A few years ago our culinary ethnic horizons extended to a Friday night curry and perhaps the occasional Chinese dinner of sweet and sour pork. Often made at home from decent cookbooks, but not often pushing geographic food boundaries. But how about Japan and Korea?
These days we are exposed to many more restaurants and those encompass cuisines from every corner of the globe. There are exotic platters from Ethiopia, vibrant Caribbean dishes, and Polish dumplings in restaurants that are flourishing. We love eating out and then reproducing the flavours at home. We travel and bring back dining memories and cravings.
Japanese and Korean restaurants were almost unheard of a decade or so ago but now they are popular. Korean meals are often robust and spicy and just the kind of food appreciated by the British palate these days. Japanese dishes are refined and there is more to this cuisine than the ubiquitous sushi which is adored by so many. The Food and Cooking of Japan and Korea is a substantial collection of 250 recipes that will enable you to replicate favourite plates and will introduce you to new ones.
I love this style of cookbook. There is a comprehensive glossary of Korean and Japanese foods and an overview of each cuisine, along with a shopping guide. It’s likely that you will have to buy a few store-cupboard ingredients to start with, but once you have that small battery of condiments and spices you will be able to tackle all of those 250 dishes.
There are 1500 illustrations and these are supportive when one is new to a particular ingredient or technique or don’t know what the finished product should look like. There is lots that might be unfamiliar but this book presents recipes that can be mastered even by the culinarily challenged. The recipes are well written with step-by-step instructions.
I have my favourites from both the Japanese and Korean delights offered here. Sweet Cinnamon Pancakes are a popular snack in Korea and would be great as part of an exotic afternoon tea spread. They are little stuffed turnovers with a peanut and cinnamon filling, and they are addictive.
Oyako Don is a simple and satisfying dinner that won’t break the bank. The name means parent and child: ‘parent’ refers to the chicken and ‘child’ to the egg. The egg is poured over the finished dish and cooks for just a minute or so. The result is a silky coating over the chicken and the two are served over steaming rice.
The Food and Cooking of Japan and Korea is a practical book that will appeal to those of us who actually use cookbooks. It’s well-presented, deliciously informative and it’s a real page-turner for any dedicated food lover. I had forgotten how much I miss some of these dishes and I am tempted to make them again. There are others that are new to me and they are equally enticing.
There are two distinct cooking traditions here but so many dishes work well together. It’s a carnival of well-chosen recipes and under £12, which is great value for money.
The Food and Cooking of Japan and Korea
Authors: Emi Kazuko and Young Jin Song
Published by: Southwater
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018