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Akiko

Japanese cookbook recommendations

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Well, well - a bilingual book on regional Japanese cooking Recipes of Fukuoka by Tsuda/Matsukuma/Caton, 1,575 yen, published in July 2009.

I have yet to see this, but regional recipes in English are hard to come by, and this is an interesting venture. Fukuoka not only has access to both Inland Sea and Pacific Ocean seafood, it also has a long tradition of Chinese influence in its food. I'll be interested to see what's in this.

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Wow, I was excited to see a number of my favourite cookbooks mentioned! I have Hiroko Shimbo's Japanese Cooking, as well as Tokiko Suzuki's and a number of other books. The problem I encountered after a while is that many cookbooks tend to be repetitive and give the same standard Japanese recipes, e.g. sukiyaki etc. Nowadays, I like to look for cookbooks with an interesting and fresh take on things to inspire me. I have a number of the Nobu cookbooks but found that after the first one, the recipes seemed rather contrived. I also have the Shunju cookbook, but that is more like a fantasy cookbook for me.

I have two of Harumi Kurihara's cookbooks, and I think she has a third one out in English. I flipped through it in the bookstore but it seemed to repeat some of her earlier recipes. I do like the books of hers that I have however. The recipes really work, although I have to confess that nowadays I tend to look at the ingredient lists and just eyeball measurements. Another cookbook I found in English is Amy Kaneko's "Let's Cook Japanese Food", which is a book about homestyle yoshoku or Japanese style Western food. I really wish that I could read Japanese better. I bought a cookbook (or "mook") in Japanese but my reading is so poor and so slow that in the end I gave up and just looked at the beautiful pictures. I'll certainly try to track down the Homma book. Thanks for the great suggestions!

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Is the new Kurihara book "Everyday Harumi"? It came out last month, and I haven't seen it, but the cover photo shows her mixing up something that looks suspiciously like beans dressed with sesame...a great dish, but definitely one that appears too often in English!

If you want a stepping-stone to using Japanese cookbooks, how about something written for children (i.e., something that has furigana to help with the kanji)? Unfortunately, almost all such books are for western-oriented snack/brunch/party food - I7ve looked and looked for such books for "home-alone" kids, but the last thing they need is "making cute party food with okaachan". However, here are a couple that look more useful. In particular, the second one is about techniques rather than recipes, and has a lot of illustrations. I haven't seen them, so can't be sure about the furigana.

Saa, hajimeyou! Kodomo cooking

Daidokoro no shigoto - kodomo to master suru 37 no chouri no chishiki (Illustraded ed.)que

Finally...I've been noticing western Japanese-langauge cookbooks more than traditional Japanese-language cookbooks recently, as the home-cooking world seems to be on a macrobiotic kick and I feel that's well served in English already. The other trend - "easy" and "quick", and more recently "low-cost" recipes that follow a downward spiral of lower expectations - I think men such as Kentaro or Koutetsu are writing better recipes for this need than the women just recently...almost all family cooking is easy to cut costs on - the challenge is cheap 'n tasty eating for one or two.

However, two people who do have my attention are:

Eiichi Edakuni - I recently bought his Yasai de Shusai (vegetables for drinking snacks), though he's better known for his Kuzushi Kappou book on modern Kyoto-style cooking - but this is more tapas than formal dining. You can chill out at the author's website, named after his Paris Guilo Guilo restaurant...the site is too cool for actual information. The site for one of his Tokyo restaurants, Yamashiro-ya gives a better idea of what he's doing.

Local Chiba boy (? local ojisan?) Takatoshi Suzuki also has a content-light website...his most recent book is Washoku no Hyouban Aji-zukuri. This is straight down the line fine Kanto-style Japanese cooking, but the flavoring is both lighter (less sweet) and more modern (a creamy vinegar-spiked tofu dressing rather than richer toppings, crunchy kibbled brown rice to coat deepfried dishes, instead of sesame etc).

Both these books (particularly the Edakuni one) are dominated by photo pages. Recipes are crammed into small-print sections at the back...plenty to see if you just want visual inspiration; maybe hard work reading without side-by-side visual cues, though. The Suzuki book does have some commentary on the photo pages.

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Yes, the new book is "Everyday Harumi". In the end I couldn't resist and went back to buy it, though I haven't read it yet because I was so excited to also buy one of Kentaro Kobayashi's cookbooks! It was translated into English and called "Bento Love". I later found more books of his on the internet and ordered them, and some have already arrived. Besides "Bento Love," I received one about noodles and another called "Donburi Mania". There is also an appetizer book and veggie one that I have on back order.

I am so glad that I heard about Kobayashi on this board. His recipes are great! Simple, tasty and fresh. I've already made a number of dishes (chicken with eggplant and basil, mentaiko mayonnaise potatoes, renkon with umeboshi, and spaghetti carbonara) and they all turned out delicious. My husband and kids were very pleased and so am I, since they feel like new and non-boring classics. I can't wait to get the appetizer and vegetable books.

Thanks Helen for the other suggestions! I will go and look for them at Kinokuniya, though I have been buying way too many books there recently...

