. She talked us through their wonders and although the hands-on side subsided, the journey continued.
Tofu pillows of rice arrived, sat with teriyaki chicken skewers that were sticky and delicious. Their umami flavours provided a welcome kick alongside the gentle cushions of starchy happiness.
Next were baked aubergines, slathered in miso paste. We were each given one but, thankfully, there were spare. I’m a big fan of the vegetable in any form – and these rivalled a Breton ratatouille or moussaka.
The main course was pork, marinated in a long list of ingredients I can’t begin to recount now. While a little overcooked, they were nice slabs of pig. And the accompanying sweet sesame-covered green beans and Japanese coleslaw were lovely.
Last on the list was a desert inspired by Italy: Japanese tiramisu. Telling my Nonna – Italian grandmother – about it, she didn’t take kindly to the idea, but I happily proclaim its worth. The sponge was covered in thick green tea mascarpone and the azuki bean paste was everything it should’ve been. It was an enticing fusion of cultures.
The night was good and, although sushi remains far easier to eat than cook, there’s a lot to be said in its growing demand and really we should all start understanding more about it. Being able to use chopsticks just isn’t enough anymore.