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Convenience stores in Tokyo are magical; ELLA WALKER CHATS TO RESTAURATEUR TIM ANDERSON ABOUT HIS NEW COOKBOOK, TOKYO STORIES, A CULINARY LOVE LETTER TO THE BUZZING JAPANESE CITY'S CUISINE.

Byline: ELLA WALKER

THE thing about Tokyo, explains chef Tim Anderson, is that it's so vertical. "It's not just that it's busy on one level, it's busy in three dimensions - it's a bonkers city."

And that applies to the food as much as the architecture, hence why it's the subject of the London-based, Wisconsin-born restaurateur's latest cookbook, Tokyo Stories.

There are physical and geographical layers to Tokyo's food, starting with the eclectic, hi-tech vending machines on the subway; the conbini convenience stores where you can order yakisoba pan (fried noodles in a bun) or rice balls; then the street food, like yakitori (chicken skewers), tempura and ramen.

Plus there's Japanese home cooking ("Kitchens in Tokyo are very small. You might just have a microwave and a two-ring electric burner," says Tim), followed by really fine Japanese dining, high-end stuff like kaiseki (multi-course dinners) and sushi, as well as regional foods.

"I wanted to get the whole range," says Tim, who won MasterChef 2011, and who first visited Japan in 2002 after his parents bought him a package tour as a high school graduation present. "I was barely 18, and I remember Tokyo being so crowded and bright and crazy and just with so much going on that I was actually really intimidated by it."

Now 34, he's got a handle on Tokyo's madcap culinary landscape, and uses his visits to explore "unusual parts of Tokyo to find different kinds of food".

Tim, who runs Japanese soul food restaurant Nanban in South London, has been trying to track down specialities particular to the city - which was tough, because it turns out capitals don't really have them.

"That's partly because food is connected to agriculture, and there's not really any agriculture in the city." But outside of Tokyo's most "bonkers" districts, he did unearth dishes specific to the fishing communities of Tokyo Bay, and also found that, actually, "it's not crazy in some parts of town. Some parts of Tokyo are really serene and you can breathe, and there are parks, and school children and sky and old ladies."

His main aim with Tokyo Stories is to convey the diversity of the food. "You can go to Tokyo, but also go to France," he says. "There's fantastic French food and Parisian bakeries."

In fact, "there's a lot of everything," he says.

Most intriguing of all, perhaps, are the convenience stores, which Tim says are "very special". "Sometimes I think they're my about Japan generally," he adds.

Each branch receives multiple deliveries a day, so fresh produce is never on the shelf for long.

"And then they're cooking in there too," Tim buzzes. "You can get fried chicken in the convenience store! They take it out of hot cupboards, but they're cooking throughout the day."

Then there's steamed buns and vats of dashi bobbing with vegetables, and bottled ice teas in every flavour.

"They're magical places," Tim declares.

He makes it sound like you'd struggle to find fault with any of the city's food. "I've been to my fair share of bad ramen shops, it's not like it's a paradise of perfect food everywhere," he concedes, "but it's pretty close."

| Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Hardie Grant, priced PS26.

Makes savoury pancakes HIROSHIMA-STYLE OKONOMIYAKI 4 savoury pancakes HIROSHI OKONO INGREDIENTS: (MAKES TWO OKONOMIYAKI, WHICH IS ACTUALLY LIKELY TO BE ENOUGH FOR FOUR PEOPLE) 100g plain flour; 120ml dashi; 3 eggs; 1/2 hispi or flat cabbage, finely chopped; 100g bean sprouts; 150-200g tin of sweetcorn, drained; 4 spring onions, thinly sliced; about 40g beni shoga (pickled ginger, available on amazon); vegetable oil; 6 rashers streaky bacon; 200g prepared squid, scored and cut into 1-cm wide strips; 2 portions fresh yakisoba/egg noodles (or dried noodles, parboiled); about 150ml okonomi sauce (available on amazon); Kewpie mayo (100g mayo, 1/4tsp dashi, 1/4tsp Dijon mustard, salt and white pepper), as needed; a few pinches of aonori (dried seaweed); a few pinches of sesame seeds; handful of katsuobushi (dried smoked tuna, available on amazon).

METHOD: 1. Whisk together the flour, dashi and one egg to form a thin batter. In a separate bowl, toss together the cabbage, bean sprouts, sweetcorn, half of the spring onions and half of the beni shoga. Set the griddle on mediumhigh heat and add a little oil, spreading it out into a thin layer with a spatula.

