All you regular readers will know how I have waxed lyrical
about other books by Kentaro Kobyashi and this one
will be no exception. Veggie Haven from the Easy Japanese Cooking
series has all the characteristics which helped to make Donburi Mania
and Noodle Comfort so appealing.
Kentaro Kobayashi is a young man with a passion for food and not just
Japanese food. He started his working life as an illustrator but soon
displayed his flair for the culinary arts. His mantra is “easy yet
delicious, stylish yet realistic”. He has featured in magazines and has
appeared on television where he showed his skill for making delicious
food with little effort.
I like this man’s style. Kentaro continues to present us with
delightful food with a twist. Veggie Haven has Japanese elements but it
isn’t a traditional Japanese cookbook. I suspect this might be the way
modern Japanese eat at home: we in the West have embraced Chinese and
Indian food, and it’s certain that a Tokyo housewife might similarly
enjoy, as Kentaro suggests, a hearty potato gratin or a
deliciously-garnished pizza. Take the aforementioned pizza and top it
with garlic and anchovies. Use a bought pizza base and you’ll have a
classy lunch, light dinner or nibbles with apero in no time at all.
Some liken tofu to a tasteless bath sponge. Consider it a vehicle for
robust flavours. Sweet and Spicy Fried Tofu is a simple recipe which
offers a tapestry of tang that will convert even a die-hard carnivore.
This is the healthy face of fast food.
The cold weather is here in the northern hemisphere so warming dishes
are the order of the day. The original Chop Suey is said to have
originated in America; Kentaro offers Vegetable Chop Suey. This is a
tasty pot of vegetables and the addition of quail eggs helps to elevate
this dish to something luxurious.
Veggie Haven is an ideal cookbook for novices who want to try something
a bit out of the ordinary. The recipes are clearly written and allow
the cook to arrange things in steps. There might be a collection of 3
ingredients for a sauce that can be mixed before cooking starts.
Perhaps the thickener can be made in advance. For simplicity these are
noted in the ingredient list rather than in the method. No need to be
overwhelmed: the dishes are easy.
In the US Japanese ingredients are readily available - America has had
a closer relationship with Nippon than has Europe. Here, most larger
Asian supermarkets stock Japanese ingredients and there are many
internet sites that will be more than happy to supply you with the
Kentaro Kobyashi introduces us to his Veggie Haven. This will be a
‘must read’ not only for Japanese food lovers but for those who want to
present vegetables with a difference. This might be described as fusion
food but it works for me.
Asian cookbook review: Veggie Haven – Easy Japanese Cooking
Author: Kentaro Kobayashi
Published by: Vertical, Inc
Price: $14.95US, £10.99
The Chopsticks Diet
I guess that just the word “diet” will have half of
my dear readers turning the page (if they were able to
do such a thing on a website) and the other half waiting with bated
breath for the next word that will change their lives completely. For
those diet-haters I ask you to read on. For those who expect a magic
solution for weight loss with no effort I must tell you there will
never be one, but you might just find that this book helps.
Kimiko Barber is an award-winning author of books on Japanese cooking.
The Chopsticks Diet is slightly different from others of Kimiko that I
have reviewed. They focused on taste and some of the renowned
health-giving properties of Japanese food. The Chopsticks Diet takes a
slightly different and rather revolutionary approach, that of the
combination of appropriate foods and the use of chopsticks.
The dishes that Kimiko offers are tempting to the taste buds and a
feast for the eye. I am not a great lover of health foods that are
bland and unappetising. We shouldn’t consider weight problems as an
illness that can only be treated by unpleasant medicine in the shape of
unpalatable meals. That just feels like punishment and reinforces the
impression that we have been “bad”.
The key is in the title “Chopsticks”. If you use chopsticks to eat your
food (OK, we will exclude soup) then you are bound to lose weight. You
will naturally eat slower and take smaller mouthfuls and this fools you
into thinking that you have eaten more than you have. Meals will be
smaller but you will not feel deprived or hungry.
Yes, you could continue to eat your habitual foods with chopsticks and
you would probably lose some weight, but how much nicer it is to enjoy
a dish that is attractive and looks like it SHOULD be eaten with
chopsticks. If you are going to make changes then have some fun.
The recipes in The Chopsticks Diet are enticing. There are just a few
uniquely Japanese ingredients but they will be readily available from
larger high street supermarkets, or online if you are a computer-savvy
shopper. The basics are fresh vegetables, fish and noodles and will be
healthful even if eaten with a fork.
The Domburi recipes are perhaps my favourite. The Chopsticks Diet has a
selection of these dishes that are quick and easy to prepare. It’s rice
with a variety of toppings and I think Domburi should be as
well-publicised as its cousin, sushi. Egg and Spinach Domburi is
comfort food Japanese style. The egg creates a sauce for the rice and
gives a marvellously silky texture. A classic.
The Chopsticks Diet is a fresh and welcome approach not only to weight
loss but to healthy eating in general. The recipes are stunning but not
difficult. Gone are the days of cardboard crackers and calorie
counters. Eat well and enjoy your food. It’s doing you good.
The Chopsticks Diet
Published by: Kyle Cathie
It’s healthy food. It’s an art form. It’s impressive, and
it’s iconic. People either love it or refuse to try it. Its skill lays
in assembly rather than cooking. Sushi is special.
Vickie Liley is versatile to say the least. She is a recipe writer,
food stylist and photographer. She is responsible for the majority of
the pictures in this book and they are lovely. She has appeared on TV
and radio. She has penned several other books including Asian Cooking
Companion, The Complete Book of Hot and Spicy Cooking, and Simple and
Delicious Dim Sum, all from Apple Press.
Sushi is becoming more popular in Britain with many supermarkets
selling plastic-wrapped versions. It looks very nice and it’s probably
better for you than a fat-rich sandwich or sausage roll. But sushi is
all about freshness so why not make it yourself. It’s cheaper than
shop-bought and you’ll notice the difference.
As I have said, it’s not complicated cooking but there are some skills
to perfect. This book provides you with everything you’ll need to
select the few items of necessary equipment and the ingredients. There
are practical step-by-step pictures by Alan Benson that will take the
fear out of the process.
