5 Mar 2018

Intrepid eating in Tokyo

From Nine To Noon, 11:31 am on 5 March 2018

Two New Zealanders have turned their love of Japanese cuisine into a business venture offering foodie tours to the country’s capital.

Whether it's wagyu or wagashi, Janice Kirkwood and Sue Dempsey from Eating Tokyo know where to go.

The idea is to showcase places that they like to tour and eat, such as Tokyo's ‘kitchen town’ Kappabashi Street, and hidden-away izakaya - a kind of Japanese pub.

The pair founded Caffe Astoria in Wellington and ran it for 21 years.

In 1987, when Kirkwood was working as a public servant and loathing it, she travelled to Japan and got a job teaching English in a small town on the west coast.

“From about 12 years ago I started going back every year, and Sue started joining me.

“It just became an obsession.”

Dempey’s first trip was to Tokyo. “I was basically in a food daze for 10 days”, she says.

Last year they stumbled on what they now call their grubby ramen shop – a local eatery, down an alleyway, with a “somewhat greasy” looking kitchen and a cook who was surprised to see four foreigners. Despite the unpromising beginning, it served up steaming bowls of perfectly cooked ramen and pork.

One of the more startling meals on offer in Japan is raw chicken – a meat that in its uncooked state can harbour salmonella and campylobacter, causing food poisoning. Kirkwood and Dempsey say only specialist shops serve it up, using fresh, quality chicken.

They have a recipe for miso glazed eggplant.