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Akiko

Japanese cookbook recommendations

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This is my "go to" Japanese cookbook. I have had it for over 20 years and will have to replace it soon as it is getting very battered.

Everything I have ever cooked from it has been excellent.

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Everyone recommends this cookbook:  Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji  and I think that I really ought to buy myself a copy ..
Tsuji organizes the book in a unique way. Instead of dividing the book by course or ingredient, he creates a section for each cooking technique (grilling, steaming, deep-frying). Each technique is discussed in depth with one recipe accompanied by illustrations to clarify each step.  With its clear illustrations, and detailed explanations on Japanese cooking techniques, customs, and ingredients, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art is a great place to start for those looking to learn more about cooking Japanese cuisine.
full review here

If I had to pick only one, my vote would be for this as well.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I, too, would recommend this cookbook. By my spoiled tastes, it's a little shy on pictures (the book has color plate sections, so there aren't photos of everything; I'm so used to, for example, hrtz8w's pictorials that it seems strange to me anymore!) but it really seems very thorough. He covers all the basics, including ingredients, equipment, and techniques, and for the money I would say it's the best English-language "basics of" Japanese cookbook I've seen.


Jennie

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I have to agree - but I don't own it, though I have one of his cookbooks in Japanese. Though I have other personal favorites, his cooking is really the standard of quality to aim for in contemporary preparation of traditional food.

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I was offered a job as the deep-fry cook in an Izakaya, sort of like a Japanese pub. I took the job and realised that hey hey, I love Japanese food, but had absolutely no freakin' idea about how to cook it, let alone work in a restaurant. Basically, I blagged myself into the job.

I picked up Tsuji's book on the way home the night before, and spent the whole night reading and taking down 'cheat notes'. During the demo session in the kitchen the next morning, I actually made sense of what was going on. Lunch service passed by okay. Nothing sent back, and no bruises. My knifework needed improvement though, but Tsuji came to the rescue.

I started taking the book to work. the other cooks, all Japanese bar myself, began poring over it. Many of them didn't read Japanese so the recipes and techniques were helpful. Then the sushi chef borrowed it and I had to go back and ask him nicely one afternoon when he was prepping half a tuna with a massive sword.

Great book.


"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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My favorite is The Japanese Kitchen by Hiroko Shimbo. It was one of the first Japanese cookbooks I ever bought (I now have about ten) and it was very helpful when I was first starting to cook Japanese food. It has a wide range of dishes from traditional to modern, as well as a a comprehensive section on techniques and ingredients. There aren't any pictures but I like it that way, I think it gives more room for in-depth descriptions. It's definitely my most beat up cookbook, and the one that I always go to first when trying out a new recipe.

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My favorite is Elizabeth Andoh's At Home with Japanese Cooking (out of print) because the food tastes like the Japanese food I "grew up with" (cooked by my Japanese friends and their parents). I haven't tried the recipes from her new book Washoku yet, but it's a good bet they would similarly appeal to me.

The recipes in Shizuo Tsuji's book tend to be more complex. The book, BTW, is not organized in a "unique way" but the way food is perceived in Japanese culture (and how it's presented in most Japanese-language cookbooks): not in "courses" like Western meals, but by cooking techniques that are meant to be balanced in each meal -- e.g., one serves a steamed dish or boiled dish along with a fried dish, rather than two fried dishes together. Makes complete sense to me!


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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If you are in the SF Bay Area and are curious to see the person behind the books and magazine articles, Elizabeth Andoh is making a guest appearance in Napa, at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts on March 24th from 3:15 to 4:15. Taken from the Copia catalog, she "will share stories, lore, and tastes from Japan's home kitchens where Washoku is a way of life." It's supposed to include "talk, tasting, and book signing." I wonder what treats she'll offer the crowd? :smile:

The best part is that during the month of March, admission is free (usually it's $12.50) and there's no extra charge to see her. Copia is doing a month long feature on the splendors of Spain :huh:, so if you get there earlier in the day you can go to a free discussion about Spanish olives and almonds and taste some Spanish wines!

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I've always wondered ... Is there a Japanese equvilent of The Joy of Cooking or Larousse Gastronomique? I have been reading a lot of Japanese cookbooks (in Japanese) at the bookstore on my lunch breaks and I would love to read something that is considered a classic. Is there a single text that many people know as the quintessential Japanese cookbook within Japan?

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I really don't think so - partly because skills in Japan are still considered to be something you learn from a teacher, not a book, and partly because of the publishing industry here - it's much more unusual for top sellers to go into editions that span decades here. It's more usual for publishers to ask popular or respected authors to write a *new* book.

And then there's the west/east Japan split in styles and seasonings...

