Ella Walker chats to the restaurateur about his new cookbook, Tokyo Stories, a culinary love letter to the buzzing Japanese city.

The thing about Tokyo, explains chef Tim Anderson, is that it's so vertical. "It's not just that it's busy on one level, it's busy in three dimensions - it's a bonkers city."

And that applies to the food as much as the architecture, hence why it's the subject of the London-based, Wisconsin-born restaurateur's latest cookbook, Tokyo Stories.

There are physical and geographical layers to Tokyo's food, starting with the eclectic, hi-tech vending machines on the subway; the conbini convenience stores where you can order yakisoba pan (fried noodles in a bun) or rice balls; then the street food, like yakitori (Japanese chicken skewers), tempura and ramen.

Plus there's Japanese home cooking ("Kitchens in Tokyo are very small. You might just have a microwave and a two-ring electric burner," says Anderson), followed by really fine Japanese dining, high-end stuff like kaiseki (multi-course dinners) and sushi, as well as regional foods you can't get unless you go to that region (except you can get it in Tokyo).

"I wanted to get the whole range," says Anderson, who won MasterChef 2011, and who first visited Japan in 2002 after his parents bought him a package tour as a high school graduation present. "I was barely 18, and I remember Tokyo being so crowded and bright and crazy and just with so much going on that I was actually really intimidated by it."

His defining edible memory of the trip is the bewilderment involved in ordering a burger from fast food chain, First Kitchen. "It was just really hard," he says wryly. "Ordering fast food is not as straightforward as you think, there's always options."

Going on to teach English in Japan for two years, he later discovered that the joint's fries - dubbed 'Flavour Potato' - come with amazing little seasoning packets you shake up with your chips, so they taste like soy sauce and butter, or garlic and miso. Anderson's done his own shake-and-season version in the book.

Now 34, he's got something of a handle - as much as it's possible - on Tokyo's madcap culinary landscape, and uses his visits to explore "unusual parts of Tokyo to find different kinds of food".

As such, he's too busy seeking out new things to have a roster of favourite restaurants to revisit. "I mainly only know what ramen shops to go to," says Anderson with a laugh. "And karaoke bars."

While shooting the book, his photographer dragged him to temples and gardens - "and I hardly even knew those were in Tokyo!"

That trip also saw Anderson, who runs Japanese soul food restaurant Nanban in South London, trying to track down specialities particular to the city - which was tough, because it turns out capitals don't much have them.

"That's partly because food is connected to agriculture, and there's not really any agriculture in the city." But outside of Tokyo's most "bonkers" districts, like Kabukicho, Shinjuku and Shibuya, he did unearth dishes specific to the fishing communities of Tokyo Bay, and also found that, actually, "it's not crazy in some parts of town. Some parts of Tokyo are really serene and you can breathe, and there are parks, and school children and sky and old ladies."

His main aim with Tokyo Stories is to convey the diversity of the food available. "You can go to Tokyo, but also go to France," he explains. "There's fantastic French food and Parisian bakeries."

In fact, "there's a lot of everything," he says. Take the city's clashing pizza culture. "There are two schools of pizza in Tokyo," explains Anderson. "The really nice stuff, and then you get the Japanese equivalent of Domino's, and those are good in a different way, because they're so crazy. They'll usually have Japanese-style toppings on them, or there's a trend now for doing Korean barbecue meat on pizza."

Most intriguing of all perhaps are Japan's convenience stores, which Anderson says are "very special". "Sometimes I think they're my favourite thing about Japan generally," he adds.

He says it's down to the fact they are incredibly well run, thanks to a logistics system that means each branch receives multiple deliveries a day, so fresh produce is never sat on the shelf for long.

"And then they're cooking in there too," Anderson buzzes, awed. "You can get fried chicken in the convenience store by the way! They take it out of hot cupboards, but they're cooking throughout the day. They've got little fryers out the back, so when they need to top up the fried chicken, they just make it."

Then there's steamed buns and vats of dashi bobbing with vegetables ("They give you a big bucket with a handle, top up the broth and it's the best thing to eat in the winter"), and bottled ice teas in every flavour.

"They're magical places," Anderson declares. "I didn't pack enough underwear, so I went to the convenience store - got underwear! They have everything you need, they're fantastic."

He makes it sound like you'd struggle to find fault with any of the city's food, whether you nabbed it from a machine between subway stops, or found an Okinawan inspired hole-in-the-wall. "I've been to my fair share of bad ramen shops, it's not like it's a paradise of perfect food everywhere," he concedes, "but it's pretty close."

"There's not a lot of cities where you can just walk in and have a good shot of getting good food, but Tokyo is that place," he says. "It may not be great, but it'll be good."

Whether you cook from the book or not, Anderson just wants people to know that "Tokyo is just an amazing city".

"For me," he muses, "it's like an emotional thing. There's nowhere I feel more drawn to. I want to go there all the time - when I think about it, it almost feels like a tugging feeling." (He looks physically torn at the thought of it.)

"It's a mix of nostalgia," Anderson adds, "but also the opposite of that, because there's always something new and exciting."

Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Hardie Grant, priced £26. Available now.