In truth it’s several processes depending on the type of sushi, but
you’ll soon master them and then it’s on to the recipes or more
accurately the fillings. Vickie has an attractive selection of classic
sushi that might be familiar to some of you. There are others that are
equally authentic but new to many. Sushi isn’t all about raw fish. You
will find plenty of vegetarian sushi and we won’t know if you make your
own sushi filled with Marmite or strawberries. You can mix and match
combinations of fillings and shapes.
The chapters include Thin-rolled Sushi, Thick-rolled Sushi, Inside-out
Sushi, Hand-rolled Sushi and Stuffed Sushi. There is also a section on
traditional soup to start your Japanese meal. Sushi etiquette is also
discussed as well as information on appropriate drinks.
Vickie Liley illustrates a gorgeous array of delicious fresh sushi that
will be a great introduction to sushi-rolling for the novice, and give
inspiration to the more proficient. Sushi is also an ideal medium tfor
introducing kids to food preparation. I have a young friend (I don’t
insult him by calling him a kid) who mastered the art in just an
evening. He presented us with a dazzling display of fish and vegetable
sushi for the New Year. This book is an ideal gift for anyone
interested in a stylish and guilt-free dining experience. Great value
Asian cookbook review: Sushi
Author: Vickie Liley
Published by: Apple Press
We in the West are becoming more familiar with
Saké. There are now many more Japanese restaurants in our cities
and all of them will have a drinks menu that will include a saké
or two. It’s the Japanese national alcoholic beverage and most people
already know that it’s made of rice.
Yes, it’s called saké in the English-speaking world and in most
other countries as well, but in Japan that word refers to every form of
alcohol. The Japanese term for this specific drink is Nihonshu which
just means "Japanese alcohol".
Saké is an ancient drink that started as more of a food. Rice
was first chewed and then fermented. The earliest reference to alcohol
in Japan is found in “The Book of Wei” written by Wei Shou from 551 to
554 and is a text in Chinese. Saké is also referred to in the
“Kojiki”, written by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei,
Japan's earliest history document, which dates from around 711. By the
Asuka period (from 592 to 710) saké as we know it was being made
from the traditional ingredients of rice, water and yellow kōji mould
(Aspergillus oryzae). In the Heian period (from 794 to 1185)
saké was a drink reserved for religious ceremony and not made
for popular consumption.
Saké production was a government monopoly for centuries, but in
the 1100s temples were allowed to produce saké, and they became
the key producers for the next 500 years.
Sake is regularly described as rice wine but, unlike the wine that one
would make from grapes, saké is produced via a brewing method
similar to that of beer. The sugar necessary to produce alcohol must
first be converted from rice starch. The difference in alcohol content
between wine, beer and saké is that table wine usually has 8 to
14% alcohol, beer has 3 to 6%, whilst saké has 12 to 18% alcohol.
During the Meiji Restoration (restoring imperial rule to Japan in
1868), laws allowed anybody set up their own saké breweries.
Around 30,000 of them opened across Japan, and most that continued past
this era were those operated by wealthy landowners who grew table rice.
They would have some of their crop left over at the end of the season
and, rather than wasting the grain, they sent it to their breweries to
be made into saké.
When in World War II Japan found itself short of rice for
saké-making, alcohol was added to increase its volume. As early
as the late 17th century it had been discovered that small amounts of
alcohol could be added to saké before pressing to extract more
flavour from the rice, but during the War pure alcohol and glucose were
added, to considerably increase the saké yield. The majority of
modern saké is now made with additional alcohol.
In Japan saké is served chilled, at room temperature, or warm,
depending on the custom of the drinker, the quality of the sake, and
the weather. Warm or hot saké is popular when it’s cold outside
and it’s said that heating improves a poor bottle of saké. The
best quality saké is never consumed hot because it’s considered
that the flavour would be impaired.
Saké is usually drunk from traditional small cups called o
choko. These are stemless and usually ceramic, and many have become
collectors’ items. They were preferred as there was less chance of them
being upturned by the swinging sleeves of those wearing elaborate
kimonos. Stemmed glasses are now sometimes used for the finest
saké and one finds them used increasingly for saké
tasting. It is the custom for guests to serve others rather than
themselves. Another traditional drinking vessel is the wooden masu.
This is a small square box usually made of Japanese cedar, and was
originally used as a one-portion measure for rice.
Saké at home is best kept refrigerated or in a cool
cupboard. If stored at room temperature it is best enjoyed within
a couple of months as it is believed that saké does not age
well, although there are now some bottles that are considered to
improve with age. After opening, a bottle of saké remains at its
best a little longer than would wine, but should still be consumed as
soon as possible.
Saké has become more popular than ever in both
restaurants and bars. One can find good quality saké by the
bottle and made into cocktails, but there are surprisingly few books in
English on the subject of saké and its production. John Gauntner
is considered an authority and has penned The Saké Handbook
which is an indispensible introduction and buying guide to those who
have not had the advantage of a formal sommelier course.
The Saké Handbook describes the history, brewing methods and
labels, encouraging the reader to buy a selection of bottles to sample
and compare. There is really no substitute for actually drinking
saké to discover its complexity. Its distinctive taste is unique
but it is now being more readily paired with food, which is bound to be
a source of fascination to anyone interested in expanding their
The Saké Sommelier Association is a body set up to promote
saké throughout the world. They offer a single-day course in
London every year to introduce those of us who know nothing about the
drink to the world of saké. You will learn its history and the
changes of production methods down the ages. Most importantly you will
have the chance to sample a dozen or so different styles of saké
with a tutor who will guide you through the subtle nuances of each and
compare them, to give the student a comprehensive overview of Japan’s
national beverage. There are longer courses available for those who
want to sit an exam to become certified saké sommeliers. Future
dates and times for these courses will be posted here as they are
Isake is an important site for those who want to try some of the best
sakés available in the UK http://www.isake.co.uk
The Saké Handbook
Author: John Gauntner
Published by: Tuttle
The author is Debra Samuels. Doesn’t sound very Japanese,
does it? Well, perhaps not, but her credentials are impeccable as this
lady has spent a decade or so living in Japan and learning to cook in
home kitchens. She is ideally placed to pen a book for the European
market as she appreciates which recipes translate well and which
techniques will be new to the reader.
