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At the chef’s table: Adam Byatt in Japan

On a trip to Tokyo and beyond, Adam Byatt shares his favourite food finds

At the chef’s table: Adam Byatt in Japan
Adam Byatt

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What’s the story, yakitori?

The yakitori at Hachibei in the Roppongi Hills is so simple in approach, yet so amazing in execution. Gorge yourself on these incredible meat skewers, grilled over a first-rate charcoal stove and cooked by a chef who was clearly at one with his grill.

For the sake of it

Sake has a fantastic heritage and, like wine, an incredible array of varieties to choose from, although, unlike wine, vintage doesn’t actually play a part in its improvement. Take a tour of Hakusen Shuzo, a 400-year-old sake factory near Nagoya, which practises a traditional method of manufacturing mirin (fortified sweet sake), and you’ll also be treated to tastings.

Hot right now

Shinsekai, an old neighbourhood near downtown Osaka, is full of kiosks and street vendors selling takoyaki — hot snacks full of soft, sweet octopus and coated in katsuobushi (cured bonito flakes). I first tasted katsuobushi in a marketplace in Kyoto, and couldn’t help thinking it would be a great ingredient to try back home with eggs and asparagus, a dish that has since become a firm favourite of mine.

Get your octopops!

Nishiki, a 400-year-old market housed in a Kyoto alleyway, is teeming with amazing pickles, including nuka-fermented veg and katsuobushi. But the real highlights were the octopops (grilled octopus on skewers), as well as the chance to buy clams and see the sashimi prepared in front of you.

Make it at home: Poached Egg, Asparagus & Katsuobushi (serves 4)

Egg, Asparagus and Katsuobushi

Ingredients:

  • 16 spears thick seasonal English asparagus
  • 4 Clarence Court
  • Legbar eggs
  • 100g shaved katsuobushi
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1. Peel the asparagus and remove the woody stems, which are about the last 3cm of the asparagus.

2. Blanch the asparagus for three minutes in well-seasoned boiling water, before removing and refreshing in ice water. Drain and reserve on a piece of kitchen towel.

3. Poach the eggs by boiling unsalted water with 10% white wine vinegar. Swirl the water and crack each egg into a cup. Pour each egg into the moving water and allow to simmer for three minutes.

4. Remove the eggs, trim off any excess white and season well with salt and pepper.

5. Divide the asparagus on to four plates, place an egg on top and sprinkle over the katsoubushi shavings. Serve immediately.

The Chef: Adam Byatt

Adam Byatt has been cooking professionally since he was 16. A veteran of the kitchens at Claridge’s, The Berkeley and the Hospital Club, he is currently chef patron of Trinity and Bistro Union in Clapham, London. adambyatt.co.uk

Published in the September 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)