London Japan Kitchen Bob

A blog about Japanese cooking and banter, from a kitchen based in South West London

You are from a country that for whatever reason, you want to escape. You don't qualify for refugee status, but by some blessing you secured a temporary visa through your partner who got accepted into a German University. Currency conversion works against you, and you need a job asap to support your partner and yourself. You only speak English.

What should you do first?

This is a real life experience of a friend. They were couchsurfing amongst friends while they looked to secure their first accomodation. The student alone could easily qualify for student accomodation or a house share (called WG, wohngemeinschaft), but as a couple they couldn't take advantage of some of these offers.

Searching for the first accomodation in Germany

As with the UK, if you are planning to rent a housing from a landlord, you may need a deposit. While a local can just prove they have a job and avoid paying the deposit, an immigrant without any proof of financial security will have to pay an upfront deposit of 6 months.

In Germany, a lot of apartments don't come furnished. If house share isn't an option, it's better just to find a cheap unfurnished apartment. Here are several words that will come up:

  • Nebenkosten: Side costs, i.e. utilities. These may or may not be included
  • Kaltmiete: Rent without Nebenkosten
  • Warmmiete: Everything inclusive
  • Mobiliert: Furniture included. Unmobiliert for without, the standard.

Cost is probably more affordable with an unfurnished 1 bed apartment for a couple, and that's what they found. €750/month with energy bill included.

You could use a Google translate plugin on flat rental sites like to search for properties. It's essential to check out public transport links because your job will likely require you to travel into the city.

Getting a bank account

In the UK, you can by-pass majority of the paperwork to get your first bank account by using a mobile banking service like Monzo. You do need a Biometric Residence permit to prove you can work, but there's no need to prove your address. Unfortunately, German banks follow a slightly different order.

  • Students: They will be able to apply for a bank account straight away.
  • Spouse of a Visa permit holder: They need a written statement of you secured a job first before opening up a bank account. This means your odd under the table jobs will not be possible.

Online banks did not accept their application due to their Nationality needing extra paperwork that was difficult to get at this current stage.

Searching for a job

There are several limitations on what job you can get at the beginning. My friend's limitations were; no car, no bike, no German driving licence, stuck in a small city associated with partner's visa, no bank account. First things first, they got a bike. You can find this in Facebook Market Place or Ebay cheap. The following are job search attempts they tried:

  • Job Centre. They only spoke German. Didn't help much.
  • Temp Agency. This would be the first place that could offer jobs, especially if you can do warehouse and other physical lifting work. Unfortunately they only spoke German, and communication was a chaalenge. After finally being able to apply, they got occasional phone calls from recruiters...

    In German.

    They freaked out when he spoke English and cut their phone short.
  • Walking on the high street. Asking around restaurants, Cafe's, and Hotels you'll probably find some vacancy. There were a few that were interested, but only if they had the certification to work with food, the Infection Protection Act 43. Infektionsschutzgesetz – IfSG for short.

How to work in a Restaurant

In the UK, you need the Level 2 Food Safety Hygiene cetificate, offered online by many independent services. In Germany, you need a Infektionsschutzgesetz certificate to comply with the Infection protection Act 43. These are often 2.5 hour in-person courses that are signed off by a doctor by the end, though I did find an online course in English:

Online Infektionsschutzgesetz Course

Notice how it has the name of a doctor. The in-person course is more bizzare as the doctors who offer the course don't have this listed on their clinic website. It does seem quite random though, that a busy person who is specialized in medicine would also teach Catering newcomers about how to handle eggs and milk. This is probably a legacy system from covid, I wouldn't be surprised it this changes in future. The In-person course was €35 as of March 2023.

#ImmigrantExperiences #Refugee #Germany

The other day I tried making chickpea tofu. Usual tofu is made from soy milk, but to coagulate it it requires a bittern salt (Magnesium Chloride) for the proteins to bind. As the name suggests, it is bitter in flavour (Even in Japanese – Nigari).

Checkpea tofu can harden without this. Supposedly the texture is similar so this can be made anywhere in the world!


