The Big Easy: Japaneasy review

Nanban’s Tim Anderson says anyone can turn Japanese

After winning Masterchef and popping up left right and centre all over London, Tim Anderson is now firmly bedded in Brixton at Nanban. An evangelist for Japanese cooking, Anderson is on a bit of a mission to prove anyone can cook Japanese food with his new cookbook Japaneasy (geddit). Nick Buglione popped in for a chat. Want to give Japaneasy a go? Check out Tim’s crowd pleasing  Sweet miso-glazed aubergine recipe.

Why do you think Japanese food has a reputation for being difficult?
People think they can’t get the ingredients, that it is all about ancient techniques and delicate, precise presentation. That can be quite intimidating. But the book is all about simple home cooked comfort food that any basic kitchen can handle. I’d be surprised if people found the recipes scary even if some might need a bit of practice.

You claim I will only need seven essential ingredients, What are they?
Soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, dashi, sake, miso and rice. All available these days in your local supermarket. For a first timer, learn to cook Japanese rice well. Most dishes are eaten with rice. Also, I think people think you have to make a beautiful Japanese meal, but really Japanese food is just as humble and unpretentious as any other home cooking. It really can be very simple.

You grew up in Wisconsin, which I assume is not a hotbed of Japanese cuisine?
No, there wasn’t much Japanese food around. There was a cult TV show called Iron Chef that I got into and then I moved to LA to study Japanese food culture and I was hooked. I then signed up for a programme to teach English in Japan. You get three choices of places to live, I chose all of them based on ramen.

How did Masterchef change things for you?
It pretty much changed my life. Inevitably it gives you a presence which can open doors that were previously closed. It was an amazing opportunity and it makes things like bringing out a book easier. It wasn’t just that though, we got to work with some amazing chefs. On my series, we had Yotam Ottolenghi, Michel Roux Snr & Jnr and I got to work with Paco Roncero, who was one of Ferran Adria’s guys at elBulli. I still watch Masterchef.

Why did you choose Brixton for Nanban?
I didn’t really. Brixton chose me. I was originally looking at East London and then we did a pop up at Market House that went really well. Then the space came up on Coldharbour Lane. I don’t really have a big rollout agenda and am not interested in doing cookie cutter copies of Nanban. We did a lot of pop-ups through this summer which was great, but if I did another Nanban in another place, it would need to fit that place. For example, my ingredients are heavily influenced from what I can get in Brixton Market. And I still like manning the kitchen most nights.

Japaneasy by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, £20) | Photography © Laura Edwards

426 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LF | | @NanbanLondon | @ChefTimAnderson