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We've packed our passports.
And bought our phrase books.
HE SPEAKS FALTERING JAPANESE
Because we're off on our biggest, craziest adventure yet.
ALL: Delicious, delicious, miaow miaow beeeeee!
HE YODELS LIKE TARZAN
We're travelling further than we've ever done before.
To uncover the authentic roots of Britain's favourite takeaway foods.
I've always wanted to know how to make proper sweet and sour sauce.
Going off the beaten track
and being welcomed into some of Asia's hidden worlds.
How marvellous is this?!
From the high rises and hot woks of Hong Kong...
The heat on this is really, really intense.
But listen, it's like a jet engine!
I love it!
To the sweltering tropics of Thailand...
We love a Tuk-Tuk!
..where they say it's impossible to eat badly.
Thai food's arrived in Britain,
but by crikey, it's only the tip of the iceberg.
And we fulfil a lifelong ambition, to explore Japan.
-That is perfect.
-Wow, look at that.
I've just had a sushi-gasm!
We finish up in South Korea,
where the spicy cuisine is sensational.
This is will go down a bomb down the local.
So leather up and take to the road.
For one extremely hairy...
BOTH: Asian adventure!
We're on a journey of discovery through Japan.
There's so much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi.
It's our all-time favourite food in the world.
We're taking the old road to the iconic Mount Fuji,
before finishing our trip in the ancient capital of Kyoto.
And what a road it is!
Japan's a biker's paradise,
and home to four of the world's biggest motorcycle manufacturers.
I tell you what, these work on a nice, dry road, don't they? Whoa!
And actually motorcycling around Mount Fuji,
-it don't get much better, does it?
'Sunday's the day for biking in Japan and this is the place to come:
'Mount Fuji National Park.
'Home to one of the country's three holy mountains
'and its spiritual heart.
'This is the most visited park in the country and I can see why.'
There's a serenity to the lake,
-it's beautiful, isn't it?
-Oh, it's gorgeous.
Do you know, Si, it reminds me of the Great Lakes in Italy,
like Maggiore and Como.
Yes. I know exactly what you mean.
You know what, we're lucky to even be here, Kingy.
Until 150 years ago,
Japan was completely cut off from the outside world.
No-one was allowed in and anyone trying to leave
faced the death penalty!
That explains why traditional Japanese food hasn't really changed.
'And there's no better place to see the old ways in action
'than this little town in the shadow of the mountain.'
-We made it, mate. Fujiyoshida.
-Home of Japan's finest udon noodles.
And we're going to be taught how to make noodles by a noodle master.
Along with rice, noodles are at the heart of virtually every meal here.
Well, it's like potatoes are to us.
Udon noodles are traditionally eaten before you climb Mount Fuji
to help purify you for your pilgrimage.
They're the big fat white ones that look like worms.
But don't let that put you off... they're delicious!
This is the oldest noodle restaurant in Fujiyoshida.
This place has not changed its recipe for 123 years.
And it's made with spring water from Mount Fuji.
It's essentially very simple,
but if you're going to get a right noodle,
this is one has got to be the best.
The restaurant's run by fourth generation noodle maker Mr Osawo,
who likes to be called Oji San, which means Grandpa.
-Hello, hello, hello.
-How long has Oji San been making noodles?
HE SPEAKS JAPANESE
-63 years. Now.
-That's a lot of very happy tummies.
So how old is Oji San?
-80 years old.
-Noodles keep you young!
Oji San is training his grandson Yasuhiro
in the dark art of noodle making.
First of all, put the udon dough on the plate.
-What's the dough made from?
-Very simple, very pure.
'They might be cut by hand, Kingy,
'but the process starts with a bit of fancy footwork.'
"STRICTLY COME DANCING" THEME PLAYS
'And I'm just the man for the job!'
The finest noodles in the world under a Cumbrian's feet.
It's quite awesome, really.
'Once the dough has been pounded into submission, it's rolled and sliced.
'That's sliced, Kingy, not sawed!'
