tue 04/08/2020

Paul Hollywood Eats Japan, Channel 4 review - Mr Bake Off gets culture shock | reviews, news & interviews

Paul Hollywood Eats Japan, Channel 4 review - Mr Bake Off gets culture shock

Paul Hollywood Eats Japan, Channel 4 review - Mr Bake Off gets culture shock

What have the Japanese done to deserve this?

Big in Japan: Paul Hollywood with tour guide Kilara

“Paul is in Japan to eat,” announced Rebecca Front’s smart-alecky voice-over, introducing this new series for Channel 4, but he was also there to do that very British thing of wallowing in blissful ignorance of foreign customs and traditions. A Very British Travelogue, in fact.

Hollywood undertook his Big Continental Road Trip and has made cooking shows in the USA, but this was his first trip to Japan, a country about which he seemed to have made a point of knowing nothing. Perhaps he hasn’t had time to catch up on Giri/Haji, but it isn’t as if Britain is devoid of sushi bars and tempura restaurants. Although he’s Mr Bake Off, Hollywood had no idea that the Japanese have a well-developed baking culture, albeit a shorter-lived one than European countries. Thus, visiting Tokyo’s Kimuraya bakery (est. 1869), he was flabbergasted to find that the Japanese make rather good scones. “I’m in Tokyo and I’m eating something that comes straight from the Queen’s afternoon tea menu!” he spluttered.

Help was at hand from his guide, Kilara, a young comedian who spoke very good colloquial English and gently teased Hollywood’s lumbering efforts to negotiate Japanese etiquette (jabbing your chopsticks at people while you’re talking to them is greatly frowned upon, for instance.) However, he got his own back when he lured her into eating a Mos Burger – a kind of Big Mac that uses rice instead of bread – in the street, a habit deplored by the locals.

Certainly there are aspects of Japanese cuisine which one might wish to forget, like throwing wriggling live prawns into boiling oil or deep-frying the spine of a sea eel (“it’s like a Michelin-starred pork scratching,” Hollywood ventured). On the other hand, his trip to the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama was authentically mind-bending – it’s a huge chamber filled with specimens of pot noodles initially invented to combat past-World War Two war food shortages (pictured above, Michelin-starred chef Saito confronted by a British pot noodle). The Japanese also have the instant solution to eating out in the age of Covid-19, in the form of restaurants comprising individual dining booths designed for the country’s many elderly single people. But surely the ingenious, fastidious Japanese deserve better than having a big lunk like Hollywood crashing around their country.

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