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Nikkei, the infant of gastronomy, has been quietly expanding. Started in Peru around 60 years ago, at first through a personal mixing of Japanese and Peruvian cultures, Nikkei and it’s free approach to mixing tradition with creativity has been appearing on menus around the world.
It’s attractive for many reasons, borrowing the best of Japanese techniques and blending them with some of the tongue popping flavours of Latin America has proven a great success for many chefs; upon tasting it for the first time in Lima, Ferran Adrià and his brother Albert put plans in place to open Pakta - their own take on Nikkei in Barcelona.
Pakta - Barcelona
One of big winners at this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony was the Maido restaurant in Lima (they were highest risers on the list at 13). Owned and operated by chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, Maido is rooted in the philosophies and development of Nikkei cuisine and Tsumura was co-author of the world’s first comprehensive book on Nikkei cuisine, Nikkei Es Peru.
Maido - Lima
He is happy about how Nikkei is now spreading globally and it’s continued evolution as new chefs pick up what he defines as the “ Nikkei language”.
“ I love to see people liking to cook this cuisine, there are so many things to discover. It’s crazy, just within Lima - two years ago we have had probably eight Nikkei restaurants and now we have more than 20. I’m happy that now people are cooking Nikkei cuisine outside of Peru, it shows that it’s a cuisine that is not only in fashion, this stuff comes to stay. When a cuisine has strong roots, like Italian, Mexican, Peruvian, French, Japanese cuisine, you can see chefs all around the world cooking with parts of this.”
Chotte Matte - London
The spread of Nikkei is a new phase in the cuisine’s development. Five years ago you wouldn’t expect to find Nikkei in any major city other than Lima, but this is changing. There’s Chotto Matte in London, Nikkei of Peru in Washington, the aforementioned Pakta in Barcelona, Nikkei 225 in Madrid and this year Indio opened - Sweden’s first taste of Nikkei.
Indio Kitchen - Sweden
“Finally I believe Nikkei will be the future,” says Tsumura who also notes that while Nikkei is now spreading internationally, it is still developing and changing at home in Lima. “It’s not even formed yet, we are living the growth of this cuisine. We have it seen it in the teenage years. Nikkei shows so much freedom in the kitchen, no barriers.”
Nikkei of Peru - Washington
Tsumura himself has started to focus directly on the Amazon for inspiration, weaving exotic fruits of the rainforest with intense flavours of Nikkei - umami is a key for his cuisine and he spends a lot of time extracting it from various ingredients. He has also helped to form the Nikkei Association of Chefs in Peru, “all the Nikkei chefs working together, we want to do food events, dinners outside, share knowledge,” he says.
“The world of Nikkei will not only be Peru and Japan but start to incorporate other flavours from Latin America and Asia. As a culinary trend I think it will be the one that pushes forward the most.”