When people think of Japanese food, the first thought that usually comes to mind is the stereotypical sushi. This isn’t hugely surprising, as sushi is one of Japan’s flagship cultural exports; however there is a lot more to Japanese cuisine, which is naturally nutritious, and based around superfresh, seasonal products.
High street chains have done much to popularise a sushi culture, making it the poster boy of Japanese cuisine. But does that mean it’s the only authentic style out there?
John Jones, director and head chef of Yatai – a casual Japanese restaurant in Aberdeen, has an interesting viewpoint on that age old culinary debate of what is deemed “authentic”.
The word itself? We all know that it means genuine, real and true. When applied to food however, that definition can become blurred.
John explains: ‘Let’s start with our own, infamous cuisine here in Scotland. ‘Haggis is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with unwanted bits of sheep, oatmeal, onions and lots of black pepper. There is no proof of where it came from – food historians have different ideas of origin; some that it came from England in the 14th century, others that it was from Roman times.
‘To my mind, when it comes to authenticity, everything is constantly changing. No chef will intentionally make the same dish in exactly the same way as another chef making the same style of food, otherwise there is no point in having your own restaurant.’
John has been cooking Japanese food for nearly 20 years now. He always tries to follow the Japanese cuisine traditions of eat fresh, eat seasonal and eat local, with Yatai growing a lot of their own produce.
John said: ‘As I see it, it is not the actual ingredients that make Japanese food “authentic”, but the philosophy behind it, and this is what I try to stay true to.’