  • 1 cup dry checkpea (not canned)
  • 2 cups water (For consistency of a flan)
  • muslin/cheese cloth


  • Soak the checkpeas in plenty of water for atleast 8 hours.
  • Drain the water, then put it in the blender
  • Add 2 cups of water and blend it
  • Separate out the liquid and the solids using a muslin cloth. Line the pot with the cloth, pour the chickpea blend in, and hand squeeze the bundle to extract the liquid. We only use the liquid in this recipe.
  • Heat up the pot on medium heat. It is important to stir it continuously, as the liquid will quickly build up solids at the bottom.
  • Once it starts thickening, put it on low heat. Continue to stir it, as you'll get lumps and uneven texture. Once it is custard thick, it is ready
  • Pour it into a container and cool it for 30mins. Once it solidifies it is ready


Well, the mouth feel is definitely tofu, and if you like tofu, this is a great alternative. Flavour wise? I always thought this with normal tofu as well, but it tastes


. It tastes like pureed checkpea gruel that hospitals will use to give nutrients to old patients. Adding flavour like tsuyu or soy sauce made it better, but I think there should've been some flavour inside the tofu.


When I made this chickpea tofu, I wanted to test several variations of the recipe to see if it works. These were:

  • Softer tofu – mix in 50% more hot water
  • Savoury tofu – Mix some stock flavour and salt
  • Pudding tofu – Mix sugar, a bit of milk, and a dash of lemon

So I prepared 3 small containers to try this out. I tasted each one before the shape set so I could adjust anything before it set. Here are the results:

  • Softer tofu – Yes! It actually still kept shape. I quite like this one as it was a lot more delicate in texture. In the above recipe, this will mean adding 3 cups of water instead of 2 wouldn't be a problem. Alternatively, adding extra ingredients afterwards shouldn't prevent the tofu from solidifying.
  • Savoury tofu – I liked this version better than the plain tofu. I wish I had sesami paste in hand to try recreate a popular sesami tofu dish. Other variations like abalone tofu also use the same principle of grinding the ingredient into a paste and mixing it.
  • Pudding tofu – Probably my favourite dish. The lemon didn't interfere with the solidifying, which means there are a lot of possibilities with this one. Chocolate and nut based flavours should go well too.

What to do with the leftover checkpea pulp?

In Japanese these are called okara, used for cheap, low calorie, high fiber creative recipes. It may not be the same with chickpea, but I would believe the milk extraction has increased the fiber content. Anyway, if you want to shine your poverty pantery skills, I suggest you try get creative with it. Keep in mind this leftover pulp's properties mean less binding and any dough you make will be wet, crumbly, and possibly dense without the addition of other ingredients. Here are some ideas:

  • Falafel – Mix some self raising flour (of plain flour + baking powder) to bind the mixture. Add stock, spice or herbs, and lemon for flavour.
  • Okara cookie – Pulp (g): Butter (g): Sugar (g): Egg ratio of 4:2:1:1. Dry the pulp by spreading in out on an oven tray and heating it at 150C for 15 mins, then cool it for another 5 mins. Loosen up any chunks with your hands. Mix the ingredients, cut into 0.5-1cm thick cookies and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 mins.
  • Curry? I really don't know how this would work out

#Recipes #VeganRecipes #JapaneseRecipe

In the supermarket, you see pork shoulder and pork loin sold almost at a similar price. The loin often comes pre-sliced to 1cm thickness, whereas the shoulder is presented thicker with less pieces.

The largest difference in the meat is the fat marbling. Pork shoulder has a juicier flavour to it because the fat is distributed evenly within the meat, whereas loin is leaner. As a stir fry it won't make much difference but to enjoy the meat as the main focus, you will taste the difference. Loin is tender and is often pan fried or roasted as a cooking method. Shoulder is tougher, so slow roasting at a low temperature in a steamy environment or slow cook helps soften up the meat.

As with beef, pork benefits from not being overcooked and moisture escaping when it's cooked. The meat retains more tenderness even when cool this way (But avoid pinkness in pork, they need to be properly cooked).

#Cooking #Pork #MeatParts

In making sushi, nori is an essential ingredient. A black dried seaweed that forms a paper to wrap the rice and fish in. Most Japanese people only buy a good nori so some don't know a lot about the various grades of nori.