So it's just one cut, is it, just one?
-I didn't cut through! Ohh!
We'll just gloss over that bit, that's what he's saying, I think.
This is not noodles. This is going to be garbage.
-It's tough love, Si.
-Once you know the tricks, then you can be better.
OJI SAN SPEAKS JAPANESE
How long did you have to put up with this for
before you worked in the shop?
HE SPEAKS JAPANESE
He cut every day for 15 years.
Most doctorates and degrees and PhDs
don't even last as long as 15 years,
in terms of your, you know, in terms of your apprenticeship
to cutting noodles, I mean, that's quite remarkable.
'The noodles cook for seven minutes exactly in boiling water.'
No, no, no.
You have to practise much more, more.
He's worn a notch out of his stick!
Just by the...
'The portions are measured out by the bowlful
'but even this takes years of training.'
It's too much.
Ah, no, no, no. It's wrong.
HE SPEAKS JAPANESE
I give up! It's never going to happen.
Some things I think are best left
as one of life's little mysteries, don't you?
'The Japanese are obsessed with noodles
'and they've perfected the art of noodle diversification.
'There are hundreds of variations on the theme
'but one of the most popular is ramen.'
Ramen noodles are thinner and longer than udon
and are served in a hearty soup.
They became popular in Japan after the Second World War,
and today these comforting noodles
are a favourite fast food choice in the UK as well,
thanks to chains of noodle bars.
When you've had enough purity,
when you've got bored with the seasonality,
when you want a mucky noodle, a filthy noodle, you want ramen!
Yes! The happy face noodle. Look at that.
'And in the foothills of Mount Fuji,
'we're going to make our own ramen soup
'with pork broth and marinated soft boiled eggs.'
They're full of thick, sticky, fatty, porky broth.
You've got belly pork on the top.
You've got tamago eggs which are like
the best kind of semi hard-boiled egg in the world.
It's kind of, new food, it was born in the 1950s,
it's food to free the shackles of oppression.
These boys are ramen rock-and-roll noodles.
But ramen, it's all about the stock.
That's what people are going bonkers for in the ramen shops.
And people who own ramen shops,
they closely guard the secret of their stock,
but they'll have pork bones going for two days,
three days, just this intense, fatty, meaty, tasty broth.
And it clings to the noodle, like a climber on a rock face.
You know, the great thing about ramen, it's sticky when you eat it.
It sticks to your lips, and all that fat content. Ohh!
And when you slurp ramen, it's messy, it gets on your glasses,
in your hair, in your head but it's part of the gig.
Now, the broth, it's quite specific.
In here, I've got a pan, with two and a half litres of water.
Yes, it does happen to be spa water from Mount Fuji,
but you know, tap will do.
So this is a piece of combu seaweed, and it's been soaking in that
two and a half litres of water for about half an hour.
You can buy combu seaweed in Asian supermarkets back home.
Now, what we do is we cut this into three strips.
You've got to be careful.
You put this in here, and we bring this to the boil.
As soon as it's on the boil, we take the combu out and discard it.
If you boil it with the combu in,
it's going to taste like a fisherman's wellington
and that's not the effect we're after.
There we are. That's just coming to a nice poach.
Remove the combu and add some sake, dried shitake mushrooms,
an onion, ginger and some tuna flakes,
which you can buy in Asian supermarkets or online.
I love these big chopsticks. I feel proper.
This dish has regional variations
and round here they love pork ramen.
So what I'm doing is I'm just rinsing the grease off it.
What we want to do is,
we don't want any of that to go into our stock.
-No, we want the pure flavours, you know.
-There you are, dear fellow.
And in they go!
Cover that up.
The stock needs to bubble away for three hours.
While it's doing its stuff, I'm going to show you something
that'll make your ramen look and taste like the real deal.
It's a hard-boiled egg garnish.
But, like everything Japanese,
it is the most perfect hard-boiled egg you've ever had.
It's runny in the middle,
and it's marinated for 12 hours in Japanese spices.