Debra has a passion for Japanese food and wants to make it accessible
to all of us who are becoming more interested in this fascinating
cuisine. There are lots more Japanese restaurants around (it’s a shame
that they are of patchy quality) so we have had the chance to try the
food for ourselves.
Unfortunately we are led to believe that Japanese food consists of
sushi ...or sashimi for those who want to push the envelope. Surely
that can’t be all they eat in Japan? No, indeed, my dear inquisitive
gastronaut. There are plenty of hot dishes that constitute real meals
and will introduce the reader to home cooking from Japan, rather than
restaurant standard fare.
Debra does start off with sushi and the like, just to ease her audience
into the subject, but there is a tempting rice-based alternative that
can be described as the Japanese equivalent of a sandwich. Onigiri are
stuffed balls of rice that make ideal picnic snacks or fillings for a
Bento box – Japanese packed meals. Debra suggests Spicy Tuna Salad as
the stuffing but this would work with any soft full-flavoured meat or
Another Japanese staple is Sweet Soy Beef and Onion Rice Bowl. 500g of
beef will provide a substantial meal for 4 people. Just a little
marinating time and a bit of wok or frying pan action and you’ll have a
flavoursome topping for steamed rice. It’s a family-friendly meal that
will appeal to the kids. The grated apple adds a slight sweetness which
is unique and delicious.
Asian desserts are always a problem but there are a few delights here
that would work well for any type of Asian meal. Cool and refreshing
Matcha Ice Cream has a delicate yet distinct taste and acts as a light
palate cleanser after Japanese food or even an Indian meal. So easy to
make if one owns an ice-cream maker. Matcha is that traditional vivid
green tea of Tea Ceremony fame. It’s sold, along with other Japanese
specialities, in larger Asian supermarkets.
My Japanese Table is written with the Western housewife in mind.
Nothing too taxing here and this book presents recipes that will be
welcomed by your family but also by your dinner party guests, who will
marvel at your new menus. No need to tell them that you hardly spent
any time at all on prep. Go on, be a hero.
Asian cookbook review: My Japanese Table
Author: Debra Samuels
Published by: Tuttle Publishing
- Japan’s ultimate dining experience
Kunio Tokuoka is executive chef of Kyoto Kitcho. He was
born in 1960, and is the grandson of Mr. Teiichi Yuki, founder of
Kitcho. He became a chef at twenty and was sent to work at Kitcho
Arashiyama , the flagship restaurant in Kyoto. The restaurant was
awarded three Michelin stars, and Hana Kitcho, another in the group,
was awarded one star in 2009.
The formal Japanese cuisine we are familiar with today can perhaps be
traced to those days after the Meiji era - 1868 to 1912. Another
suggestion is that it was born from the haute cuisine of ritualized
honzen ryori, the traditional tea ceremony of the Momoyama/Edo era of
the 16th to 19th century. Kaiseki is a simplified form of honzen ryori
and has grown into a meal of many courses that flows with the seasons
by using the best of fresh local ingredients. Kitcho is considered by
many inside and outside Japan as that country’s leading classic
restaurant. Kitcho, the book, allows us a peek into the philosophy of
one of the world's most respected practitioners of the stylised art of
Chef Kunio Tokuoka has a formidable reputation although his approach to
cooking is straightforward. For the first time, the techniques and
history of one of the world's greatest cuisines are presented in
stunning fashion. This is without a doubt the most sumptuous book on
any cuisine I have ever seen. It will become a treasured tome for any
serious chef, a source of endless inspiration for the domestic
enthusiast, and a welcome gift for anyone with a love of Japanese
perfection. It is nothing short of amazing. Leaf through pages of the
best food photography you will ever see. Superb pictures of traditional
serving dishes, bowls and architecture. Yes, there are recipes, but
this is more the ultimate coffee-table book. It will become your most
pawed-over volume for transporting you to an exotic haven of
tranquility and culinary contemplation.
Asian cookbook review: Kitcho – Japan’s ultimate dining experience
Author: Kunio Tokuoka
Published by: Kodansha International
Price: £30.00, US $45.00
The Just Bento Cookbook
– Everyday Lunches to Go
It’s a bento cookbook. But I know for a fact that not
everyone in Europe will know exactly what bento is. Most people would
have heard the word and will remember that it has something or other to
do with Japanese food. Bento isn’t an ingredient, it does not have to
be Japanese, and it isn’t necessarily even exotic. Bento is a lunch box.
Japan is famed for its refined culture. That artistry extends to food
and we all know about intricately displayed fish for sashimi, and
tightly-rolled and bejewelled sushi, but let’s consider the Japanese
equivalent of a curly sandwich. Yes, you are quite right. It doesn’t
Railway stations in Japan offer their customers bento boxes. There are
small shops that offer these foods; and mothers and wives send their
loved ones from the house with food that will still be tasty after a
few hours. Bento is pre-packed lunch, but not often of the
cheese-and-pickle and white-sliced variety.
The Just Bento Cookbook – Everyday Lunches to Go will fire the
imagination of those responsible for making the food for meal breaks.
Kids will be excited by the contents of their plastic boxes and are far
less likely to swap for a packet of jelly beans. The suggestions here
offer vibrant flavours and different textures as well as dietary
If we lived in Japan we would have a wide selection of bento boxes to
choose from. Two layers and interlocking, single layer with movable
dividers, large bento box with individual lidded containers within. The
rest of the world, apart from India with its unique tiffin boxes, has a
plastic box with a snap-on lid. You will be delighted to know that the
regular sandwich box or even an ex-almost-butter box will do. No need
to go on a shopping spree to Osaka.
For the moment banish from your mind the thought of sarnies. Consider
rice, either fluffy or compressed. How’s about some cool and flavourful
noodles, some fresh veggies with a light dressing and some cooked meat
with a soy sauce lacquer. Sounds enticing doesn’t it?
