Minamoto Kitchoan, London

I first discovered this lovely little Japanese store a year ago, and have been in love with the store ever since. The store describes itself as a Japanese confectionery store which sells “wagashi” – which are traditional confectioneries served during tea ceremonies. Wikipedia has more information on wagashi here, if you’re interested.

One of the reasons I am fascinated by wagashi is the fact that so much thought and effort is put into each piece, from the actual food item down to its packaging. I have a weakness for anything that is packaged beautifully, which is not always a good thing when you’re in such a store! 😛

When you first walk into this store, you will realise almost instantly that each type of wagashi is represented by a “model” wagashi, once again beautifully presented. It’s a nice touch as you get a rough idea of what to expect inside the individual packages.

Kuzukiri – Japanese jelly made using high quality arrowroot. 2 flavours: Brown sugar (comes with brown sugar syrup), and green tea (with green tea syrup). The store says that the jelly should be mixed with the syrup, and enjoyed cold.

Oribenishiki – chesnuts and sweet red bean paste wrapped in a Japanese crepe

Sherbet – 3 flavours: mascat, white peach and grape. It can be enjoyed in two ways – either pop it into the fridge to enjoy a cold jelly, or into the freezer to enjoy a sherbet.

Sakuranbo – Japanese cherry covered with lightly sweetened jelly, packaged in spring colours. (I’ve tried this in the past and it’s delightfully light, with just the right amount of fruitiness)

Mochi – black sesame flavour, with red bean filling

Kasutera – green tea flavour (also available in chocolate and vanilla)

The kasutera pictured above is one of my favourite cakes. It’s essentially a Japanese sponge cake made from sweet rice. The texture of this cake is dreamy, as it is very light and airy… which means that one can easily consume quite a few slices of the cake in one sitting. 😀

However, all nice things come at a price. The wagashi sold here range from approximately £2-£5 per item (they can also be bought in box sets), whilst a “log” of  kasutera (~15 thin slices) costs £14. Some of the other cakes cost up to £25. Having said that, the wagashi is definitely worth a try, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Minamoto Kitchoan (London Branch)
44 Piccadilly, London W1J ODS
Tel:  44 (207) 437-3135

Opening hours: Sun-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-8pm

Note: There are also branches in Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, New York and San Jose.

Toku Restaurant, Japan Centre

I had a sudden craving for Japanese food last week, so R and I decided to go to Toku, the restaurant in Japan Centre. It’s one of our regular Japanese haunts, partly because the food is pretty good, and reasonably priced. It’s located in a brilliant location, smack in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, which probably explains why there are always people in the restaurant.

We were given complimentary wasabi peas, which are nice to snack on whilst browsing through the menu (especially if you’re starving!).

Cold oolong tea – approx £2 per can (if I remember correctly)

Pork katsu don (served with miso soup) – £12

The pork katsu don is one of my favourite Japanese rice dishes – deep fried breadcrumbed pork fillet, served with rice and an organic egg cracked over the top. It did not dissapoint, with beautifully cooked pork, and a egg that was just the right amount of runny (if that makes any sense). It’s served alongside a bowl of miso soup, which is nothing out of the ordinary.

Unagi (eel) don – £15

The unagi don is another one of my favourites, and my parents declared this dish the best when I brought them here last month. Even my sister, who is normally quite a fussy eater enjoyed this thoroughly! I think that they first grill the eel, and finish it off with a blowtorch to give it the nice random “burnt” bits, which really do add so much more to the dish. Like the pork katsu don, this is also served with miso soup. I always think of the Friends episode where Ross tries to convince Rachel and Phoebe that they need to have “unagi” to be “always prepared” for any harm that may befall them. I do try to refrain from using Ross’ unagi “hand symbol” in public though. 😛 Such a brilliant show, Friends.

Rainbow roll (8 pcs) – £15

The rainbow roll is basically a sushi roll filled with prawn and avocado, and topped with a range of fresh sashimi – eel, salmon, prawn and squid. It’s good, but not as good as another one of their rolls, which is essentially the same roll with a different topping (fresh white fish sashimi and fish roe). I didn’t have that this time around but will definitely be having it some time in the near future, so stay tuned for a photo of that! I love the plates used to serve the sushi in this place, and am still on a hunt to find something similar to add to my ever-growing plate collection.