'And of course the Japanese have a gadget for everything.'
This is something you won't find at home. This is a tamago egg mould.
You can have shaped eggs. You can have heart-shaped soft boiled eggs.
-Star-shaped soft boiled eggs.
Pop a soft-boiled egg that's been cooked for exactly six minutes
into the mould and immerse the whole thing
in a marinade of soy, mirin and sake.
It's just like pickled eggs in pubs. I like pickled eggs.
After 12 hours - yes, I know, 12 hours -
you'll have the perfect garnish for your ramen.
-Now, that's the lovely broth. That's what we're after.
And then add even more flavour. Fresh shitake mushrooms,
ginger and garlic, and these gorgeous shimegi mushrooms
which are perfect in soup or stir fries. That's it. Job done!
Now, we are nearly at the end of the noodle path at the top of Mount Fuji.
The time has come to achieve enlightenment perfection
in the way of the ramen.
Fresh noodles like these only need a couple of minutes to blanche.
Then, right at the end, you add your meat.
We're using some slow-cooked char sui pork
but leftovers from a roast would do just as well.
Layer up the ramen noodles, slices of pork, spring onions
and enoki mushrooms.
And now the broth, lots of broth.
Top with more pork, some spring onions
and the piece de resistance - the egg!
It looks like a builder's bum, not a heart!
You too, Japanese builder's butt-crack eggs.
-Oh, that's what you're after.
That will sit on top of the noodles.
'Finish off with a flourish of tuna flakes.'
Look at that, dude, I love how they move.
As the Japanese say, when you want ramen, there's only ramen'll do.
It's true. It's comfort food for Japan.
Well, this is the first time, mate. We've made ramen in Japan.
On the shores of a lake in the foothills of Mount Fuji.
THEY SLURP LOUDLY
-It's sweet, savoury.
All those flavours that you expect from Japanese cuisine.
And all the textural differences as well.
We can't thank Japan enough
for giving the world the ultimate comfort food.
Mind, it's a clean shirt.
That's it, Dave, Fuji's right behind those clouds now.
I can sense it, Kingy, I can sense it. The spirit is nearly upon me.
But the visuals are sadly lacking at the minute.
'Mount Fuji is the most climbed mountain in the world.
'But the summit's only visible for about 100 days a year,
'and it's sod's law that today isn't one of them.'
Kingy, there's like a cutout Mount Fuji sign on the traffic lights.
I tell you what, mate, at this rate,
the cutout is about as much as we'll see.
It's about your spiritual imagination
rather than the physical entity, dude.
-Yeah, but it's enigmatic, because we know it's there.
It's shrouded in a veil of mystery.
This is Mount Fuji.
The sacred mountain, the giver of water for the noodles.
-It's kind of otherworldly, isn't it?
I think making the noodles was kind of slightly ethereal.
-The attention to detail, the madness of the noodle.
And then, you know, it's all beginning to make sense.
-It's just incredible. What a privilege.
Look at that, man.
If we've got off to a start like this,
imagine what Kyoto has got to offer us.
-Oh, man, it's just going to be amazing.
-It makes you giggle!
-Hey, we're lucky.
-We are that, mate.
'Tranquil and purified, we're ready for Kyoto,
'Japan's ancient capital.'
It definitely feels like the ancient capital of Japan.
-Beautiful, isn't it?
-Fabulous. It's like a film set.
It does, doesn't it?
'Japan was a vegetarian country for over a thousand years
'and has some of the best vegetarian cuisine in the world.
'The very best is found not in Kyoto's swanky restaurants
'but in the Buddhist temples.'
'We're lucky enough to have been invited to break our journey
'and stay the night at the temple.
'We've arrived late but the monks have left the key under the mat,
'so we can let ourselves in.'
Kyoto is home to 1,600 temples.
Buddhism has been part of the country's culture
since the 6th century
and Shinto philosophy is at the heart of Japan's day-to-day life.