An inspiring and rich bento meal listed here is that for Ginger Pork
Bento. It’s a hearty meal that would work just as well for supper and
served on a plate as it does for noon from a box. The tangy meat is
paired with braised new potatoes and there are stir-fried peppers and
bean sprouts, cauliflower in mayo, and rice to make this a complete
meal. An adult bento if ever there was one.
The most child-friendly compilation here is perhaps the Pan-fried
Chicken Nugget Bento. It includes a potato salad and a selection of raw
vegetables with a citrus-herb sauce. A healthy meal but fun to eat. An
alternative might be the Pork and Shrimp Balls with Onigiri. These are
balls of compressed rice and much more practical for little lunchers
than negotiating separate grains of rice with chop sticks. No need for
cutlery at all.
My favourite recipe from The Just Bento Cookbook is for the
Sukiyaki-style Beef Donburi Bento. This is another substantial boxful
of meat over rice with a garnish of vegetables. The meat has a sweet
yet savoury flavour that is most agreeable even when cold. This version
uses snow peas (mange-tout) and daikon, but one could substitute other
vegetables which might be more readily available.
The Just Bento Cookbook – Everyday Lunches to Go is a colourful and
attractive volume that will be a boon to anyone who eats a packed lunch
every day. These recipes are simple but will offer something a bit more
enticing than the usual sandwich and bag of crisps. There is a bento
here for every taste. A book full of practical ideas.
Asian cookbook review: The Just Bento Cookbook – Everyday Lunches to Go
Author: Makiko Itoh
Published by: Kodansha Europe
Japanese Pure and
It’s fair to say that Kimiko Barber is the undisputed
queen of Japanese
cooking in the UK, and this book is just another illustration of why.
Japanese Pure and Simple has over 100 health-giving recipes that are
simple and flavourful and a feast for both the eyes and the palate. The
photographs by Jan Baldwin are gorgeous, giving the large format book
an overall feel of elegance.
Kimiko presents Japanese food as nourishing, balanced and seasonal. The
fresh ingredients are tinkered with as little as possible to retain
nutrients and texture. There is evidently something to be said for that
philosophy as the Japanese have the highest life expectancy in the
The recipes are divided into various categories such as Soup, Fish,
Poultry, Rice etc and they are a marvellous selection, but my favourite
dishes are the Japanese Hotpots. These take fondue to new heights of
sophistication and have the advantage of being good for you. There is
the usual process of cooking raw meats and veggies in a stock but then
you are left with a richer and more flavourful broth than you started
with. Anyone who has a little space at the end of the Hotpot can finish
that broth with the addition of rice or noodles.
Teriyaki dishes are always popular. They are easy to prepare and have
that sweet rich flavour that is irresistible. Teriyaki Pork Steak is
one of those dishes that you’ll make often as either part of a Japanese
meal or served with western vegetables or salads. The ingredients are
easy to find and not expensive, and once the sauce is made you can keep
it for a while in the fridge. It works equally well with lamb chops but
I love it with chicken breasts.
The Japanese are renowned for the exquisite presentation of food and
Kimiko has thoughtfully given us some pointers. You don’t need to
invest in new crockery although I think that a small Sake flask and
cups adds a hint of authenticity. Use your usual plates but don’t pile
on the food, rather create landscapes with plenty of space and artful
use of garnish. Very Zen!
Kimiko Barber writes books that are full of advice to enable you to
prepare truly beautiful but healthy food with surprising ease. Choose
the freshest produce and enjoy these delightful dishes.
Asian cookbook review: Japanese Pure and Simple
Author: Kimiko Barber
Published by: Kyle Cathie
The Japanese Kitchen
Kimiko Barber has produced a book which
is bound to become a classic. It’s stunning to look at with a wealth of
marvellous photographs by Martin Brigdale which make it appealing to
anyone interested in either Japanese food or culture.
The Japanese Kitchen is an encyclopaedia with recipes...or a cookbook
with amazing information about Japanese ingredients. Either way it’s a
detailed and well-researched volume of 100 ingredients and 200 recipes
both classic and contemporary.
Part 1 consists of an introduction to the history and culture of Japan.
You’ll want to read this as it puts the food into perspective. Part 2
is all about the ingredients. It’s true that there are some unfamiliar
ones here but you’ll find them in many Asian food stores and they will
be worth trying.
Japanese dishes are not just raw fish, rice and noodles, although these
do play a big part. It’s a complex and sophisticated cuisine but not
necessarily difficult to master. There are very few techniques that
will be challenging but presentation is important: simple yet striking.
Spring onions might not be the first Japanese ingredient to spring (if
you’ll pardon the pun) to mind but here they are used in two simple but
typically Japanese recipes. Negi Toro (Spring Onion and Tuna) is one of
the most popular fillings and toppings for sushi. The spring
onion and pork stir fry is quick, has few ingredients and would be a
delicious dinner served with noodles.
It’s no surprise that there are some delightful seafood dishes. The
Japanese are passionate about seafood of every kind and have some of
the most exciting and flavourful recipes. Squid with Salmon Roe is
light and zesty with lemon. Deep fried squid in batter is a classic and
is crisp and succulent, and just right with drinks or as part of a
There is a list of Japanese food suppliers with addresses, phone
numbers and a few web sites. If you can’t find Japanese ingredients
near you then you will be able to get them on line. It will be worth
taking the trouble just to enjoy a truly different culinary experience.
“An excellent book” says celebrated food writer Jill Dupleix and I
wholeheartedly agree. It’s exceptional.
ASian cookbook review: The Japanese Kitchen
Author: Kimiko Barber
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata
You probably won’t recognise the name of the chef unless
you are reading this in Japan. It’s no surprise, but our ignorance has
everything to do with geography and nothing to do with lack of
celebrity or talent on behalf of Chef Murata. He is a much-Michelined
restaurant owner/chef as well as being a familiar face on Japanese TV
Yoshihiro Murata was born in Kyoto to the family owning the renowned
Kikoni restaurant. This serves classic Japanese food, and Yoshihiro is
now the third generation to own this restaurant and its two sisters,
one in Kyoto and the other in Tokyo. He has a passion for Japanese
cuisine and has become its international ambassador.
