'Great British Bake Off' Japanese Week under fire for cultural misappropriation

Albertina Lloyd
·Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
·3-min read
'The Great British Bake Off' contestants were challenged to make a Matcha flavoured French crepe cake for Japanese Week. (Channel 6)
Bake Off contestants were challenged to make a matcha-flavoured French crepe cake for Japanese Week. (Channel 4)

The Great British Bake Off has been accused of cultural misappropriation after its “Japanese Week” featured dishes synonymous with China and France.

For the Signature Challenge the contestants were tasked with making steamed buns, which they filled with Indian-, American- and Chinese-inspired fillings.

While Japan is known for its hirata steamed buns, traditionally shaped like sandwiches, the steamed buns known as bao are traditionally Chinese.

Read more: See the most stunning bakes from GBBO Japanese week

For the Technical Challenge the contestants were asked to make a mille crepe cake – a traditionally French dish – flavoured with matcha powder, used at Japanese tea ceremonies.

Watch: What happened in Bake Off’s Japanese Week

Japanese actress and Torchwood star Naoko Mori tweeted that she was “baffled, saddened and offended” by Bake Off’s Japanese Week.

She wrote: “This is kinda like saying it’s French Week – and then baking Cornish pasties or Welsh Cakes or Strudel...”

Mori added: “In this age (and especially in the recent climate) one would think – or at least, hope – proper research and fact checking is done before an episode like this is made...

“Not only was this insulting to us Japanese and our culture, you also likely insulted the Chinese, as well as the intelligence of a great many viewers of #gbbo who all know the difference between the two, and that Baos (Steamed Buns) are Chinese...

“A tiny token sprinkle of Matcha powder on a pancake doth not a Japanese make. Nor bake. Please. Do better.”

Mori, 48, rose to fame as Saffy’s best friend Sarah in Absolutely Fabulous.

Naoko Mori attends the LA Premiere of "Everest" held at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP)
Actress Naoko Mori was offended by Bake Off's Japanese Week. (AP)

The Signature Challenge caused some viewers further offence as Hermine chose to decorate her chicken nikuman buns as pandas – an animal that originates from China.

Nikuman is the Japanese name for the Chinese bao.

Lottie and Mark both chose to fill and decorate their steamed buns as American cheeseburgers, while Peter described his filling as a ‘Chinese stir-fry’.

Marc filled his steamed buns with Indian-inspired dhal for 'The Great British Bake Off's Japanese Week. (Channel 4)
Marc filled his steamed buns with Indian-inspired dhal. (Channel 4)

Marc filled his buns with Indian-inspired dhal.

Read more: Paul Hollywood branded 'rude' as he blunders through Japan for food show

Japanese-born designer Masato Jones tweeted: “Steam bun isn’t Japanese it’s from China c’mon #GBBO Available in Japan.”

He added: “OMG Matcha yes but you don’t get this cake in Japan #GBBO.”

Judge Paul Hollywood travelled to Japan last year for documentary series Paul Hollywood Eats Japan, and was branded “rude” by viewers for making a series of cultural faux pas.

Yahoo UK has contacted representatives for The Great British Bake Off and Channel 4 for comment.

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