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 of 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 good 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 station. They are simple to make and can be filled either with some well-flavoured left-overs or the suggested stuffing of tuna and 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 meal and very attractive. Use the basic recipe but substitute the seafood with thin slices of cooked beef or a selection of vegetables. Fried Pork Cutlet might not 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 more popular 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 beautiful 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 ingredients providing a confection that is as correct as an understated but well-crafted Ikebana – flower arrangement…and made in your very own understated IKEA-inspired kitchen.
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 Japanese food at home. No need for special knives or crockery, and the Japanese Bible introduces the reader to the dishes that the Japanese would cook for themselves.
Published by: Dorling Kindersley
Asian cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018