Different nori grades have their own unique flavor and texture. The (Japanese) grade rank follows: gold, silver, yellow, green, and red/purple. The gold grade is the highest quality, and it is characterized by its smooth texture, delicate flavor, and almost black in color. Silver grade is a little less expensive than gold but it's still hard to distinguish unless you eat it side by side.

Yellow grade is the black sheep of nori. It is thick as it uses a dense net of cheap seaweed, giving a strong chewy texture. It is greener in colour, with a strong algae like flavour. Basically tastes blegh.

Occasionally our supplier throws it in as an alternative when the gold grade stuff isn't available, but we really don't want it as it is too noticable. Oddly the grade below that, green, is an acceptible flavour that we WOULD use in sushi. I have no clue why the green doesn't come before yellow.

You can buy Yamamotoyama Yellow grade nori for around £11 on Amazon as of April, 2023. The same company exports this but doesn't sell this grade Nori to the Japanese.

#Sushi #Nori #JapaneseFood

It is a parent's endless battle when their child won't eat vegetables. The battle of persistance ends with them taking a bite of broccoli, and eating plain bread. Even though they claim they are full, the next moment they are hunting for any chocolates and sweets on the adult restricted shelves!

While it's difficult to make kids enjoy bitter foods, some of their taste palettes are purely psycological. A Middle Eastern kid will eat red peppers as snacks, and WWII children were rationed raw carrot on a stick. You can also see this effect in the regional differences of the movie “Inside Out”, where the food toddler Riley rejects is different depending on the audience. Western audience get a broccoli, but the Japanese get green bell peppers as broccoli isn't considered a hated vegetable.

Why do kids reject vegetables?

Part of this is simply an evolutionary trait of innate aversion to new tastes, which can be overcome by gradually introducing small amounts of the vegetable until their taste buds adapt.

Then there's vegetables that may have unpleasant flavors or textures that children find unappealing, such as corriander or overcooked vegetables. Overcooking a vegetable to mush takes away much of the texture and flavour that they could've enjoyed.

Finally, eating habits can influence a child's willingness to try vegetables, so it's important to find what works for your child. Offering dessert as a reward for eating vegetables could train them to believe vegetables are chores or punishments. But it can be challenging to convince children to eat something without much sugar, carbs, or fat.

Here are some tips and tricks that may help a child eat their vegetables.

Psycological Encouragement

  • Calling broccolis baby tree or dinosaur food, cut carrots as baby carrots.
  • Using lettus to let the kids wrap meat like Korean BBQ. Who doesn't love playing with their foods?
  • Nuts – Make a pretend game where the kids act as birds and eat nuts.
  • Lunches are not packed with crisps, but fruits, carrot sticks and bell peppers. Avoid enforcing the idea that a processed snack comes with every meal.
  • Bring out the vegetables on the table before the main meal is served, and permit them to eat first. If they are hungry, they will eat out of boredom.

Simple Recipes

  • Garlic fried broccoli – Boil the broccoli for 1 min, then fry it in a pan drizzled with garlic and oil. flavour with salt.
  • Butter fried mushrooms – Just as it says. Sprinkling some vegetable stock can also enhance flavour. Use salt or soy sauce to taste.
  • Oven cooked carrots and parsnips – Marinate with oil, sugar, and salt before sticking it in the oven.
  • Quick boiled vegetables – Broccoli, cauliflower, fine beans cooked for 1.5mins or less. Salt the water if you want to keep your greens green.
  • Cauliflower with white sauce – mix 1:1 flour and butter in a pan, and slowly add milk to a sauce thickness you like. Add chicken stock to make it irresistable.

I believe if plain vegetable isn't convincing enough, adding sugar, carbs, or fat is the key to introducing the novel ingredient.

Other behavioural training

  • Don't give them separate meals from the adults.
  • Avoid desserts after meals. One family has even gone as far as allowing the kid to choose what to eat first, as long as they eat everything
  • Prepare vegetable sticks and nuts if they get hungry at an odd time. Avoid processed snacks
  • Let kids choose their food portion. Forcing kids to eat a certain amount can make meals a pyschological punishment.
  • Let them drink water, flavoured water, or tea instead of juice with a meal or any outdoor activity. Drinking sweet drinks is a learnt behaviour.

There are many ways to skin a cat, and these are just a few examples based on personal experience. Have you found something that works for you?