'The monks' day starts at sunrise with meditation,
'but head priest Reverend Daiko has taken pity on our tired bones
'and let us sleep in, waking us up in time for breakfast.'
-So, it's 6.30.
-Yeah. So, you're supposed to make your breakfast.
-So we have to move.
'Come on, mate!
'The chef who cooks the monks' food
'also works at a Michelin-starred restaurant, no less.
'And we're going to help him make breakfast. Up and at 'em!'
Forget cereal and toast!
We're making two types of soup and five side dishes.
-Nice to see you.
-Great to see you. Thank you.
'Chef Shiba tasks us with making tofu dumplings.
'I think this is penance for oversleeping this morning.'
-So, you're mashing the tofu to make it smoother.
-It's a lot of work.
-It's a lot of discipline.
-Which is part of being a monk!
This type of cooking has a special name in Japan - Shojin Ryori.
The pursuit of enlightenment through cooking.
-And presumably, this cuisine purifies your body as well?
'For the Zen Buddhist, cooking is considered a type of meditation.
'The aim is to banish worldly thoughts, focus on the food
'and aim for limitless perfection.
'We could learn a lot from these monks, Kingy.'
There is a feeling of wanting to get it right, isn't there?
'The dumplings are stuffed with edamame beans, potato
'and gingko nuts, which some people believe help with mood and memory.
'The attention to detail in plating up is everything you'd expect
'from a Michelin-starred chef, but with added value.
'Buddhist philosophy dictates every meal should include five colours,
'white, red, black, yellow and green.
'As well as looking lovely,
'it also helps make sure you're getting all your vitamins.
'With food like this on offer every day, no wonder there's been
'a sharp rise in the number of Buddhist monks in recent years!
'Monks can also get married and have families,
'so that probably helps with the recruitment drive.
THE MONKS CHANT
'A monk should always eat healthily and in moderation
'so portion sizes are small.
'Which is something else we could learn from the monks, don't you think?'
-So, please enjoy.
-Anybody ever says tofu is boring, they have to taste this.
This is absolutely gorgeous.
Is it? I have to say, I have said that tofu is boring.
-It's so good.
-Sesame tofu is...
-..it's very mild.
'I'm a tofu convert, dude!
'And those are words I never thought I'd hear coming out of my mouth.'
Before you were a monk, what did you do?
-Did you have... You were a student?
-Yes, I was a student.
-Did you go to discos and ride motorcycles?
So, normal life.
So, um, I was a big supporter of Liverpool football club.
So, when I was at graduate school,
after university, I visited Anfield stadium. Yeah, yeah.
What was it that made you decide...
I've seen Anfield, I'm going to be a monk?
At first I did not want to be a priest.
Because it is, um... out of fashion, right?
At that time, I thought it out of fashion.
-But I felt very honoured to be wanted.
-To be part of it.
-To take over the temple and be part of it.
So that is a bigger reason.
I think I can honestly say that that was the finest breakfast I've ever had.
-Thank you so much.
-Thank you very much.
We're back in Kyoto, the tourist capital of Japan.
Millions of people rock up here every year, mate, and no wonder.
The city's packed with cultural delights.
We've done the monasteries, so what's next in the guide book, Kingy?
The Man In The Moon Irish pub! They get everywhere, don't they?
-Oh, wow. It's a geisha?
I'd never know how to walk in four-inch platforms though.
Noddy Holder managed it, though.
In Kyoto, fully fledged geisha are called geiko
and trainees are called maiko.
The city's 200 geiko
are committed to keeping this 300-year-old tradition alive.
I'm going to experience something truly elegant,
historic and beautiful.
We're going for a night out with the maiko.
Now, these women studied the nuances of their culture,
and the ceremonies therein,
to make travellers like Dave and I welcome.
The maiko will become a geiko,
which is the geisha of Kyoto.
Now, there's been a lot of controversy over the years
about what exactly the role of a geisha is,
but today they're very much a legitimate part
of the hospitality and tourist industry.
-It's elegant, simple, wonderful.