I love Japanese food but I much prefer the more complex cooked dishes
to the ubiquitous sushi and sashimi. These are marvellous foods but I
would tend to eat the best raw fish in a trusted restaurant rather than
making it myself and having to trust the seafood counter at my local
supermarket. Grilled, fried, steamed, simmered dishes are easy to
accomplish at home with ingredients commonly found in any high street.
Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata offers 60 quick, easy and
healthy recipes for the Western enthusiast. Some will be unfamiliar but
the names of others will ring bells. Perhaps you might even have been
fortunate enough to find a Japanese restaurant serving a couple of
them. You won’t need to buy any specialist equipment and you won’t need
a diploma from the Nagasaki Culinary Institute (is there such a
school?) to undertake the preparation. There is nothing here to cause
Shabu-Shabu Hot Pot could not be easier. It’s a one-pot meal
constructed, rather than cooked, at the table. It’s a process much like
fondue. Start by heating stock in a pot over a burner. Add vegetables
according to their cooking times. Allow each guest to cook their own
beef. Shabu-shabu is said to be the sound of the aforementioned meat
being agitated in the soup. Remove the vegetables to bowls and enjoy
with either Ponzu Sauce or Peanut Sauce (recipes here). Another stylish
but simple hot dish is Chicken Meatball Hot Pot. It’s finished in
minutes and would make a superb starter or warming winter supper. A
light and healthy meal.
For those who must have their fix of rice and fish, there are recipes
aplenty. Tuna-Mayo Rice Balls make delicious snacks, but for something
no more taxing but a little more adventurous try the Seared Rice Balls
with Bacon Soy Sauce. Well-flavoured filling encased by cooked rice and
then grilled to golden, toasty perfection. One would make a substantial
snack ...but who could stop at only one?
This is an inspiring collection of Japanese recipes for the European
cook. Fresh ingredients used to make flavourful and comforting meals.
The photography by Akira Saito marvellously showcases the finished
dishes but it’s a book to use as well as admire.
Asian Cookbook: Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata
Author: Yoshihiro Murata
Published by: Kodansha International
There is no denying the popularity of Japanese food
in the UK these days. There has been a proliferation of new restaurants
showcasing that cuisine. All of our cities will have some and many have
a slew of sushi-peddling establishments, but few offer extensive menus
cooked Japanese food. Even the Japanese do not live by sushi alone.
Nice from time to
time but boring for both lunch and dinner seven days a week.
We can easily cook real Japanese food ourselves.
The Japanese have cold snowy winters just as we do in Northern Europe
and they need hearty and hot fare just like us. This volume offers a
over-view of authentic Japanese cuisine, and the ingredients will
mostly be on-hand
in your local chain supermarket.
If one still craves cool rice then try Onigiri.
These are stuffed rice balls and the equivalent of a sandwich. They are
a staple of bento boxes which are sold at every Japanese railway
They are simple to make and can be filled either
with some well-flavoured left-overs or the suggested stuffing of tuna
Japanese mayo. These would be a great addition to an Asian buffet.
Donburi are those bowls of hot rice with various toppings. Prawn
Sukiyaki on rice
has a mound of garnishes that are light yet flavourful. It’s a complete
and very attractive. Use the basic recipe but substitute the seafood
slices of cooked beef or a selection of vegetables. Fried Pork Cutlet
sound very Japanese but in fact it’s very popular and it makes a good
topping. Donburi is traditional and versatile.
Green Tea Ice-cream is my pick of the book. Tea in all its guises is
than ever these days. We have enjoyed a revival in the classic English
afternoon tea, but it’s the health properties that have given these
leaves a boost.
Japanese green tea has a distinctive agreeable taste and imparts a
pistachio-green colour when used to infuse milk-based dishes. Green Tea
Ice Cream makes
a fitting end to a Japanese meal, where presentation is key to success.
Its delicate flavour calms the palate, and a simple mound of this could
persuade many of us down the Zen path. Nothing fussy here: few
providing a confection that is as correct as an understated but
Ikebana – flower arrangement...and made in your very own understated
Japanese food might have been hi-jacked by fast conveyor-belt sushi
shops, and they
do have their place in the food chain, but we can prepare authentic
food at home. No need for special knives or crockery, and the Japanese
introduces the reader to the dishes that the Japanese would cook for
Asian cookbook review: Japanese Bible
Published by: Dorling Kindersley
– A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji
The world is shrinking and more of us than ever have taken
advantage of travel opportunities. We move
with ease around the globe and adopt and adapt culture, lifestyle and
Whilst all that is true we could be forgiven for overlooking the impact
of Japan’s food on the West. America, in particular, has embraced
Japan’s food. The USA has a close relationship with the country and
sushi is common. Europe has not had quite that same exposure to
Japanese cuisine although larger towns in Britain might sport a brace
of Japanese restaurants. It might therefore come as a surprise to know
that the Japanese food philosophy has made a great impression on
Western eating habits.
Remember Nouvelle Cuisine? That’s French, isn’t it? Well, the name was
French but the concept was Japanese. Young French chefs travelled to
Japan in the 70s and 80s and were amazed at the simplicity and beauty
of its dishes. They translated that to suit the restaurant-going
populace of London and Paris... and Nouvelle Cuisine sunk like a very
light, Zen and minimalist brick... but the germ of an idea was growing.
Chefs now appreciate aesthetics, flavour combinations and freshness of
ingredients in a different way.
This 25th anniversary edition of Japanese Cooking – A Simple Art has
not been updated and massaged. It stands in its original form with only
a new foreword by the celebrated restaurant critic and food writer,
Ruth Reichl, and a new preface by Yoshiki Tsuji, son of the author.
This book has not been revamped because what was true and valuable a
quarter of a century ago remains so.
Shizuo Tsuji graduated with a degree in French literature from Wasada
University in Tokyo and then worked as a newspaper reporter. In 1960 he
established the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka to train professional
chefs. He studied with the greatest chefs in France and was recognised
by the French government who awarded him Meilleur Ouvrier for
outstanding promotion of French cuisine. He published over 30 books on
gastronomy, music, essays and translations.
