Food Nov / Dec 2020

Home grown

For many Brits, it’s their first Christmas in Japan

While summertime activities were curtailed this year due to Covid-19, we had hopes that winter would find friends and family gathering once again for delightful banter and delicious British flavours. We’re not out of the woods yet, so social distanc­ing still plays a role in our culinary lives. But that doesn’t mean the season’s delights are off the table. ACUMEN checked in with some of Japan’s best F&B purveyors to get tips for the holidays.

Set the mood

“To my mind, nothing tops a great Sunday roast when it’s cold and grey outside,” said Adrian Jones, founder of online British delicatessen Thomas & Green. “I first started cooking them for our family when we lived in the UK, and it’s a quintessentially British tradition that has followed us here to Japan”.

Thomas & Green specialises in high-quality artisan products shipped direct from the UK and offers nationwide delivery in Japan. Jones said that he started the business because he wanted to help spread the message that there’s much more to the contemporary British food scene than cream teas and fish ’n’ chips. “British food has been much maligned over the years, but that has really changed over the past couple of decades,” he said. “I think we can be justly proud of the range and quality of British-produced food now available”.

Many of the condiments imported from the UK are great accompaniments for fish, particularly salmon. And while there are many choices in Japan—including that imported from Norway or the homegrown fall chum of Hokkaido—it is sustainably raised Scottish salmon that is making waves with Japanese chefs.

As the Scottish Salmon Company’s Japan Representative, Hiroshi Kawasaki, explained, “Scottish salmon is farmed in very cold and clean water, so there is no risk of parasite and it is good for sashimi use”.

Sales have grown substantially over the past few years, and Japan is now the fourth largest export market outside the European Union, worth £9.2mn.

Popular flavours

“Our range of hand-blended stuffings for roast dinners have proved popular with expats, as have traditional British favourites such as mint sauce and creamed horseradish,” Jones said. “Other popular lines include our traditional pickles, piccalilli and chutneys, and a range of rapeseed-based dipping oils and dressings from Yorkshire-based Charlie & Ivy’s. Also very popular is our extensive range of vegan and gluten-free produce, which includes biscuits and confectionary as well as ingredients”.

Swan & Lion Christmas pudding

Ian Gibbins, founder of the Swan & Lion deli­catessen and bakery in Chiyoda Ward, is looking forward to the holidays and gearing up for a busy season of online sales.

“Christmas is our busiest time of year, with Christmas puddings, mince pies and brandy butter easily topping our sales numbers. We have a special pie with the tastes of UK Christmas—roast chicken, our homemade ham with sage and thyme in an infused béchamel sauce—and we have added a cranberry sauce to our seasonal line-up this year,” he said.

“With so many of us being unable to return home this holiday season, we are currently working on a Christmas lunch pack to help people celebrate Christmas properly at home, with limited oven space. Roast turkey breast, stuffing, pigs in blankets, gravy and cranberry sauce—all cooked in our kitchen the proper way. We will deliver frozen with easy reheating for the customer. Stay tuned to our social media for details”.

Gibbins added that they will be offering a take­out Christmas lunch box at the shop leading into the 25th, something he said is always hugely popular with Japanese lunch customers.

Seasonal suggestions

Jones echoed Gibbins’ wish to help people celebrate Christmas properly at home, saying that part of Thomas & Green’s mission is to share some of the cooking tricks and tips they’ve picked up over the years. “We’ve written about roasting before, and we’ll be adding a lot more content in the run-up to Christmas on topics such as cooking roast potatoes and roasting turkey. All the content is free, and visitors can sign up to our regular newsletter for more tips and monthly special offers”.

As part of a special Christmas collection, Thomas & Green will be adding seasonal items such as advent calendars and curating regularly available stuffings, sauces, condiments, cheese accompani­ments and more.

And for those who prefer fish, the Scottish Salmon Company’s Hiroshi Kawasaki told ACUMEN that his favourite dish for this time of year is Salmon Wellington. “This is the best menu for me in winter, and it feels like being in Scotland”. He also recom­mended Scottish salmon grilled with butter and herbs for Japanese diners looking for a taste of Scotland this winter.

Whatever you choose to serve at your holiday table, don’t forget to pair it with a delectable wine. We cover one such option, Vranken-Pommery Monopole’s sparkling Louis Pommery England Brut.