I think you have to first eliminate most of the TV chefs - some of them are extremely accomplished, but naturally they are looking more at riding the wave of the newest fads, and at putting their own spin on things than at transmitting orthodox classical dishes.

That said, Japan is notoriously fashion-oriented, and dishes which were "timeless classics "30 years ago are now "the nostalgic taste of Showa".

I tried to list up a few names, but I'm sure I'm out of touch.

I suggest you look for books on kaiseki 懐石 formal meals, because only very well-known restaurateurs or chefs get to put out books on this all-embracing field.

For something more approachable, look for books on ippin 一品 (single item) kobachi 小鉢 (small dish) cooking - the latter are the kind of side dishes you get at a sake bar, and while traditional in style, are expected to be impeccable in concept and realization.

When you've looked through those, also start looking at books on temple cooking, local cooking 郷土料理 especially Kyoto "obanzai", and historical cooking. I have a thin but interesting book on Edo cooking - it would be no use if you'd never cooked anything Japanese before, but lots of interesting ideas for the more experienced cook. It's called Oo-edo Ryouri-chou 大江戸料理帖 the small edition I have is out of print (came out in 1999, out of print by 2006 - that's the publishing game here!), but there is a more complete edition called Kanzen Oo-edo Ryouri-chou which is still in print.

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For me the Tsuji book is still the bible even after more than 25 years; it is not dated and stands head and shoulders above any other Japanese cook book, and in these days where TV cooks rule the roost it is hard to imagine that another book on Japanese cooking will ever benefit from the amount of effort or care that was lavished on Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.

Speaking of kaiseki, I recently edited/rewrote a book on the subject by Chef Yoshihiro Murata titled: Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto's Kikunoi Restaurant. It is out in Japan now, and will be released in the US and the rest of the world on Nov. 3. All I can say is it is a "must have," the photos are stunningly gorgeous and it is a very good read as well. The cuisine is complex and the recipes tend to fall into the "don't try this at home" category, though I'm sure many readers will throw caution to the wind and have a go.

The book is almost impossible to find by searching the Japanese Amazon site, so I've added this link:

http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/4770030...3344741?ie=UTF8

Cheers

The O.G.


Edited by ogkodansha (log)

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Hi all

My partner and I are avid japanese food fans and have spent the last 2 weks reading thru the posts on this forum. I was just wondering what Japanese cookbooks you recommend as a gift to my partner. We have travelled quite a bit in Japan and have lots of Japanese friends so are familiar with the food there. I looking for books that (doesn't have to be in the same book):

1) May give us more insight into the history of japanese food

2) Goes beyond the usual recipes seen in most westernised japanese cookbooks

3) Home cooking and snacks!

Thanks in advance

PS I was tossing up whether to post here or cookbooks section but here it is :laugh:

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Gaku Homma's Japanese Country Cooking would fit most of that bill, though he doesn't cover snacks so much... It's more of a folk history than a cookbook, but does have plenty of recipes. There are some errors in the older edition that I have, but it's quite possible that the more recent one has fixed those things.

Hi all

My partner and I are avid japanese food fans and have spent the last 2 weks reading thru the posts on this forum. I was just wondering what Japanese cookbooks you recommend as a gift to my partner. We have travelled quite a bit in Japan and have lots of Japanese friends so are familiar with the food there. I looking for books that (doesn't have to be in the same book):

1) May give us more insight into the history of japanese food

2) Goes beyond the usual recipes seen in most westernised japanese cookbooks

3) Home cooking and snacks!

Thanks in advance

PS I was tossing up whether to post here or cookbooks section but here it is :laugh:


Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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I agree with Jason. This is a very interesting personal history. I also recommend Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Tokiko Suzuki. Although there's no historical context, the recipes are very authentic for those interested in what people really eat at home instead of in restaurants. Not westernized at all.

My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook is Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji


Edited by BarbaraY (log)

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I agree with Jason. This is a very interesting personal history. I also recommend Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Tokiko Suzuki. Although there's no historical context, the recipes are very authentic for those interested in what people really eat at home instead of in restaurants. Not westernized at all.

My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook is Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji

I also think that Shizuo Tsuji's Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art is one of the best for starters.

Some of his flavorings can be on the sweet side though like his method of sukiyaki.

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Was looking thru amazon. Does anyone have this book

"Harumi's Japanese Cooking" Apparently it won :Best Cookbook of the Year 2004" at the 10th Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

Couldn't find it on the shelves to look at though.

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She is one of those Martha Stewart/Delia type people who are a brand unto themselves. Her food is intended to be simple and up-to-date, but doesn't aim to be extremely innovative or ultra-professional.

Recipes from "Harumi" magazine current issue

Try clicking some of the pictures. The current issue actually features sandwiches, but they don't seem to be on the site.

