Hi, I’m Laura.
You may recognise my cakes from social media posts for the Elm Tree at Elmton and the Angel & Harlequin Bistro at Spinkhill (#lauraelmtree).
I’ve been working for Chris and Jean at The Elm Tree for about a year now. The reason for this post is because I have just returned from a break in Tokyo, and Chris and Jean have asked me to tell you all about my trip.
The main reason for my holiday was to see my Japanese friend Miki. We haven’t seen each other in ages as Miki had to return to Japan after working with me here in the UK.
I had watched some TV programmes about Tokyo, hosted by actress Joanna Lumley and gardening expert Monty Don, with interest. They were good to see, but my word Tokyo is breathtakingly beautiful! I was there to see the cherry blossoms (known locally as Sakura) – they are better in real life than you can imagine!
The food in Japan is definitely something else. There are so many restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars… and they’re ALL busy! I asked Miki if we could go to places to eat where the locals would go. After all, I didn’t want to go all that way just to fill up on McDonalds, Starbucks, KFC and Burger King, which were of course all plentifully available.
One of the first things I noticed was how much white cabbage they eat… raw, cooked, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. even served in bars as a snack with a beer. Nachos and white cabbage? Yes, it’s true!
We tried so many different things… Monja (pan-fried batter dishes), Yakitori (chicken skewers), Sushi, and even a visit to a Japanese-style BBQ restaurant where you select your raw meat or fish, and cook them to your liking over the BBQ which is built into the table. Not your regular pulled pork, spare ribs or chicken nuggets here though, oh no… on offer was such delights as chicken bum, beef hearts, beef intestines, chicken livers, squid, eel and octopus. I did give the Chicken sashimi a miss though, I just couldn’t face raw poultry.
Miki said she would take us for ‘fast food’ one evening after a long walk around the zoo. This would mean a trip to one of the many Donburi (rice bowls topped with meat, fish or vegetables) restaurants dotted across the city. Very popular with local business men and women, you place your order at what looked like a glorified ATM machine inside the front door, and by the time you had collected your chopsticks and sundries, your order was ready for collection at the counter. No word of a lie, our grub was ready in less than a minute. Quicker than your local burger chain, cheaper, and healthier (well, except for the bottle of accompanying Asahi ‘Super Dry’ beer).
I must also mention briefly the unusual toast topping on offer for breakfast. Rather than egg, another option was adzuki (advertised on the menu simply as ‘bean paste’). This is best described as blended and sweetened red kidney beans. Sounds odd, but was actually quite nice served alongside some natural yogurt and honey, and a small bowl of cabbage salad.
A short journey along the hectic Tokyo metro system lead us to Ginza, where a small stall outside a fancy shop was selling anpan. This is sort of cross between a donut and a brioche roll, and filled with adzuki and buttercream. Delicious!
Then there was the stalls on the market in Asakusa selling all types of fish, mini octopus, scallops, squid and shellfish all on skewers. These were cooked on a BBQ and you ate it as you continued with your shopping. I was in Tokyo for 10 days and ate somewhere different every day, and there were still things I didn’t get round to trying. I can’t wait to go back in a few years to continue where I left off.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this and I would like to end by recommending Tokyo to anyone who wants an adventure, whether you’re in the culinary service or not.
Pastry Chef @ Elm Tree, Elmton
Laura & Miki