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I am experiencing a major jag of renewed/intensified interest in Japanese cookery (no doubt at least partly due to my enrolling in a college-level beginning Japanese class), so I'm finding this forum in general, and this topic in particular, very helpful. Based on the recommendations here, I went hunting on Amazon, and was able to score a used older edition of Tsuji's "A Simple Art" for less than what it'll cost for it to be shipped to me. :laugh:

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I'm actually thinking about getting Tsuji's "A Simple Art" to get some more classic recipes. I'd like a decent one for takigomi gohan, which I can never get to turn out to my satisfaction - does he give a recipe for that in this book? I'm excited to hear Harumi has got a new one out, since I'm a huge fan of her books; I'll have to see if I can order it. That "Yasai de Shusai" sounds right up my alley, I'll have to mark it down for my next trip to Japan.

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I'm actually thinking about getting Tsuji's "A Simple Art" to get some more classic recipes. I'd like a decent one for takigomi gohan, which I can never get to turn out to my satisfaction - does he give a recipe for that in this book? I'm excited to hear Harumi has got a new one out, since I'm a huge fan of her books; I'll have to see if I can order it. That "Yasai de Shusai" sounds right up my alley, I'll have to mark it down for my next trip to Japan.

I just checked and he does have a recipe for takigoma gohan.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Thanks for the reminder. I saw chestnuts in the store last week.

I love the Tsuji book. I consider it the most authentic of my books.

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My copy of Tsuji's "A Simple Art" arrived the other day (it's the 1980 edition, in near-perfect shape). I've only had time to read/leaf through it a little, but it's already got me excited--though a little daunted; I immediately got entranced by the process of making rice bran mash pickles, but somehow, with my load of classes plus part-time job, I fear I won't have the attention span to keep up with them (plus I wonder how my roommate would take to the frangrance of a little pickle-vat in our household :laugh: ). But no worries, I see lots of other things I can tackle that I could fit into even my crazy schedule. And just the sheer amount of background info has got the cookbook-reader-geek in me excited. Thanks for the recommendations, folks!

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I have one copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.

Some parts of the book are wonderful, while others are not.

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I have one copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.

Some parts of the book are wonderful, while others are not.

When you have time can you expand on your comments? What sections of the book do you place in each category - wonderful, not wonderful? Many thanks.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I have one copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.

Some parts of the book are wonderful, while others are not.

When you have time can you expand on your comments? What sections of the book do you place in each category - wonderful, not wonderful? Many thanks.

Since you ask, here is a list, which is not at all exhaustive. (I'm not talking about sections but specific remarks, comments, sentences, etc.)

Page 81

Since this book centers on Osaka cooking, ...

This very important piece of information should be placed and HIGHLIGHTED at the very beginning of the book.

Page 144

Parboiling (yugaku): This operation is second nature to Japanese cooks, since it is done so often.

Good! Japanese cuisine is a cuisine of subtraction.

Page 159

When serving sashimi I urge you to avoid frozen fish. It negates the spirit of Japanese cuisine.

Simply high-sounding. With modern freezing technology, frozen fish is as good as fresh fish.

People who live in the mountains should only eat local freshwater fish.

Non-sense.

Page 202

Lacking such a rectangular pan, the Japanese omelette is close to impossible to make; a conventional omelette will substitute.

What discouraging words! I can make decent atsuyaki tamago in a round pan.

Page 235

Section on tempura:

No description that to make tempura, you need to use "weak flour" (equivalent to cake flour in the United States).

Page 471

(In a recipe for preparing edameme)

Add beans and boil over high heat 7-10 minutes.

Personally, I wouldn't eat edamame boiled for such a long time. 2-3 minutes should be enough. Edamame should be crunchy. I'm sure many Japanese will agree.

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.....

Since you ask, here is a list, which is not at all exhaustive.

Thanks! I thought you had meant much more than this. Some of his "errors" I had already found but had thought they might have much to do with the situation when the book was first published. Frozen fish are so much more palatable now that there is such a process as IQF for instance. The lack of a proper Japanese omelette pan might well have been an affront to his idea of aesthetics as to the actual practicality of using a round non-stick pan I suspect. I appreciate you taking the time to expand your comments.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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When serving sashimi I urge you to avoid frozen fish. It negates the spirit of Japanese cuisine.

People who live in the mountains should only eat local freshwater fish.

This is too funny. Maybe Tsuji-san never visited Tsukiji ? Does he think the maguro are still caught in Tokyo Bay ?


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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In the 25th Anniversary Edition, Yoshiki Tsuji, Shizuo's son, wrote in "Preface to the 25th Anniversary Edition":

I actually considered a proposal for an extensive revision of the work in 1993, but after a careful review I came to the conclusion that there was nothing to be gained and much tht could be lost in such a rewrite. I still feel that way today.

(Omitted)

(Osaka, 2006)

On page 337, however, there is a description of sake grades, tokkyu (special class), ikkyu (first class), and nikyu (second class), but the "toukyuu seido" (grade system) was abolished in 1992. There should be a footnote or something that notifies the reader of this fact.

Blether: The latter comment is not only rediculous but also very, very offensive to people like me who live in a mountainous area of Japan!