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I find that I cook out of Tsuji's "Practical Japanese Cooking" together with his older Simple Art. Practical was published much later, in '86, and similar dishes cut back on the sweetness. If you're not familiar w/ this book, every page is filled w/ color photos. FWIW, I just bought a used copy from Amazon for under $7.


Monterey Bay area

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Another Japanese cookbook I recommend (for beginners) is Japanese Cooking by Emi Kazuko.  From sushi to dashi stock to ramen to home-style stews this is a great book for those new to cooking Japanese food.

Whilst this book can serve as a good introduction, it does have some serious flaws.

Many of the recipes are far too sweet, I suggest using half (or less) of the sugar recommended. I understand that tastes have changed in Japan, especially during this century, so this book probably reflects a now outmoded taste for heavily sweetened food. This means that the fried aubergine with Miso Sauce recipe is rather horrid. Also, a warning not to waste good prawns and scallops on the nasty rubbery okonomiyaki recipe (called Cabbage "Noodle" Pancake).

Also, a few of the recipes call for large quantities of sake and give brief cooking times. The results can be overbearingly alcoholic... and not always in a pleasant way.

It should be a good book for beginners, but I believe that only those who are familiar enough with Japanese food and have the confidence to tweak and adapt the recipes are going to get the best from them. And in this case, they're probably better getting off a different book entirely.

---

I've noticed that there's no recommendations or comments on books by Tokiko Suzuki. I'll post again when I've worked my way through some more of her recipes.

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I agree with Jason. This is a very interesting personal history. I also recommend Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Tokiko Suzuki. Although there's no historical context, the recipes are very authentic for those interested in what people really eat at home instead of in restaurants. Not westernized at all.

My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook is Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji

I did mention her book above. It's a very good book with nice recipes. That's where I first started cooking NikuJaga.

Sorry Hiroyuki but she calls for beef, not pork.:biggrin:

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I agree with Jason. This is a very interesting personal history. I also recommend Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Tokiko Suzuki. Although there's no historical context, the recipes are very authentic for those interested in what people really eat at home instead of in restaurants. Not westernized at all.

My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook is Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji

I did mention her book above. It's a very good book with nice recipes. That's where I first started cooking NikuJaga.

Sorry Hiroyuki but she calls for beef, not pork.:biggrin:

My apologies,

I somehow missed this mention. Thanks for pointing it out!

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Ichiban Shinsetsu na Washoku no Kyoukasho (The Kindest Japanese Food Textbook")

I saw this in a bookshop recently, and was very taken with it.

Tthere are a number of cookbooks around at present called "Ichiban shinsetsu na..." (The kindest...", or "Ichiban Yasashii..." (The Easiest...), but this is the only one devoted purely to Japanese food, I think.

It does start from dashi and rice, so if you already have Tsuji or similar, you wouldn't get as much use out of it, but it does contain a good range of useful dishes.

It includes articles on plating, equipment, and general points about certain dishes etc as well as individual recipes.

If you have even minimal Japanese, you might find this useful, as it has lots and lots of (admittedly small) step by step photos. The photos are useful because they are not the glossy finished-dish titillation, but the nitty-gritty preparation images.

If my sons weren't still working through their personal cookbooks, I'd be inclined to buy them a copy each...

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Now I've had a few months to work through more of her recipes, I can heartily recommend the two books I have by Tokiko Suzuki

"Japanese Homestyle Cooking " and also

"The Essentials of Japanese Cooking "

The 'hardest' part of either book is getting hold of the ingredients, but this should present few problems for anyone living in Japan. Most of the recipes are straightforward and beautifully explained with photo tutorials covering any potentially tricky or unfamiliar techniques and foods.

Japanese Homestyle Cooking does go into some of the basics in more detail, so most of the more 'exotic' kitchen equipment one will encounter in a Japanese kitchen (or hardware shop) is explained and this particular book even has photos showing a good way to squeeze the water out of tofu.

My Japanese Mother-In-Law is sadly no longer with us, Ms Suzuki, as a cooking tutor, is proving to be an appreciated surrogate.

---------

Another kitchen companion I'm getting a lot of mileage from is "Quick & Easy Tsukemono" by Ikuko Hisamatsu.

Every recipe includes a photo tutorial - all are straightforward and simple to follow. Again, the hardest part is sourcing the ingredients, again, not a problem for anyone living in Japan.

A wonderful book for anyone interested in expanding into the side dishes and accompaniments that are typically associated with Japanese meals (and make such wonderful fridge staples and additions to a bento box lunch).

Particularly marvellous for the warmer months, I'd also urge anyone with vegetarian/vegan leanings to consider this (less than 10% of the recipes involve fish or meat or even dairy products)


Edited by MoGa (log)

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