Japanese Cooking – A Simple Art is considered a masterwork of Japanese
cuisine. Nigella Lawson has described it as “...quite the most
illuminating text around on Japanese food.” It’s an encyclopaedia of
Japanese food but it’s also an absorbing read. The line illustrations
demystify what might sound like complex techniques, revealing those
techniques to be surprisingly simple. There is not a wealth of
expensive equipment to buy although an enthusiast might be driven to
acquire some stunning tableware to add a touch of visual authenticity
to a Japanese meal.
American home cooks, at least in larger cities, will have no problem in
finding the more exotic of ingredients. There are fewer Japanese
supermarkets in Europe although many Asian stores carry Japanese
products. However there is a good selection of internet sites which
offer food products to stock your Japanese store cupboard.
An example of an easy dish made with ingredients found in most large
supermarkets is Ginger Pork Sauté (Butaniku Shoga-yaki). This is
a delicious and quick dish of pork and shiitake mushrooms cooked with
ginger, mirin, sake and soy sauce.
Vegetarians are well catered for in Japan. Bean Curd Dengaku (Tofu
Dengaku) are small grilled lollies (popsicles) of tofu with toppings.
You might be able to buy the traditional two-pronged forks from
specialist shops but a couple of thin wooden kebab picks will work just
as well. These are tasty and attractive morsels that will tempt even a
Japanese food debutant. Substitute small fish and other seafood or
vegetables such as aubergine (eggplant), mushrooms or peppers.
Japanese Cooking – A Simple Art is a classic. It’s considered
outstanding by the wise and worthy of the international food industry.
It explains the more complex of traditional dishes as well as the
uber-simple ones. This is real Japanese cooking that will delight and
intrigue both the eyes and the palate.
Asian cookbook review: Japanese Cooking – A Simple Art
Author: Shizuo Tsuji
Published by: Kodanashi International
Hashi – A
Japanese cookery course
I have reviewed many a cookbook and a good number of these
have been Japanese, but it’s the first time I have looked up from my
half-finished draft to see the author of the object of my labours
gracing my TV screen. Reiko Hashimoto is on New British Kitchen and
demonstrating sushi. I know that Absolute Press is an amazing publisher
but I must add that their timing is impeccable.
Reiko was born in Kyoto to a traditional Japanese family with a mum
who has transmitted her own passion for Japanese cooking and food.
Reiko moved to the UK to study but instead of going into a dry and
boring profession she became an air hostess. She was based in Hong Kong
so had all the culinary exposure that metropolis has to offer.
Travelling also gave Reiko the opportunity to broaden her gastronomic
horizons and she eventually decided on a career in teaching Japanese
Reiko moved to London and launched a company called ‘HASHI’ offering
Japanese cooking courses and catering Japanese food for dinner parties
and events. Reiko has now been teaching for over a decade; she offers
classes to raw beginners but also to those who have a little more
Although I mentioned that Reiko demonstrated sushi on the “John Torode
Show”, she also presented cooked dishes. Sushi and sashimi are common
in the UK these days and many people assume that’s all the Japanese
eat. In truth there is a large and tempting array of dishes that are
healthy and delicious, and the ingredients are available in
supermarkets or online.
Hashi – A Japanese cookery course is a big, bold and brilliant book
with a chunky square format. Black-edged pages and heavy title type
make this a striking volume. Plenty of photography to give a bit of
inspiration to the novice home cook, and the majority of the recipes
are surprisingly short.
The recipes here are broad-based and do constitute a cookery course.
Those unfamiliar with Japanese dishes can hone their skills on the
simple dishes before progressing to those which are a little more
demanding, although there is nothing here that would terrify the
Western home cook.
My favourite recipe is that for Donburi. This is a bowl of hot rice
with a topping – a real dinner dish. The author offers several versions
of this popular meal but my pick-of-the-bunch is Oyako-Donburi. It’s
chicken cooked in dashi, mirin, sugar and saké and then beaten
egg is added. Mild and comforting and a hot meal that even the kids
will request. That’s gotta be a reason to buy this book.
Hashi – A Japanese cookery course is one of the most accessible
Japanese cookbooks around. Reiko lives in London so she is aware of
available ingredients and the tastes of the local population. Her
experience as a teacher allows her to engage with the reader and
encourage them to have a go. A lovely gift for any Japanese food
Asian cookbook review: Hashi – A Japanese cookery course
Author: Reiko Hashimoto
Published by: Absolute Press
Food of Japan
It’s the winner of a Japan Festival Award ‘for outstanding
achievements in furthering the understanding of
Japanese culture in the United Kingdom’ in 2000. In the same year it
was also short-listed for the World Cookbook Awards and the Guild of
Food Writers’ Jeremy Round Award for Best First Cookery Book. The
author, Shirley Booth, in 2006 was awarded the Japanese Agriculture
Minister's Award for Overseas Promotion of Japanese. There was no doubt
that this book was going to be interesting.
Shirley has amazing credentials, being not only an award winner but,
more importantly, having lived in Japan and taught Japanese cooking
there. She seems to know just about everything there is to know about
the subject but her addition of historic and personal narrative puts
the food into context. It is that conversational but informative style
that elevates this book to something more than just another ethnic
Japanese food has become more and more popular over the last few years.
Japanese restaurants proliferate and chilled counters in supermarkets
groan under the weight of pre-packed sushi. The price is often
prohibitive and the selection is small. So why don’t we just make
Japanese food at home... and something other than sushi?
Well, we could and should but this is a relatively new food trend and
we need a bit of coaxing. It’s true that the ingredients are not as
readily available in the high street as, say, Indian or Chinese, but I
know you have heard of the internet because you are reading this
marvellously well-executed review. Just order ingredients online.
There are 200 or so recipes in this volume so there will be plenty to
fire the imagination. My advice would be to look through the index and
find a dish that you just like the sound of. Make up your mind that
you’ll prepare your choice at the weekend and then go to the recipe.
It’s unlikely that you’ll find a cooking technique that you have not
encountered before and it’s probable that your dish will have familiar
ingredients. No excuse not to have a go. Japanese food is famed for
being healthy, flavourful and different. We should all be considering
our diet and cooking foods that taste good and do us good.
