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 cooking shows.
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 terror.
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.
Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata
Author: Yoshihiro Murata
Published by: Kodansha International
Asian cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018