The Hairy Bikers Asian Adventure – Tokyo

Following on from their adventures in Hong Kong and Thailand this pair of British TV personalities fulfilled a lifetime ambition when they came to Japan for a couple of weeks. Two Japan shows have been filmed and the first one, which aired on BBC2 last Thursday, was centred around their time in the gastronomic capital of the world known as Tokyo.

You can watch the episode here

As the programme gets under way it is actually the sound of ‘Japanese Boy‘ by Anekawhich plays over the top rather than the usual ‘Turning Japanese‘ track but of course that gets used later on in the programme.

Now I’d never seen anything by the Hairy Bikers (Si King and Dave Myers) before but over the four episodes of this series (thus far) it is quite easy to see how these two over-weight middle-aged men with beards and tattoo’s have been accepted in to so many peoples living rooms each week. They come across as such nice, likeable chaps with their warm infectious enthusiasm and easy to understand style. The presentation can seem a bit kid-like at times but its that simplicity which I’m fond of. Their strong and passionate interest in the country, its food and everything else was nice to see and they were just laughing and enjoying themselves whilst never making fun of the locals.

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They start off in Akihabara at a maid cafe (above) but not the one I took my recent guest  to the other week! The duo learn about kawaii culture at ‘Maid Dreamin‘ and Si is given a heart shaped omurais (rice omelette) with a ketchup drawn cat added by the maid. Dave has a bear katsu curry rice dish. They didn’t say it but you can sense that this kind of place is a bit weird for the pair.

Their first cooking showcase takes place on the banks of the Sumida-gawa river where they cook tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet) (below left) and then, 20 years of dreaming comes true for the guys when they go to Tsukiji fish market with a 4am start at the place where 2000 tonnes of fish arrive everyday from all around the globe. We’re told that Japan eats three times more fish than the UK which surprised me as I would’ve thought it was way higher than that. Of course fish is very important for Japanese cuisine and they say that Japanese sushi is overtaking some sandwiches as the choice of lunch for many British people.

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Anyway, Dave gets to make and serve his own sushi (above right) which may sound like a very simple thing (and it kind of is!) but for a chef like him its very exciting he’s truly delighted to have done it and was grinning like a young kid who just got the cream.

Now, some people may turn their noses up at them making a California roll (which they do at Kiyosumi Gardens teahouse) but you’ve got to remember that they are making this programme for a British audience of whom a majority may be put off by the nori(seaweed) being on the outside of the roll. Hopefully by starting on such dishes (below) some Brits will hopefully gain a taste for it and move on to the real thing afterwards.

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Ryogoku is next for a spot of sumo action (below) but not watching it. Instead they eatchanko nabe hot pot with their host and two other huge wrestlers who they inevitably have a sumo fight with, whilst wearing the proper wrestling attire that Karl Pilkington didn’t quite wear in ‘An Idiot Abroad‘ in 2011. Yet again their enthusiasm shines through and they end up gaining a better understanding of a sport that they knew very little of beforehand.

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“A miso soup a day keeps the doctor away” is a new one on me but the bikers are keen to make rice miso which they did somewhere in Chiyoda-ku with a group of women (below) who they agree to prepare something for. The Japanese ladies of course react to the tasting in true Japanese TV-style which is always over the top and very predictable!

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Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown‘ on CNN at the end of last year focused on Tokyo nights and that side of the city is further explored here as they go out on the lash with three sararimen (business men). I always tell people back home that a night out in Japan is a little different with food dishes replacing a bag of crisps. Thankfully though the beer is always flowing and the guys, wearing ties and jackets, sample a range of yakitoricooked from the heart which is what the chef tells them.

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You see, the chef in ‘The Ramen Girl‘ (2008) wasn’t just making it up when he told Brittany Murphy’s character that the food has to come from the heart. Whatever they do the Japanese pour their heart and soul into it and appreciate and respect food of all levels as indeed do the hairy bikers and I now look forward to the next episode where they travel to other parts of Japan.

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