You could start your culinary adventure with Gyoza. These are not
strictly Japanese in origin but are popular Chinese dumplings adopted
in the same way as Europeans have adopted kebabs. These are easy to
make and a good way to disguise cabbage. Chicken Teriyaki is simple to
prepare and tasty. I have used the Teriyaki sauce as a marinade for
salmon so the recipe can be adapted for non-meat eaters.
One dish that will be popular with westerners will be Gyudon. It is,
like so many here, simple with few ingredients but lots of flavour.
It’s fried beef and onions with an added sauce of typical Japanese
flavours: soy, mirin and ginger. Serve over a bowl of rice and you’ll
have satisfied guests.
Food of Japan is a lovely book that is sure to become a classic.
Shirley Booth presents what could be an intimidating subject in an
accessible and witty fashion. This is a must for anyone who has an
interest in Japanese food or culture.
The author, Kentaro Kobayashi, is a young man with both
talent and passion. He started his working life as an illustrator but soon displayed
his flair for food. (He gets that from his mum who is an award-winning
cookbook author.) His motto has always been “easy yet delicious,
stylish yet realistic”. He has featured in magazines and on television
where he represents the new generation of cooks. His Veggie Haven has
been nominated by the Paris Book Fair and Gourmand as one of 2009’s
Best Cookbooks of the Year. Not too shabby!
It’s called Easy Japanese Cooking but that might give the impression
that it concerns traditional Japanese fare. I prefer to think of it as
Easy Contemporary Japanese Cooking. The Japanese, along with the rest
of the world, are becoming more global in their food horizons and
Kentaro has no prejudice when it comes to introducing Western
ingredients into his larder. Appetizer Rex is a volume that shows the
acceptable face of fusion cuisine, and does it in a fun way.
Just think of appetizers or hors d’oeuvres and we conjure thoughts of
convivial gatherings. These little dishes are not taxing to prepare but
choose the right ones to match your guests, along with their drinks,
and success is assured. There are no worries about preparing a balanced
meal: appetizers are not meals in themselves, they are little
‘amuse-gueules’ as the French would poetically describe them.
Kentaro offers us his usual mix of lively ingredients combined with
thoughtful but simple presentation. There are a few recipes that will
be somewhat familiar to Western readers – for example, Nachos, Tomato
Salsa, and Tomato and Olive Bruschetta are well loved standards, but my
advice would be to consider the lesser-known dishes that will be not
only delicious but great conversation pieces.
Wasabi Butter Beef will be a winner with the carnivores. A simple dish
to prepare but sliced beef always contrives to look luxurious. Ribs
with Green Onions will also help to slake manly appetites. Sunny-side
Up Beef is a good way of using up leftover Sunday roast. A striking
presentation of sauced meat and an egg yoke.
Fried Rice Balls would be an exotic alternative to crisps (chips).
Serve them with some good flavourful Japanese condiments for a
healthier but substantial snack. Two-Way Fritters are ideal for those
who must have a fried-food fix. They are an agreeable combination of
corn, ham and shrimp. They are said to stay crisp even when cooled so a
good choice for a drinks party.
My absolute favourite dish will have my dear reader reeling in horror.
Whelks! WHELKS? Yes, and you should try them. Kentaro has a Whelk
Sauté which has few ingredients, is simple to make and economic
as well. I would perhaps counsel that you slice the shellfish rather
than leaving them whole. The whelks found off British coasts are large
and, I must admit, unattractive. Don’t tell your guests what they are
eating and they will love them.
Easy Japanese Cooking – Appetizer Rex is another winner from Kentaro
Kobayashi. He continues to offer dishes that are simple but impressive.
Always something unique and stunning. Don’t stop now, Kentaro, I await
the next volume.
Asian cookbook review: Easy Japanese Cooking – Appetizer Rex
Author: Kentaro Kobayashi
Published by: Vertical Inc. New York
Price: $14.95 US, £10.99
Easy Japanese Cookbook
isn’t just a large format volume, it’s a seriously large format
complete with a CD of traditional Japanese music to listen to while you
are either cooking or sitting cross-legged in agony at your coffee
table pretending to be eating at a tea house in Nagoya.
Easy Japanese Cookbook is not only seriously large it’s seriously
beautiful, with huge colour pictures by William Lingwood. The text is
clear and the recipes easy to follow. Each one has preparation time and
cooking time clearly marked. It’s a wire-bound cookbook which gives the
advantage of staying open on the counter. No need for bottles of Sake
balanced at the corners.
The author, Emi Kazuko, has penned several cookbooks (her book Street
Cafe Japan was made into a TV series for UK Style) and is no stranger
to BBC radio. It’s obvious that she appreciates that Japanese cuisine
is new to many of us in the UK. Emi leads us through every aspect from
ingredients, cooking methods, equipment and basic recipes to
appetizers, main courses, etc. The menu section will tell you all you
need to know about putting together an authentic Japanese meal.
Japanese food might not be as familiar to us as, say, Indian or even
Thai but just a quick flick through the pages and you’ll see that it is
easy. Nothing here takes much hands-on effort. There are a few recipes
that demand a few hours marinade time but you don’t have to sit and
watch the food as it soaks, do you?
Ginger Pork with Rocket Salad is an old-established and popular dish in
Japan. It couldn’t be simpler. It takes 15 minutes to prepare, 10
minutes marinade time and 10 minutes to cook. It won’t break the bank,
it’s authentic and it’s a lovely family meal.
Most of us will know the name Sukiyaki. No, not the Japanese pop song
released in Japan in 1961 and in the US and UK in 1963 and sung by Kyu
Sakamoto, killed in a plane crash in 1985 (Impressed aren’t you?). No,
this is the classic dish cooked in a cast iron pan at the table. It’s a
delicious combination of beef and vegetables. It couldn’t be
easier...your guests will be doing the cooking.
Anyone who wants to try Japanese food at home will find all they need
in Easy Japanese Cookbook. It will take away the terror for beginners
and supply the more practised with lovely recipes... and some nice
music as well.
