Flavour Profile Q&A - Kaori Simpson of Edinburgh's Harajuku Kitchen answers our food-inspired questions

Kaori is the owner of this Tollcross restaurant, which has just opened a takeaway outlet at Little King Street, as part of St James Quarter

Published 16th Aug 2021
Updated 18 th Sep 2023

What’s your favourite ingredient?

Soy sauce. It’s a really versatile ingredient. Also, citrus fruits as they add a nice acidity to dishes. My kitchen at home is always stocked with both.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

I absolutely love an authentic lamb shish kebab with yoghurt and mint. I first tried this when I visited a friend in Tripoli in the early Noughties. We went to a local food market and I tried it from a local vendor, I have never had anything like it since. It was so tender and the sauce was really fresh. Most of the animals in Libya are allowed to roam free, I think this definitely makes a difference to the meat.

If I’m craving a shish kebab, my go-to place is Ada in Edinburgh. They offer a range of authentic kebabs and sides, so tasty.

Tell us about your first food memory

Kyushu-style tonkotsu ramen I had in Fukuoka, Japan when I was five years old. My mum is from there and we visited regularly. I remember it was delivered from the restaurant to the house by a server on a moped, and the ramen was served in the restaurant’s own crockery. They came back to collect the bowls the next day. Japanese people are very trustworthy, so restaurants do sometimes lend their crockery and glassware to takeaway diners.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?

Hendersons, an Edinburgh institution which is reopening near our restaurant. It’s definitely the best venue for vegetarian dishes. I love their ratatouille and hope it makes an appearance on the menu.

What would be your last supper?

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It would be fluffy Japanese rice and assorted sashimi (hamachi yellow tail, fresh scallops, squid and toro tuna) served with yuzu citrus and soy sauce.

Starter or pudding?

Definitely pudding – give me Japanese crème caramel any time.

Do you have any food hates?

I don’t like British pork pies or jellied eel. I think a pork pie tastes really bland. As for jellied eel, I can’t stand the texture. I love eel but in Japan we grill it, so it has a nice flavour and texture.

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What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner?

To start, I would serve fresh sea urchin with black caviar. Followed by kobe beef teppanyaki with shredded daikon radish, tamari soy sauce and French mustard. For pudding it would be a mille crepe with matcha crème Anglaise and British strawberries. I’d invite chef Samin Nosrat and Eddie Vedder.

What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?

I love the Middle East. It’s the spices and the fact they use lots of dried fruits in their savoury dishes. It’s so tantalising and exotic. I was not brought up with Middle Eastern food, so when I tried the different flavour combinations, it unlocked a new world of spices for me.

Harajuku Kitchen is at 10 Gillespie Place and Little King Street, www.harajukukitchen.co.uk

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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