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nakji

Retro Japanese Cookbooks

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In the town where I live, there's a small English lending library. It gets its books by buying old collections or books from various libraries in North America. There are, for example, a startlingly large number of books stamped "Burnaby Public Library". They're mostly fiction, but occasionally I stumble across a non-fiction gem, and last last night I found in the stacks "Typical JAPANESE COOKING" , edited by "The Japanese Cooking Companions" (no names given) with a publication date of 1970. A book like that begs to be signed out and brought home for further exploration, which is of course what I did.

The recipe names, for the most part, have been translated into English, with the exception of sukiyaki and tempura, which the authors assume are popular enough to not need translation, I guess. All of the rest of the recipe names are painstakingly translated, resulting in dishes called, "Steamed Egg Moons" and "Fried Eggs 'Raft' Style" but in a charming counterpoint the recipes use the Japanese names for all of the ingredients - sensible in the case of miso and ponzu, but slightly more puzzling in the case of soy sauce, which is referred to as shoyu throughout the book - no doubt to draw a difference between more readily available (I assume at the time) Chinese soy sauce and Japanese soy sauce?

Reading through the recipes, I can see that egg yolks are frequently called for to create crusts or sauces for meats, as in the case of "Chicken with Egg Yolk Sauce", which calls for chicken wings broiled in a sauce of four egg yolks, mirin, miso and ginger - very intriguing; but also in slightly-less-appealing ways, such as "Golden Roasted Pork", which has you grill then top pork chops with equal amounts of egg yolk and grated cheese mixed with sugar, sake, and salt.

Even more dazzling is the recipe, "Chicken Pie Topped with Egg White Snow", in which a broad, round meatloaf is made out of ground chicken, then topped, lemon-meringue-pie style with piles of egg white, then grilled.

I'm not familiar enough with Japanese cooking to separate out which of these recipes reflects a more traditional style of Japanese cooking, and which recipes may be responding to culinary fads of the time.

I'm especially interested in the egg whites on chicken and fish. I feel like, at some point in Japan, I had grilled fish with a meringue on top, and I really liked it. (The book also has a recipe for a whole baked fish covered in meringue. There's lots of meringue)

Any thoughts on the use of egg yolks and whites as sauces or garnishes in Japanese cuisine?

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I have Peter and Joan Martin's Japanese Cooking (first published 1970) in a 1985 Penguin edition (CAN. $6.95). In the whole book a quick browse turned up two egg-washed grills, both of fish (one being egg mixed with uni), and no others. There is a good chapter on egg cookery with chawanmushi (4 kinds including odamakimushi), hanjuku tamago, scrambled eggs (soy, sugar, msg, katsuobushi), dashimaki tamago and two derivatives, spinach egg rolls and iritsukedoufu.

Meringue... as in, sweetened ? On grilled fish ? :blink:


Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Sorry...it's beaten egg white alone, no sugar - so not a meringue. But the picture - if you could see it, you'd understand why I used the term. It looks exactly like a lemon meringue pie.

So your book doesn't include a lot of egg-yolk-on-meat recipes? I have to admit I'm very intrigued by this method.

There are two others I haven't seen before in my (admittedly shallow) exploration of Japanese cuisine: Eggplant with Chicken and Miso sauce and Fried Pork with Black Sesame Sauce - which calls for an extravagant 1/2 cup of black sesame seeds.

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I find it interesting to try and imagine Japan in 1970, well pre-bubble and when the economic boom-times were still on the brew, as opposed to in full bloom. I have a number of older friends who would have been students in the late 60's - in 1968 Japanese students were rebelling with the best of them, weren't they ?


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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from my cookbook Japanese Country Cookbook by Russ Rudzinski and Ryoichi Kokku, published in 1969 by Nitty Gritty Productions, San Franciso.

"The Westerner who has eggs for the first time in Japan is sometimes a bit startled at the taste of eggs, especially around the seacoast areas. Chickens are often fish-fed rather than grain-fed, and their diet adds a distinctive fish odor to the eggs. If the Western visitor orders fried eggs for his breakfast, he may get quite a jolt if the cook in the inn in which he's staying or home he is visiting uses fish oil for frying the eggs."

On the back cover it says "Prepared by the owners of San Francisco's world-famous MINGEI-YA COUNTRY STYLE RESTAURANT." The cookbook offers "a complete guide to the home-style foods of Japan ... Illustrated in the traditional style!"

The illustrations are lovely, black pen and ink, and the type is red, of all things, on rough brown paper. The book is about 8" across but only probably 41/2" in length, so one of those specialty sizes that were popular back then, especially for cookbooks.

I've cooked from it since I bought it, probably right around 1970. Back then information about Japanese cooking wasn't that easy to come by, and this book gives you the feeling that you really are in somebody's home kitchen out in the country somewhere, right down to the physical attributes of the book itself.

Anyway, about those eggs in Japan: I've never heard anybody else say this (about eggs tasting like fish). Is that still true?

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Anyway, about those eggs in Japan: I've never heard anybody else say this (about eggs tasting like fish). Is that still true?

I've never heard that the eggs in Japan smell of fish odor.

I did find one related website:

http://air.ap.teacup.com/satofarm/24.html

dated Aug. 20, 2007.

According to this site, trimethylamine is responsible for the fish odor of eggs, and this substance is contained in not only fish powder and fish oil but also canola oil cake.

This particular farm, Sato Farm, says that they limit the use of fish powder so that the eggs won't be fishy. I don't know whether other farms do the same practice.

Probably Westerners are more sensitive to fish odor than the Japanese, but I've never thought that eggs smell of fish odor.

