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 traditional tempura.
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
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018