#Diet #Parenting #HealthyEating #Children #Vegetarian

One time, we were selling biscuits, and a customer asked,

“Which one is healthier? The chocolate flavoured one or the Matcha flavoured one? Matchs is healthy for you right?”

After a moment of thought, I responded,

“Matcha is healthy, but they both contain sugar. I don't think either of them has any good health benefits.”

The answer was obvious. I was watching the kitchen cook making biscuits right in front of me, and I see them pouring sugar into the batter like it's nobody's business. And then, they try to sprinkle some matcha powder on top, as if that's going to cancel out all the sugar in there!

Later, I realized that I'm guilty of the same thing. I'm all about sugary drinks, so I choose orange juice over cola, thinking I'm making the healthier choice. And I eat a salad after chowing down on some greasy fried chicken, as if some greens are going to magically erase all that oil.

But guess what? Our bodies are smart, they know what's up. No matter how many nutrients and fibers you sprinkle on top, your body still has to work through all that sugar and oil. And that is why we're better off not putting the bad stuff in our bodies in the first place.

You may have heard of this detox food philosophy that says it balances out the bad stuff in our bodies like yin and yang. But from the stomach's perspective, it doesn't matter what came first, it still has to work through all that vegetable oil that our ancestors never even knew about. So, let's just not put it in our bodies in the first place.

Furthermore, if you're having trouble digesting certain foods, it's not just in your head. You might have a food intolerance that's making your stomach work overtime. Take my friend, for instance, who didn't even realize that rice was the source of her exhaustion until she went on a two-week elimination diet. After a week of avoiding rice, she felt like a brand new person!

Next time, let's try improving our diet by find the offending foods that might be overworking our stomachs, leading to inflammation or gas.

#Detox #Diet #EliminationDiet

Tuna sushi is more expensive than salmon. Since we are not an official sushi restaurant, we do not bother purchasing tuna meat. Sushi fish suppliers typically buy their fish from Billingsgate market by weight and debone and cut it into different sections.

During the cutting process, the bits of tuna meat that have been scraped off the bones are called naka-ochi, meaning “inside drop.” These are cheaper than a chunk of tuna meat because the odd bits and pieces do not make for pretty, presentable sushi. Often, a sushi chef will mince this meat and mix it with spring onion to make Negitoro sushi.

We first ordered naka-ochi from the supplier Jo Showa and then from Atariya. When it arrives, it has a vibrant red color due to its freshness, and we try to use it up before the characteristic browning of tuna occurs.

The interesting point to note is the species of tuna from which this naka-ochi comes. Jo-Showa was a mix of Yellowfin tuna and Atlantic bluefin tuna (honmaguro, or real tuna). You can distinguish between the two by their color; Yellowfin tuna has a translucent red color, whereas Atlantic tuna is cloudy red. We were lucky to find some fatty toro tuna in there, which is seen by its more pinkish color. A toro tuna comes from Atlantic tuna, as the Yellowfin rarely has a fatty part.

The flavor of the two species also differs. Yellowfin tuna has a less tuna-like flavor, which is less distinct than the strong metallic, blood-like flavor of Atlantic tuna. Whether someone likes this taste is a matter of preference. Our chef Tonton gets excited when she sees Atlantic tuna because it is a rarer ingredient and her favorite.

Next, the naka-ochi from Atariya was 100% bluefin tuna. It had fewer toro parts, but Tonton was elated. She ate it while talking about how expensive it has become in Japan due to tuna depletion. It was delicious, but I preferred the Yellowfin tuna. Bluefin had a metallic taste like bonito (skipjack) sashimi.

Next time you eat Tuna sushi, check out which species you may have.

#Sushi #JapaneseFood #Tuna #Honmaguro #Nakaochi

This article talks about an algorithm used to determine welfare fraud risk.

The first thing I realize that is flawed in this algorithm is the way it semantically categorizes “risk”. After taking into account your marital status, living location, age, sex, education level, job status, and more, it spits out a number that is said to represent your “welfare fraud risk”.

In this article, it claims that a disabled non-Native single mother living on the outskirts of the city will instantly be classified as a risk. There is certainly a higher chance that someone who is disabled or a single mother will require welfare. However, is it a fraud risk?

