Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wagamama ... Japanese food culture home and abroad

Wagamama. What a great word! What resonance! A word that really gets the mouth working. One of those words that would feel right at home in many a language.

Wagamama, which basically means "selfish" in Japanese, is the name of the Japanese noodle chain that is taking Britain by storm. Stores opening all over the place. Taking a quick browse through the Wagamama website, I notice that the dishes' ingredients are described in a mixture of Japanese and English. Japanese food/cooking words now being bandied around in English include: teppan, yaki, udon, ramen, shiitake, soba and kamaboko.

As anybody who has spent any time in Japan knows, 90% of all conversation between Japanese nationals concerns food. On one lazy afternoon, I found all 5 terrestrial channels showing cooking programs. Not good news if you are a philistine in the kitchen. If you could delve deep into the "Japanese psyche" and find the one thing of which the Japanese are collectively most proud, I would wager (and a hefty amount too) it would be Japanese food. A few years ago, that faith in the supremacy of Japanese food would have raised a few eyebrows in the UK, and this unwithering faith used to piss me off something rotten. But, as shown by the Wagamama noodle chain, Japanese food has been gaining in popularity over the last few years and now appears to have slipped quietly into mainstream food culture in the UK.

Books on Japanese food (designed for use abroad) are no longer a rarity. One of the recent recipe success stories, specifically written for those not in Japan, is Harumi's Japanese cooking. We used it while back in Britain ... and there weren't too many complaints.

But if you are within Japan's borders, and are after a witty and informative read on Japanese food and cooking, then you can't go far wrong with my mate, John Ashburne's Lonely Planet book, World Food Japan. Cheap at half the price? Cheap at double the price? Take your pick.

A Dictionary of Japanese Food by a former colleague, Richard Hosking, is also another decent read on food culture in Japan.


Blogger JapanVisitor said...

Yes, but have you eaten there? I believe wagamama started in London and is a Chinese owned companyserving Japanese food. Good, nice tables and decor but Chinese/Japanese noodles.

12:45 AM  
Blogger jh said...

Nope, I haven't. Have you JV?

Have been wondering how "authentic" the food is at Wagamama. Not that it matters if it tastes good. Who owns the noodle anyway, the Chinese or the Japanese?

7:22 AM  
Blogger JapanVisitor said...

Depends who you ask of course....most people in London wouldn't care...

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

neither chinese or japanese, it's own by the investors and the majority is by lion capital, you can read about the company in their website.

4:41 AM  

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