Not many people live in traditional houses in Japan any more,
so teahouses like this
offer the chance to see ancient costumes and rituals in action.
-SHE SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
Thank you for coming.
BOTH: Well, thank you for having us.
'A geiko's job is to act as a hostess.
'They serve food and drink, and entertain their clients
'by performing traditional music, dances and games.'
What I'm finding remarkable, as I'm sure Dave is,
is that it's still living and breathing and it's still here
and it's still part of Japanese culture.
-Yes, as you see.
'Tomitae is one of Kyoto's 70 maiko.
'She's chaperoned by Reiko Tomimori,
'a geiko mother who oversees her apprenticeship.'
Why did this lady want to be a maiko?
TOMITAE SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
When she was little
she loved to wear kimono
and also she loved traditional Japanese music.
How long is the training?
SHE SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
-About five years before becoming a geiko.
Can it be a long career, being a geiko?
I mean, how old can you carry on working?
SHE SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
As long as she wants to.
Only one condition -
if she wants to get married, she has to retire.
'It costs about £2,000 a month to train a maiko.
'While they're apprentices, they get paid pocket money,
'but once they've graduated,
'being a geiko can be a very lucrative career.'
'We're being treated to a Japanese banquet called kaiseki.
'It has up to 16 courses
'and dates back to the days when Kyoto was the imperial capital.
'This meal is more than just food -
'the geiko turn the whole experience into theatre.'
-I've never felt so pampered in my life.
-It's marvellous, isn't it?
THEY SPEAK IN JAPANESE
-That is good sake.
-Oh, I see, so...
Every time you drink it,
very kindly the ladies fill it up.
So if we... Could we put that down here now and then start to eat?
Yes, please! I'm sorry, I should have...
Cos I'm going to end up very cross-eyed very quickly!
The kaiseki banquet includes raw fish or sashimi,
pork belly, local vegetables and tempura.
-Oh, wow. This is lovely.
'While we're eating, we're treated to a traditional fan dance.
'The term maiko translates literally as "dance child".'
You know, Si, what this experience is like,
it's like a good piece of classical music, classical opera.
It's where all the arts come together
to be something truly fantastic.
You know, there's the food, the music,
the theatre, the spectacle.
-All done with quite a lot of gravitas.
It's just lovely, cos it's a layered art form, isn't it?
-That's what we're in receipt of, and that's a remarkable thing.
THEY SING 'And when we've finished, we play parlour games,
'which might look innocent but have a hidden agenda -
'involving yet more sake!'
-You have to drink.
This is so much better than darts.
SHE SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
She said you are very strong, handsome and very cool.
-That's very nice, yes.
-Never mind, never mind, you'll be all right.
That might be gilding the lily a bit.
What do we do now?
-I tell you what I'd like you to do now.
Can you get us out of this position? I tell you what, it's murdered me.
Would you mind? I'm a bit stuck.
'This road trip through Japan
'has exceeded all our expectations.'
We've waited 20 years to come to Japan.
It's blown me mind, dude.
It's absolutely blown me mind,
it's been everything and more
that I could ever have dreamt of and ever wished for. What about you?
I thought that I knew about Japanese food,
I've learnt a lot off the internet,
through going to restaurants, eating loads of takeaways.
But it's not the case.
-The Japanese food I've found here is very different.
-Yes, it is.
It's a lot purer, it's a lot more gentle,
and it's a lot more sophisticated,
and I think at home we've got a lot more to learn.
For me, as a cook, it's just blown the bloomin' doors off!
Oh, it's blown my mind, dude. Absolutely amazing.
Amazing cultural experience and great food.
A little cultural good-night sake?
-I think so, should we?
The bikers head off into the heart of traditional Japan to find out about the historic roots of Japanese cuisine. Dave puts his Strictly fancy footwork into action, kneading noodle dough the artisan way. The duo then take an awe-inspiring bike ride to see Mount Fuji, spend a night at a Buddhist temple, and are entertained by one of Kyoto's geisha complete with traditional drinking games.