We can say that someone who has the odds stacked against them in life has a lot more insecurity because they have fewer safety nets if something goes wrong. When a country or an organization takes in someone with high insecurity factors, the liability rubs off on them. It is an unfortunate reality that a healthy refugee will already have language disabilities, a lack of connections, an unfamiliar cultural environment, and a lack of housing, leading to a higher possibility of requiring welfare.

What I believe happened here is that the Dutch algorithm generated an “liability risk value” – the risk that you will seek help. Due to the high ratio of single mothers on welfare to begin with, the ratio of “welfare fraud” is already skewed against their interests.

This is getting eerily close to Minority Report. Your dad was mugged and killed in a poorer part of town? Sorry kiddo, the computer says your mom is likely a criminal now, and we have to interrogate her.

I am not against using algorithms in very specific conditions to assist us in improving human weaknesses. There was a story a while back where an algorithm was more accurate than a judge in determining the risk of a criminal becoming a repeat offender just by looking at past records. Another study found that education levels correlated with the leniency of a sentence, rather than the facts of the crime itself. It is clear that we have intrinsic biases towards charming people, and computers can help with that.

However, when we do not understand the methods and semantics behind numbers, they can quickly become a weapon of abuse. DNA testing had a similar issue in the past, and many were accused of a crime they did not commit.

Have you started to notice physical problems since hitting your middle age? Around 9 months ago, my sedentary lifestyle finally started catching up to me. I had lived my 20's as a couch potato for years, and whilst I was within the healthy weight range, there was no muscle mass to speak of.

As I hit middle age, I started to notice the effects of my lifestyle creeping into my sleep. I would wake up with a numb arm that had been compressed under my body all night, and I could tell that my blood circulation was poor. I knew this could lead to serious complications in the future if I didn't take action.

Our muscles play a crucial role in circulating our blood. While the heart does the heavy lifting, it's the squeezing of the muscles that assists in this process. As we age, our muscles weaken, and this can lead to unexplained pain and even organ prolapse in some cases!

To try address this, I started going to the gym twice a week for one-hour sessions. Reading up on the internet gave me two types of training, cardio or strenth. To be frank I don't think the specialised benefit of either one will apply to someone working less than 5 hours of moderately intense exercise a week. Either way, you will raise your heart rate AND increase muscles going from baseline no intenseexercise to something.

I found that a combination of light jogging and lifting dumbells (2kg, the smallest one) worked well for me, and after just three months, the sleeping arm issue subsided. It was proof that my problem wasn't impossible to fix, but it did take some time to see the effects of muscle building once I had lost it.

But I wasn't the only one benefiting from exercise. I met a woman in her 60s who was complaining about inner thigh pain and knee inflammation, despite her active walking lifestyle. She was skeptical that exercise could make a difference, but she was willing to listen to her physiotherapist. She started doing a 10-minute nightly routine focused on her thigh muscles. It consisted of some squats and side step exercises using an elastic band around her ankles. Three months later, her thigh pain had disappeared, and she was able to move around with ease.

These experiences taught me that not all exercises are created equal. While walking is a great form of exercise, it might not be enough to build up your muscle mass and prevent injury, especially if you have weak knees. But with the right routine and some dedication, it's possible to alleviate pain and improve your overall health and mobility. So if you're feeling the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, don't be afraid to try something new and see how exercise can help you!

#Exercise #Cardio #Fitness

One time we ordered some delicious fatty toro tuna which can frozen from the company. To time its freshness, we thawed it just several hours before serving it to a customer. You could see our chef's surprise when the tuna slice was stiff as cardboard just before the sushi was completed!

Rigor mortis in dead fish starts around 5 hours in. So this Tuna must've been frozen on board the boat as soon as it was caught!

Can we still use it? I tried chewing on it, but it had a very unappealing texture. It was like chewing rubber, you chew and chew but it doesn't break down. Eventually I pulled it out of my mouth and threw it away. That was a waste of prized sushi.

So we waited for another hour and at this point the meat became flaccid again. This time the tuna sushi melted in my mouth.

This only happened once for us, but it gives us a glimpse of the different degree of freshness from different fishing methods. Most fish caught in the UK won't need a fancy on-board freezer as it will be caught close to the coast.

#Sushi #RigorMortis #Tuna #JapaneseFood