I’m always completely stuffed when I go to Toku for a meal, and this time was no exception. Nonetheless, it did not stop me from going to Minamoto Kitchoan, which is one of the prettiest shops I’ve ever set my eyes on… and I shall blog about that next. 🙂

Restaurant Toku
The Japan Centre, 212 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HX
Tel: 020 7255 8255 Fax: 020 7434 0313

Coq au vin

Jun Tanaka is a celebrity chef over here in the UK, who makes fairly regular appearances on the food channel (which is also the most watched channel in my house). I met him at Taste of London this year, and it was very exciting! 🙂 He’s Japanese, but lives in the UK, and owns a French restaurant, and I’ve always found that combination rather amusing. My friends who have been to Pearl (his restaurant) have enjoyed his food, and it’s definitely somewhere I hope to visit in the not so distant future.

He made this dish on Market Kitchen last week, and it looked really good – which is why we decided to try cooking it during the weekend. It’s more complicated than the average “throw everything together” dinner, but was definitely worth it! I’ve realised that I have a soft spot for anything that is slow cooked… especially when it’s rainy or cold. 🙂

The chicken was tender and literally falling off the bone after being simmered for about an hour, just the way I like it. Jun serves it with boiled potatoes, but we served it with a baguette which we had at the time. It went pretty well together, and the bread was definitely handy to clean our plates! I do have to admit to taking many shortcuts when cooking this though.

Coq au vin
Adapted from Jun Tanaka’s Market Kitchen recipe

  • 500ml red wine
  • 4 chicken legs/thighs, skin on
  • 100g bacon lardons
  • 250g chesnut mushrooms
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 600ml chicken stock

1. Place the chicken legs and thighs in a large bowl, together with 50g of bacon lardons, carrots, onions, leeks, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Pour the red wine over this, and marinate overnight.
2. The next day, remove the chicken from the marinade mix, and pat dry with kitchen paper.
3. Pour some olive oil into a pan, and brown the chicken for about 2-3 minutes on each side, till golden brown. Remove from pan.
4. Using the same pan, brown the bacon lardons till the oils are released. Add the chesnut mushrooms, and marinade (from before – including the vegetables) to the pan, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.
5. Pour in the chicken stock, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
6. Season with pepper (to taste), and serve with baguette slices.

Courgette, tomato & anchovy pappardelle

I’ve always wanted to own a grater that would enable me to julienne vegetables effortlessly.. but have never managed to find one – till two weeks ago! I bought a Japanese grater when I was back home for summer, hoping that I had finally found “the one”. And I wasn’t dissapointed, as I managed to julienne the courgettes for this pasta rather effortlessly! The best thing about this is that it not only juliennes, but can also thinly slice! All I have to do is to push the two little levers on each side to switch between both functions. I’m just hoping that it stays sharp! 🙂

My new toy!

This pasta dish is very simple, and is perfect for a weekday dinner when there isn’t much time to cook. I put it together based on what I had in the fridge (taking into the account the fact that I wanted to try out my new grater, hehe) and can be adapted very easily. I’ve included a very approximate recipe here, which admittedly isn’t very well written, but I will hopefully get better at it over time.

Courgette, tomato & anchovy pappardelle
serves 3-4

  • 1 pack fresh lasagna sheets
  • 2 courgettes
  • 300g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 can (approx. 50g) of anchovies in garlic
  • 10-12 cream crackers, or 40-50g breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • pepper, to taste
  1. Cut the lasagna sheets into (approximately) 2cm strips, and boil them in salted water for 3-5 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, julienne the courgettes and halve the cherry tomatoes.
  3. Put a pan on medium heat, and heat the anchovies, followed by the cherry tomatoes and courgettes.
  4. Once everything is heated through, add the cut lasagna strips/pappardelle to the pan, and stir everything together.
  5. If using cream crackers, crush them finely to make breadcrumbs.
  6. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan, and quickly stir it through the pasta.
  7. Dish into plates, add pepper to taste, and eat!

Ham and tuna buns

Bread making is something I have attempted in the past, but the results always dissapointed me (which is why I have not attempted making bread/buns in a while!). However, I had the opportunity to visit Aunty Yochana when I was last in Singapore, who taught me how to make these buns – which turned out really well. This was of course, all done under her watchful eye. Attempting these on my own (6 months down the line) was rather scary, and I must admit to having the random bout of palpitations whilst wondering if things would turn out well.

Waiting for the scaled dough to double in size

All ready to be popped into the oven

All the waiting involved was certainly tedious, but it was worth it when the house was filled with the smell of freshly baked buns. I was happy with the texture of the buns, but I definitely need to work more on shaping the buns as no two buns looked the same! That said, I’m glad the buns turned out reasonably well, and I’ll be looking to improve on presentation next time!