The Japanese Matsuri festival was held in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 6 October 2012. After a rainy week I was afraid it would be washed out, but although it was cold when I set out, it was a beautiful day when I reached Trafalgar Square.
I don’t know how many attendees the organisers were expecting, but I should think they’re pleased because it was heaving when I got there.
The main stage was set up by the base of Nelson’s Column. The food stalls were along each side of the square, with non-food stalls set up in front of the National Gallery.
I went straight for the food stalls.
There was plenty of sushi, unfortunately, from a veggie perspective, it was nearly all fish-based. I found a stall selling vegetarian sushi and grabbed some.
I might complain about the number of veggie options on offer, but I can’t complain about the quality of the one I ate. That has to be some of the best sushi I’ve ever had. It was all about the rice, sticky but firm and incredibly fresh.
I also tried some soy doughnuts.
Sweet, but solid is the best description. Three of them had a sweet, red bean filling which didn’t have much flavour beyond its sweetness.
A much more flavoursome dessert was the Macha Green Tea Ice-cream.
At first you don’t get much taste beyond the sweet, cold creaminess but as you swallow the tannin of the tea kicks in. It goes much like this: sweet cold cream, sweet cold cream, sweet cold cream, TEA!!!!
I don’t want to think that I exhausted the savoury vegetarian food options with my sushi, but looking at the other stalls, vegetarian food choices were few and far between. The frustrating thing Japanese food is that fish and meat steals into otherwise veggie food, so you can’t assume that the miso soup is vegetarian just because it doesn’t have lumps of fish or meat in it. It was disheartening to smell the most wonderful savoury aromas only to see nothing you could eat when you reached the stall.
The most interesting food I saw there was okonomiyaki pancakes.
They looked great, but the stall was swamped by customers and it was not the time to ask for a detailed breakdown on what was in the pancakes and the sauces. And as it turns out a typical ingredient is bonito flakes so they would have been off the menu anyway. Grrrr.
I had a great time at the festival despite the veggie options, and the best sushi I’ve eaten counts for a lot. As I was eating my sushi the main stage had performers demonstrating the ‘Radio Taiso’ exercises that all Japanese schoolchildren do every morning. I think I need to start doing them on the train platform while I’m waiting for my train in the morning!