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Guest Blog | itsu reveal the secrets to an Asian-inspired diet

Guest Blog | itsu reveal the secrets to an Asian-inspired diet

Julian Metcalfe, Founder of itsu, first visited Tokyo in the winter of ‘97 and fell in love with the harmony and precision of the food, every bento was a work of art. If beautiful food, fast was humanly possible then Japan was leading the way. Julian returned home determined to create a new type of food place altogether.

He had no idea how hard it would be but itsu Chelsea, London opened in 1997, and itsu has gone on to open +75 stores across the globe and more recently launched the Asian-inspired grocery range in 2012. 

If beautiful foodfast was humanly possible then Japan was leading the way.

There is a story behind each and every product in itsu’s growing grocery range, all of which take inspiration from the famously nutritional, Japanese diet [reaching your 90s is common in Japan!]. In fact, Japan has the highest percentage of people living to over 100 than any other country. They also have one of the lowest obesities, cancer and heart disease rates in the developed world[1]. You can see why itsu have spent so much time in Asia, crafting the perfect recipes so that they can share these secrets with the UK.

making miso easy

To start with, the Japanese eat miso for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is an essential part of their cuisine. Miso is a traditional Japanese soup, and in Japanese culture it is believed to bring a number of health benefits including, being celebrated for longevity, providing beneficial bacteria to the gut and therefore helping with digestion, as well as being a low calorie meal, what is there not to love?!

Dedicated to providing the UK with this Japanese superfood miso, itsu spent years developing and refining the perfect miso recipe. That said, our miso’easy wasn’t easy at all, quite the reverse.

We discovered Nagano Miso at a food show in California where food entrepreneur, Yoshihiro had a small stand. Nagano is a ravishing valley about four hours drive from Tokyo and it’s here Japan’s most admired Miso is hand prepared. We went to see him.

Yoshihiro promised us the water in Nagano is ‘sweet’ and that is why his miso masters blend there... what with ‘lost in translation’ it’s hard to know if he was serious.

We went on to work with Yoshihiro and soon created chilli miso, and traditional miso. Reinventing a classic thousand-year-old Japanese staple is a sensitive issue, often met with incredulity, but our miso’easy wins tastes tests, over and over again.

We use our miso in glazes, dressings, soups, stir-fries, broths or even to make sweet treats salty! In fact, we are so proud to be the leading miso brand in the UK and have shared a range of miso’easy recipes with Snackfully....check out the recipes here.

Miso glazed cauliflower wings

new for noodles

Aside from miso, instant noodle pots are also enjoyed everywhere in Japan, from street corners to high rise offices. In fact, the instant noodle is repeatedly voted Japan’s most successful invention beating the Walkman, bullet train and karaoke to keep its spot at the top!

Back with Yoshihiro, we worked hard to bring these noodle cups to life in the UK. We wanted to make the most delicious and the most authentic tasting noodle cups in the UK. After years of development, we launched restaurant-quality rice’noodles, with hand crafted miso-based broths [paste not powder], a perfect healthy lunch option, to be enjoyed with pride and joy.

Each cup can create a variety of meals by simply adding any leftovers

Each cup can create a variety of meals by simply adding any leftovers, fridge staples or store ingredients, such as fresh vegetables, roast chicken or halloumi. With endless options, the rice’noodles are a must have for foodies looking for a restaurant-quality, Asian-inspired meal at an affordable price.

Itsu Cup Recipe ideas

For those looking for a more filling meal, itsu’s udon’noodles combine the increasingly popular, thick udon noodles with hand-crafted broths. Low in sugar and fat, each pot is no more than 301 calories.

We also know that as people start to return to their workplace, the work lunch may seem a bit different, but there is no need to compromise: itsu’s noodle cups are convenient; by simply adding boiling water you have a restaurant-quality meal at an affordable price. No more arguments over fridge space & reducing the use of plates/washing up!

thins & things

Back in 2012, itsu [grocery] began with seaweed from a small and beautifully built family owned kitchen near Seoul. In fact, ‘thins’ weren’t originally called ‘thins’. Our first packet was covered in Korean writing and a bit of a mystery. Only when we ate them did the potential become clear.

The seaweed boss, Manjun, now our beloved 77 year old partner has spent his life harvesting, rolling and seasoning wafer-thin toasted seaweed. We persuaded him to make special flavours and packaging for us.

The taste and texture of our seaweed thins is extraordinary, but our real goal was to give two fingers to deep fried potato crisps. 

The taste and texture of our seaweed thins is extraordinary, but our real goal was to give two fingers to deep fried potato crisps. Our thins are light and healthy, naturally packed with nutrients; vitamin B12 and iodine. We stupidly thought everybody would switch. They didn’t. In fact, at one important food show a well-known supermarket buyer actually spat them out, mid gobble.

That sent alarm bells ringing but we carried on regardless and now have a 97% share of, let’s face it, a small but growing market and one we admire and love. We launched two new flavours and thins for kids.

Itsu Thins

So, now more than ever our diets should embrace these Japanese secrets and itsu’s range of Asian-inspired products can be a staple in store cupboards across the UK. Checkout the range on Snackfully and add some snacks to your basket to eat beautiful!

[1] www.thecenturian.co.uk, Dr Craig Willcox, author of ‘The Okinawa Program’

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