My wife and I spent a month in Tokyo earlier this year, hitting the slopes, visiting friends and eating our way around the city. We've visited many times over the years and always find ourselves back there. The food plays a big part in the appeal.
Japan is a truly amazing country, and as a chef I'm really inspired by Japanese cuisine's precision and purity of flavours. Food is prepared with techniques that have been perfected over generations.
I remember one evening my wife and I stumbled across a very old restaurant tucked away in a Tokyo alley. It only had five tables, but the line of locals queued out the door was a good sign. With all the classic dishes like sashimi, sushi, onigiri and yakitori on the table, it's safe to say it was one of the best meals I've had the pleasure of eating.
Japanese dishes are uncomplicated and highlight the best of each ingredient used - food has integrity and is how it should be: simple!
Each time I bring a little more inspiration home with me, this time leading to the creation of my own smoked mussel okonomiyaki with a mouth-watering bacon barbecue sauce - think a refined version of the traditional mussel fritter. Some ingredients may be unfamiliar but are very easy to find at your local Chinese supermarket.
- Trent Watson is the head chef at No. 5 Church Lane in Queenstown
Smoked mussel okonomiyaki with bacon barbecue sauce
160g plain flour
4 tsp bonito flakes
2 tsp dashi (fish stock)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp celery salt
2 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
200g sliced cabbage
1 sliced spring onion
2 Tbsp coriander
2 cups chopped smoked mussels
1/4 cup pickled ginger
1 cup water
1. Blend bonito flakes and dashi to make a powder and combine with all other dry ingredients
2. Mix eggs and water into the flour mixture
3. Fold in smoked mussels, vegetables and herbs
4. Cook in a hot pan, shape into a dish and turn once
For the bacon barbecue sauce:
1 bacon rasher
1 ½ tsp sugar
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
4 Tbsp ketchup
3 ½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
A pinch of chilli flakes, to taste
1. Dice bacon as fine as possible and render in a small pan
2. Strain off fat and save, let bacon cool and crisp
3. Add fat to other ingredients
4. Grind up bacon and mix in before drizzling over the dish