Easy Japanese Cookbook
Author: Emi Kazuko
Published by: Duncan Baird
Mania – Easy Japanese Cooking
I love Japanese food but seldom have I been offered
anything other than tempura and sushi. Now, don’t get
me wrong, I could eat both those lovely dishes every day but there is
more to Japanese food than raw fish and battered vegetables. There is
What exactly is this donburi? It’s all about rice. Doesn’t sound very
interesting, does it? Top that rice with meat and/or vegetables and
perhaps a few noodles and often egg, cooked or not. Those garnishes
complement the rice which is held in such high esteem by the Japanese.
The author, Kentaro Kobayashi, is a young man with both talent and
passion. He started his working life as an illustrator but soon
displayed his flair for food. His motto has always been “easy yet
delicious, stylish yet realistic”. He has featured in magazines and on
television where he represented the new generation of cooks who wanted
taste and texture in no time.
I am a food writer and researcher and frequent eater, and I had oft
encountered recipes for Donburi but it was Toronto (no, not Tokyo) that
gave me an opportunity to try these tempting dishes for the first time.
I chose a chicken donburi which arrived with a sunny egg yolk nestling
on top of vegetables and tender meat. I have been searching for such
donburi perfection since then.
At last my menu scanning is over and I have help at hand in the guise
of Donburi Mania, which houses between its covers 70 recipes for meals
that are quick, delicious and healthy. You’ll have dinner ready in the
time it takes to cook rice. You can use last night’s leftovers with
some fresh vegetables for crunch. It couldn’t be simpler. No exotic
equipment needed and more importantly...no special skills.
It’s been difficult for me to select a few recipes to represent
donburi. All of Kentaro’s dishes are appealing and encompass a wide
range of ingredients. There is plenty here for a vegetarian and for
fish lovers but the author will not expect you to follow his ideas
meticulously. Donburi is about casual and modern eating so make a few
from this book and then invent your own.
Stewed Pork Donburi makes use of cheaper cuts of meat. This recipe is
more time-consuming than others as the meat needs to simmer for an hour
or so. You don’t have to sit and watch the pork cooking so it hardly
constitutes as slaving over a hot stove. The end result of your
foreplanning will be a silky and soft preparation that will become a
firm favourite. It’s real comfort food that will have you finding
excuses to make it.
Chicken Sukiyaki Donburi reminds me of my first encounter. You can use
last night’s leftover Sukiyaki (or cook chicken in a sweet soy sauce)
so you’ll have a smart meal in less than 20 minutes. The egg yolk might
be alarming for the uninitiated but it forms a creamy coating which is
rich and luxurious. Be brave.
Donburi Mania – Easy Japanese Cooking is the most comprehensive book
around covering just this unique and flavourful dish. I’ll be eating my
way through each of Kentaro Kobayashi’s tempting recipes.
Asian cookbook review: Donburi Mania – Easy Japanese Cooking
Author: Kentaro Kobayashi
Published by: Vertical Inc.
Price: £9.99, $14.95US
Bento Love -
Easy Japanese Cooking
All of my regular readers will know the name Kentaro
Kobayashi. I have reviewed another book of his which had its focus
on Donburi, an underrated Japanese dish. He has now turned his
attention to the evocative bento box.
Most of us would only have encountered a bento box via our TV screens.
They are the stylish packages that are found on Japanese railway
stations. No self-respecting documentary about the land of Nippon is
complete without the western presenter opening his lunch to discover a
savoury and attractive array of rice and accompanying dishes. All very
exotic and exciting, but on analysis we are talking food on the go,
which needs to be delicious and sustaining.
Kentaro has fond memories of the lunch boxes prepared by his mum. As a
growing lad he craved flavourful meat. He was sometimes lucky but
whatever the contents of his bento box he was always excited by it, and
well fed. He has taken the opportunity with Bento Love to indulge his
dream of meat-laden lunch to present some fine recipes, but he has also
included dishes that would be craved by both vegetarians and those who
This chef has a knack for recipe selection. He has, once again, chosen
dishes that will be tempting for the Japanese reader but equally for
those of us who are not so familiar with Japanese food. There is
nothing here that is bizarre, no ingredient thought delectable only by
the Japanese. This is an accessible and delightful twist on a packed
lunch which is a million miles away from a boiled egg sandwich and a
bag of salt and vinegar crisps (chips).
The first recipe is that for Deluxe Steak Bento with Simmered Shiitake
Mushrooms and Sautéed Watercress. That’s no surprise considering
Kentaro's love of protein. The Pork Steak Bento with Sautéed
Snap Peas and Shimeji Mushrooms is served with Shiba-style Pickles. Use
your favourite European mushroom if you can’t find the shimeji variety,
but you will likely find all traditional ingredients in your nearest
Asian supermarket or online.
Cashew Chicken Stir-fry is a Chinese classic but is included here
because this is a book about contemporary Japanese cooking. It’s a dish
that works well for the lunch box, as does Japanese-style Chicken and
Potato Curry, and there is even Fish and Chips Bento which includes
some broccoli and rice balls.
My favourite recipe is Simmered Croquette Bento. This is a dish made
from leftovers but I think it’s worth the effort of cooking from
scratch especially for lunch. It’s a moist and flavourful dish and real
comfort food. It’s hearty and would be welcome as a substantial lunch
on a grey winter’s day.
We all need to eat and we should want to eat well. The credit crunch
has forced many to consider a packed lunch from home. It’s a great
notion and would save you cash but if that aforementioned lunch is
unappetizing then you’ll soon be back to a curly, dry sandwich or a pie
and a pint at the nearest pub. Consider some Japanese-inspired bento
and be the envy of your colleagues. But don’t forget that you can eat
all these dishes at home. They work just as well on a plate as in a box.
Bento Love - Easy Japanese Cooking is
another Kentaro Kobayashi success. Well-written recipes, stunning
photography by Hideo Sawai and great value for money. This volume is to
be admired but also used. Hope we have many more books from this chef.
Asian cookbook review: Bento Love - Easy Japanese Cooking
Author: Kentaro Kobayashi
Published by: Vertical, Inc.
Price $14.95US, £10.99