Grains of truth: why rice is the world’s best-loved staple

Rice is boring – or so this author thought, until a trip to north-eastern Japan. There he discovered the profound reasons why it is so highly prized the world over Allow me to introduce you to a legend of the rice world, Katsuyuki Furukawa. He is the greatest rice farmer in Japan, winner of the country’s “best rice” competition for five years in a row, grower of rice so exceptional that, in the end, the organisers asked him very politely not to enter again, and gave him a special diamond lifetime achievement award instead.His rice tastes really, really good. Continue...

Japan’s Yanagiya – is this the best restaurant on the planet?

This invitation-only restaurant near Nagoya holds the No 1 spot on Tabelog, Japan’s most popular dining website. And no wonder: the skewers of fat-cloaked duck, boar and venison are grilled to perfectionAnointing the “best restaurant in the world” has become a mini-industry. Last week, the Black Swan – a country pub in North Yorkshire – was given the accolade based on TripAdvisor ratings. But humour me for a moment because I think I have the answer. If we accept that Japan is the greatest food nation on Earth, with the most discerning eaters and the most advanced restaurant culture (Michelin, for what it’s worth, agrees, as do all of the chefs I’ve ever met), then it seems at least arguable that the very best restaurant in the world might also be in Japan.What does the world’s 50 best list say? For many years, according to its voters, the best Japanese restaurant in the world was not even in Japan, so let’s not waste any more time with them. Perhaps, in this day and age, it is to the hive mind of a user-generated restaurant review sites that we should turn. Japan’s most popular restaurant website is tabelog.com. It is used by 60 million visitors every month, and more than 20 million diners have placed a review grading restaurants from one to five. Interestingly, considering the petulance, lies and score-settling that plague user-generated review sites in the UK, Tabelog’s contributors tend to be well-informed, with a clear focus on the quality of the food. Continue...

What would the Japanese make of Britain’s ‘fake sushi’ scandal?

The author of a study about the wrong fish being used in our sushi blamed Brits’ fish ignorance. But even in the home of the delicacy, punters aren’t that picky about what’s on their nigiriA study published by Salford University reports that sushi lovers in Manchester and Liverpool don’t know what type of fish they are eating. Speaking to the Observer, a co-author of the study, Prof Stefano Mariani, blamed the hapless consumer for the “fake sushi” scandal.Part of the problem, Mariani suggested, is that British people “know little about fish”, and can identify just two out of six common varieties shown to them. Continue...

No cream cheese, chatting or gloves: inside the Global Sushi Challenge

The winner of this gruelling, 14-country competition to find the world’s best sushi chef must combine precision, creativity and speed – as well as high-end hospitality skills and very a thick skinThe man behind the counter moves as slowly as an ancient, majestic Galápagos tortoise. This is Jiro Ono, the greatest sushi chef in the world.It’s the last week of November, and I’m in Tokyo to be a judge at the final of the Global Sushi Challenge, a new competition to find the world’s best sushi chef, and have stopped by Jiro Sushi for lunch to get a benchmark. Jiro-san, who turned 90 last month, is a national treasure in Japan and is now famous worldwide, thanks to the 2013 documentary Jiro: Dreams of Sushi. Continue...