2. Use a ladle to pour out two pancakes on the griddle, reserving about a third of the batter in the bowl. Top each pancake with the cabbage mixture, then drizzle the remaining batter on the top of each cabbage pile. Press down on the cabbage pile to flatten it slightly, and cook for about five minutes. Top each cabbage pile with three rashers of bacon, pressing them down, then deftly flip each pile so the bacon is on the bottom and the pancake is on top. Press everything down. 3. Stir-fry the squid in a separate space on the griddle and add the noodles on top of the squid. Toss them together with about a third of the okonomi sauce, then gather them into a circle the same diameter as each pancake. Transfer the pancake-cabbage pile to the top of each circle of noodles and cook for another five minutes or so (the noodles should be crisp on the bottom). 4. Meanwhile, fry two eggs on the griddle - typically the yolk is broken. When the eggs are cooked, transfer them to the top of each okonomiyaki, then cover in okonomi sauce, mayo, aonori, sesame seeds, the remaining beni shoga and spring onions and katsuobushi. Enjoy straight from the griddle, if possible.

2. Add any omurice AKA SEASONED RICE TOPPED WITH AN OMELETTE - AND KETCHUP!

4. on omurice AKA topped omelette INGREDIENTS: (Makes one big omurice enough for one hungry person, or two not-that-hungry persons, or two hungry persons who are also eating other things, like miso soup and salad and whatnot) 30g butter; 1 banana shallot or small onion, diced; 60g shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and diced; 1 chicken thigh, boneless and skinless, cut into 1cm cubes (optional); 300g cooked rice (from 150g uncooked; rice that has been chilled in the fridge works best); ketchup; soy sauce; salt and pepper; 3 eggs, beaten with 1 tbsp double cream (optional).

METHOD: 1. Melt half of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, then saute the shallot or onion until translucent. Add the shiitake and the chicken (if using) and saute until the mushrooms soften and the chicken is cooked through.

2. Add the rice, breaking up any clumps, and stir in the ketchup, soy sauce, salt and pepper.

seasoned rice with an - AND KETCHUP!

3. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a non-stick frying pan over a mediumhigh heat, then tip in the beaten eggs and season with a little salt. 4. Cook the egg until set on the bottom but still runny on top, then gently fold the eggs over themselves so the runny bit is now in the middle. Scoop the fried rice into a mound on a plate, then tip the omelette onto the top of the rice. Serve with more ketchup, if you like.

y heart MAPO RAMEN - SICHUAN SPICED TOFU NOODLES goodness INGREDIENTS: (SERVES FOUR) 600g-700g firm or extra firm silken tofu; water; big pinch of salt; 2tbsp Sichuan pepper; 4 dried red Chinese chillies; 4tbsp vegetable oil; 2 anchovy fillets (optional); 1 bird's eye chilli (or more, to taste), finely sliced; 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced; 15g piece of ginger root, peeled and finely shredded; 300g minced pork; 1tbsp preserved black beans; 80g doubanjiang (black bean sauce); 11/2tbsp caster sugar; 500ml chicken stock; 1tbsp sesame oil; 11/2tbsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with a little water; Worcestershire sauce and/or soy sauce, to taste; 4 portions thick ramen noodles. For the garnish: Handful of coriander, torn; sesame seeds, toasted until deep golden brown; Sansho pepper.

METHOD: 1. Cut the tofu into one inch cubes and bring a pan of water to a low simmer with the salt. Carefully add the tofu and poach for 10 minutes. 2. Remove gently with a slotted spoon. Toast the Sichuan pepper and dried chillies in a dry frying pan until aromatic and beginning to colour, then leave to cool and grind to a coarse powder. 3. Add the oil to the pan and place over a high heat, then add the anchovies and the bird's eye chilli. Fry for a minute or two, then add the garlic, ginger and pork and fry until the pork is browned. Add the black beans, doubanjiang, sugar and the ground Sichuan pepper and chillies. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

4. Add the chicken stock and sesame oil and bring to the boil, then stir-in some of the cornflour mixture. Let the sauce boil for a few minutes to thicken, stirring continuously; add more cornflour mix if you want it thicker (it should cling well to the noodles). Taste and adjust seasoning with soy or Worcestershire sauces. Gently stir in the tofu and shake the pan to coat it. 5. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the noodles until al dente. Drain, then put in bowls. Top with the tofu mixture and garnish with sesame seeds, coriander and sansho.

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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Date:Mar 16, 2019
Words:1570
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