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Kentaro Kobayashi - list of his books available in English.

This is seriously do-able, easy modern food for Japanese kitchens. I've given several copies of his "simple" book to teenage boys who need to cook for themselves or their families, and used it with my less confident son. Bean sprouts sauteed in butter with plenty of black pepper may not be terribly traditional, but it's easy to do and it works.

Tsuji on freshwater fish...I just bet he was thinking of Kyoto when he wrote those words...certainly, when I was living in Osaka nearly 30 years ago, the best sashimi I had was in Shikoku, followed by Osaka (the Inland Sea used to be good fishing ground)...but ocean fish in Kyoto was something to avoid, especially considering that Kyoto has traditional freshwater options, and local dishes which make the most of them.

Freezing technology has changed, too...if I buy thawed sashimi blocks at the supermarket now, I'm buying something very different from the flabby, weeping blobs of tastelessness that were around not much more than 10 years ago.

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Oh yeah, I'd come across Tsuji's opinion on frozen fish already. I just decided "oh well, guess I'll be ignoring that one ..." :laugh:

And yeah, it would have been nice, if they went to the trouble of putting together a 25th anniversary edition, that they'd at least footnoted specific changes in info, like the business about the sake grades.

Even when I think a cookbook (or any reference book) is terrific, I almost always seek out second and third opinions, because every authority has their blind spots and hobby-horses. So -- many thanks for the heads-up on all those points of concern, Hiroyuki.

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There are several other comments in Tsuji's book that I find quite irritating, but I must admit that his is one of the best books on Japanese cuisine. I must agree with thim when he wrote on page 25:

This book has been a long time in the making. Of all the books yet published on the cuisine of this country, none has had so much time and effort spent on it as this volume. Here, for the first time, the secrets of the simple yet complex art of Japanese cooking have been laid bare for all to see.

So, I recommend this book to anyone wishing to learn Japanese cooking, but I must warn them not to believe everything the book says.

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Hi all,

Does anyone have any recommendations of good Japanese cookbooks written in English (Nobu and Morimoto and Motofuku are quite good but I put them as American bookbooks)?

I use Chinese as my first language and often there are tons of Japanese cookbooks published in Chinese either from Hong Kong or Taiwan (since Japan has similar cultural backgrounds as Chinese), and the books are pretty specialized into wagashi (2 titles), kaiseki, traditional cuisine written by a couple of big shots.

Any answers will be much appreciated, thanks.

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Here are two existing forums:

clicky 1

clicky 2


"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I just bought Everyday Harumi, Japanese Hot Pots (by Ono and Salat) and the Kentaro Kobayashi Noodle and Donburi books for my nephews.

Everyday Harumi certainly does contain standard items, but the seasoning is "standard modern", not too heavy, and two things stand out: she includes Japanese favorites from other traditions such as ma-bo nasu,and there are twists on some other standards...shrimp rather than pork or chicken simmered with potatoes, peanuts instead of sesame for dressing green vegetables. None of these things are revolutionary in Japan, but they make the "Japanese food in English" table a bit livelier.

The Japanese Hot Pots book is a very good one. For a start, it's well-edited - items like ponzu are gathered in a section at the beginning of the book, and where ponzu occurs in other recipes, there's a page number reference right beside it.

It's also quite a substantial book, and the range of dishes covered is correspondingly wide. The tone is chatty, which may or may not suit readers' tastes, but not so extreme that it's annoying. I haven't made any of the recipes...the sweet/salty balance may be a tad on the sweet side (i.e. traditional proportions).

Recipes - all the usual suspects are there, but also a number of regional recipes such as kiri-tanpo (though I prefer that with no added sweetness at all, as I think the rice adds a bit of sweetness), and some less well-known items such as hand-torn noodles.

The Kentaro Kobayashi books were exactly what I expected, and just right for nephews at college...enough recipes to be interesting, clear layout and unfussy but stylish recipes, book not too bulky. Just right for mastering personal favorites and impressing the guys down the hall.

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Noticed this recently published book: A Cook's Journey to Japan by Sarah Marx Feldner, Yumi Kawachi, and Noboru Murata.

The book appears to deserve a place in the English-language Japanese cookbook shelf, because it has quite a large number of regional specialities, an area that is not much covered in English.

The dishes that I saw gave me the impression of being "craft" recipes, needing some care but no needless effort to build...for example, the oyaki pastry recipe contains a little buckwheat flour, which adds interest to the pastry and goes well with the rich flavors of the filling, but most of the oyaki recipes around use only wheat flour.

I'm guessing from the few recipes viewable that the people who formed Feldner's tastes are interested in the "natural" side of traditional and local food. I might even have to buy a copy to find out for myself...

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I just bought Everyday Harumi, Japanese Hot Pots (by Ono and Salat) and the Kentaro Kobayashi Noodle and Donburi books for my nephews.

Helen, I bought Everyday Harumi in February and am only just now getting around to opening it up. You gave it to your nephews, but have you tried anything out of it yourself?

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Sorry no, I just flipped through it and passed it on...not that I have anything against the book, but she has a lot published in Japanese too, which is naturally more easily available to me.

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