If you’ve read some of my previous posts (particularly, my review of Cha-ology) then you will know that I love Japan. When my fiancé and I travelled there in 2018, I knew I had discovered something special. A home away from home, almost. So, when the opportunity arose to attend the Hyper Japan festival in London, I knew I had to take it with both hands.
Hyper Japan is a festival in London focusing on all things Japanese. From art and traditional culture; gaming and anime, to a wide range of Japanese food and drink. Of course, being a foodie, my focus was almost entirely on the food and drink that was on offer.
This year saw the 10th anniversary of the Hyper Japan festival and food and drink was (for the first time) all brought together under one roof as Eat-Japan Live.
There was a live stage, with exhibitors showing off their fine ingredients and culinary prowess, as well as lots of stalls selling traditional (and modern) Japanese food. To the rear, there was also a section designated for food and drink suppliers, most of who were giving free samples of their products to passersby.
There was a clear trend at this year’s Hyper Japan festival amongst the commercial exhibitors and suppliers: vegetarian alternatives, and environmental awareness. There was also a lot of sake… Good sake!
Products to try
Of the suppliers I got to speak to, there were a few that really stood out for me as being novel and worth highlighting:
Aloe Vera Water, by Simplee Aloe
I will admit that I am not a massive lover of aloe drinks. They are so thick! However, this aloe vera water was nothing like that! It has the texture of orange juice (with bits). The taste is clean and fresh; a bit like cucumber and apple.
I asked the Simplee Aloe representative more about their product and she passionately talked about other aloe waters being high in sugar, which negates the whole idea behind this healthy drink. Simplee Aloe, on the other hand, is only 45 calories a bottle! Amazing!
Simplee Aloe water comes in three varieties: with bits, without bits, and passionfruit (the one with bits is my favourite). They are available to purchase at Yo! Sushi.
Chocolate Nigori, by Homare Sake Brewery (ほまれ酒造)
Founded in 1918 at Aizu, one of Japan’s renowned sake districts, Homare uses water from Mt. Iide (which I was informed is soft and contains a well-balanced mineral content) to create its sake. Nigori (濁り酒) translates roughly as ‘cloudy’ and refers to the sake’s milky appearance (due to it being unfiltered.)
As well as traditional sake, Homare Sake Brewery also produce sake liqueurs which are sweeter and aimed at Japanese non-sake drinkers. Whilst at the Hyper Japan festival, I got to try a Chocolate Nigori which is currently unavailable in the UK. It was seriously delicious and I would highly recommend trying any of the Homare sakes if you get the chance.
Mio Sparkling Sake, by Shirakabe Gura (白壁蔵)
On the topic of sake, another of the sake companies at Hyper Japan festival was Shirakabe Gura. Shirakabe Gura brewery is located in Nada, another of Japan’s renowned sake-making regions. They use artisan techniques to brew sake, almost entirely by hand.
Mio Sparkling Sake is the first sparkling sake I have ever tried. It is so crisp and light that it could easily compete with the ever-so-British G&T as the perfect summer drink!
Meat-free tonkotsu soup base, by Shirakiku
One thing that Japanese food suppliers do well is soup bases that are full of umami and meaty flavour using plant-based ingredients. Whether it’s soy or miso, they somehow manage to create a stock that is so flavoursome that you really don’t miss the meat.
I tried this meat-free tonkotsu base, which was exhibited by Wismettac Foods, Inc, as it should be–with noodles–and it was great!
Vegetarian Meat Gyoza, by Shirakiku
I was truly blown away by the taste of the ‘vegetarian meat’ contained in the gyoza I tried from Shirakiku. So juicy, and full of umami flavour! I am usually quite dubious about meat substitutes. I usually prefer to opt for a vegetable option instead, but this soy-based ‘meat’ was really delicious and was balanced well with the vegetables. Definitely worth trying if you can get hold of them.
AHIMI™ (Plant-Based Tuna Alternative), produce by Ocean Hugger Foods
Sticking with the meat-free theme was Ocean Hugger Foods and their plant-based alternatives for sushi. Ahimi™ has been created to replicated tuna and is made of tomato. I also got to try Unami™ which is an eel-substitute and is made from aubergine (currently in development).
Ocean Hugger Foods started when its founder visited the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. There he saw “two football-field sized warehouses full of tuna sold in one morning”. He decided then to develop a sustainable, plant-based alternative and, let me tell you, the sushi I tried was fantastic! Keep an eye out for these products, they’re worth trying.
As well as those products mentioned above, there was also a wide range of vendors selling traditional Japanese food. I tried chiffon cakes, mochi, and Japanese Red Shiso drinks. I also tried more savoury foods such as okonomiyaki (a kind of grilled noodle pancake). My favourite, though, was the takoyaki (a type of pancake filled with octopus!) I first had takoyaki in Osaka, and the one I had at Hyper Japan took me right back!
If you have never been to Hyper Japan festival then you probably need to look into this. Especially if you love Japanese food, culture and/or gaming. There will also be a Hyper Japan Christmas festival. More information on the Christmas festival should be available on the Hyper Japan website closer to the time.
Disclaimer: I received free press tickets for Hyper Japan festival 2019 from their PR company. However, this is not a sponsored post and I am under no obligation to provide a review, positive or otherwise.