My Japanese Table by Debra Samuels – review

The author of My Japanese Table 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.

My Japanese Table 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 fish.

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.

My Japanese Table
Author: Debra Samuels
Published by: Tuttle Publishing
Price: £27.50
ISBN 978-4-8053-1118-9


Asian cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018


Read other articles about Japanese food, art and culture here