South East Asia comes to London with HYPER JAPAN

This year’s HYPER JAPAN, the UK’s self-styled “biggest J-culture event”, saw the festival bring its boldest foodservice offering yet to the capital

Held from 14-16 July at London’s Tobacco Dock, HYPER JAPAN’s organisers promised a reinvigorated foodservice offering for 2017 and did not disappoint. South-East Asian cuisine – from sushi to katsu curry – was well represented amidst an explosion of Japanese culture.

Guests were greeted with a cocktail of enticing aromas – the food court, sandwiched between the games section and one of the main event theatres, was the event’s runaway success. With queues snaking around the lower ground floor to sample Peko Peko’s signature gyoza dumplings, enthusiasm for Japanese cuisine among European diners was evident.

Highlights included freshly prepared sushi courtesy of Mai Taiko, as well as some treats from further afield; Hong Kong egg waffles, a bubbly take on their Belgian counterparts, were served up by Miso Hungry, packed with ice cream, marshmallows and Nutella. A capacious carton of bubble tea provided the perfect accompaniment.

Street food was a major focus at this year’s festival with the addition of Shoreditch’s Urban Food Fest to the lineup. Italian, Jamaican and Korean vendors all contributed to HYPER JAPAN’s most global show yet; each stall offered a Japanese fusion dish, reflecting the growing popularity for food transcending national boundaries on street food stalls and restaurant menus alike.

The culinary delights didn’t stop there; proceeding upstairs to the ground floor offered a whirlwind tour of Japanese foodservice. Traditional and modern came together in the exhibition’s sake and craft beer sections, while the Japanese sweet zone offered some interesting insights into Japanese eating patterns. Big exporters like Meiji were well represented, as well as smaller producers not usually available outside Japan; attendees had their pick of sweet souvenirs.

From Tokyo to Tobacco Dock

Although HYPER JAPAN is a celebration of all Japanese culture, the popularity of the culinary element and the organisers’ emphasis on fusion cuisine this year highlights foodservice’s pivotal position. Asian food continues to break out of speciality supermarkets and events into the European and American mainstream.

The event also demonstrated how far South-East Asian cuisine is evolving as it continues to penetrate Western markets. Chicken Katsu burgers and American-inspired craft beer might seem like sacrilege to traditional chefs and brewers, but their popularity in the street food stalls and bars of London is indisputable.

Japanese cuisine’s status in Western culture is well established, but its growth and evolution is continuing among small-scale sellers, gourmet restaurants and big caterers. Foodservice professionals of all kinds need to be on top of insights and developments in these areas. HYPER JAPAN is the perfect place to start.

Thomas Lawrence

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