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Catering to the English taste bud abroad

by Daniel Robson

The best thing about being English is that no matter where you go in the world, the food is always better than the rubbish you put up with at home; and conversely, as one of the finest cuisines in the world, Japanese food sure gives no cause for complaint.

But when you’re 9,585 km from the Sceptred Isle, sometimes only a taste of home will do. And with a little careful searching, some improvisation and a wholesale disregard for a healthy bank balance, it is possible to sate those urges for home comforts.

England is famed for the traditional meat pie — one need only watch Tim Burton’s new “Sweeney Todd” movie adaptation to see the ongoing romance of a pastry case filled with something warm, savory and tasty. Luckily Japan residents have an option less gory than that in the film. Based in Kyoto, Jerry’s Pies ( www.jerryspies.com ) delivers authentic, homemade savory and sweet pies anywhere in the country. The selection includes steak and onion, beef and Guinness, cheese and vegetable, and apple and cinnamon pies in three sizes (priced ¥300, ¥450 and ¥600 plus delivery). The pies are easily defrosted and cooked in a microwave and, served with a side of mashed potato, beans or a green salad, taste just as good as the ones back home.

The thing I miss most about Blighty is the simple sausage, the banger — usually based on the German incarnation, Japanese sausages just don’t cut it for a Brit. However, frozen British-style sausages (made in Japan, but totally authentic) are available via mail order from The Foreign Buyers’ Club at a price of ¥1,550 for seven sausages, plus delivery. As a cheaper alternative, the Kaldi Coffee Farm chain sells a pack of four meaty precooked Johnsonville Grilled Bratwursts for ¥498 that are surprisingly close to the British variety.

A treasure trove for the Englishman abroad, the nationwide Daimaru Peacock supermarket chain sells Cadbury’s chocolate, Carr’s Table Water crackers (which Queen Elizabeth eats, probably) and a range of goodies imported from upscale U.K. supermarket Waitrose, including tea, cereal and Milk Chocolate Digestive biscuits.

Any true Englishman loves his crisps — after all, we invented them, in 1920 (which is why we will never call them “potato chips”). While none of the big U.K. brands are available here, Calbee’s J. League Chips taste very similar to Britain’s ever-popular Walker’s Ready Salted. Natural Lawson, meanwhile, stocks Tyrrell crisps (¥231 for a medium packet) in cider vinegar and sea salt, mature cheddar and chives, and lightly sea salted flavors, all made in Herefordshire. The convenience store chain also sells Walkers shortbread — a little dry, but then beggars can’t be choosers.

I won’t argue the fact that Japanese cuisine beats English food hands down. But when the taste buds hanker for familiar flavors, a taste of home, just remember: England is only a mouthful away.