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Hi Hiroyuki, thanks for your reply. Do you think that maybe in 1969, when the book was published, it was possible, especially in coastal areas?

Anyway, about those eggs in Japan: I've never heard anybody else say this (about eggs tasting like fish). Is that still true?

I've never heard that the eggs in Japan smell of fish odor.

I did find one related website:

http://air.ap.teacup.com/satofarm/24.html

dated Aug. 20, 2007.

According to this site, trimethylamine is responsible for the fish odor of eggs, and this substance is contained in not only fish powder and fish oil but also canola oil cake.

This particular farm, Sato Farm, says that they limit the use of fish powder so that the eggs won't be fishy. I don't know whether other farms do the same practice.

Probably Westerners are more sensitive to fish odor than the Japanese, but I've never thought that eggs smell of fish odor.

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Sorry for a late response. Somehow, I missed your question.

Hi Hiroyuki, thanks for your reply. Do you think that maybe in 1969, when the book was published, it was possible, especially in coastal areas?

I did some googling but was unable to find any related information. I don't know what to answer...

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I was born and raised in SF and I remember going to Mingei-ya as a child. I can tell you that it was a very provincial restaurant in that the food was from 1920's when the Japanese immigrants came over to the US. This goes onto another topic but it is not same food as what I was served when I visited Japan as an adult. Most Nikkei here in the US are still living and speaking the same Japanese from 90 years ago. For example, my mother used to say, 'Omyotsuke' for 'Miso shiru'. I worked for a Japanese electric company in the 80's and they made fun of me for ordering Omyotsuke during lunch. They said something like, 'my grand mother used to speak like that'.

Now about trimethylamine, my chemist responded accordingly: "Yup, nasty clear liquid. Also responsible for bad breath, and is a normal byproduct of some types of decomposition processes. I don’t know about it being contained in fish powder/oil/canola, but I’d guess that it is only detected there because of the presence of decomposed raw materials in the production line."

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I think that omyotsuke is a variant of the word omiotsuke, spelled

おみおつけ,

御味御付,

御御御汁,

etc.

My Tokyo-born mother, who is now in her 70s, still calls miso soup omiotsuke, while I have switched to the more common word miso shiru or o-miso shiru.

I can't tell any difference between omiotsuke and (o-)miso shiru, but some people say that the former is a soup of substantial ingredients. They say that a miso soup with only a few cubes of tofu, a few slices of negi, and so on cannot be called omiotsuke.

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The recipe names, for the most part, have been translated into English, with the exception of sukiyaki and tempura, which the authors assume are popular enough to not need translation, I guess. All of the rest of the recipe names are painstakingly translated, resulting in dishes called, "Steamed Egg Moons" and "Fried Eggs 'Raft' Style" but in a charming counterpoint the recipes use the Japanese names for all of the ingredients - sensible in the case of miso and ponzu, but slightly more puzzling in the case of soy sauce, which is referred to as shoyu throughout the book - no doubt to draw a difference between more readily available (I assume at the time) Chinese soy sauce and Japanese soy sauce?

Reading through the recipes, I can see that egg yolks are frequently called for to create crusts or sauces for meats, as in the case of "Chicken with Egg Yolk Sauce", which calls for chicken wings broiled in a sauce of four egg yolks, mirin, miso and ginger - very intriguing; but also in slightly-less-appealing ways, such as "Golden Roasted Pork", which has you grill then top pork chops with equal amounts of egg yolk and grated cheese mixed with sugar, sake, and salt.

Even more dazzling is the recipe, "Chicken Pie Topped with Egg White Snow", in which a broad, round meatloaf is made out of ground chicken, then topped, lemon-meringue-pie style with piles of egg white, then grilled.

I'm not familiar enough with Japanese cooking to separate out which of these recipes reflects a more traditional style of Japanese cooking, and which recipes may be responding to culinary fads of the time.

I'm especially interested in the egg whites on chicken and fish. I feel like, at some point in Japan, I had grilled fish with a meringue on top, and I really liked it. (The book also has a recipe for a whole baked fish covered in meringue. There's lots of meringue)

Any thoughts on the use of egg yolks and whites as sauces or garnishes in Japanese cuisine?

Just saw the thread.

If they say miso and ponzu (Japanese words), why wouldn't they say shoyu? That's the Japanese word for soy sauce -- which is no different in manufacture between China or Japan. (Japan has some unique types of shoyu, but then again, so does China. But the plain 'ole soy bean and wheat black shoyu is the same.)

There is a lot of egg with meat, I think primarily for a softer texture -- I think the same way how Chinese use corn starch on meat for texture.

There are a lot of dishes called "xxx tsukimi" which is "xxx moon watching" -- and generally includes a raw egg. Egg yolk = moon.

Mirin, miso, and ginger is very typical for a sauce. The most common combo would be reducing sake, mirin, and shoyu, and then adding whatever else for something other than sweet and salty, like ginger. It's the basis for teriyaki sauce -- real teriyaki sauce, not American-style that's sickly sweet and goopy with corn starch.

Chicken w/Egg Yolk Sauce sounds like oyako donburi, if it's served atop rice. "Oyako" = "mother and child" = chicken and egg. Another common spin is tannin don. "Tannin" = "strangers" = beef and chicken (and egg).

Sukiyaki is beef served dipped in raw egg.

A raw egg over steamed rice is a typical -- was a typical -- centerpiece for breakfast.

Omelettes in Japan are very oozy affairs, and the drier rolled up ones can be either salty, or very sweet. You don't know till you try -- they look identical, and served identically. Just the preference of chef.

Chawanmushi is a very traditional savory egg custard served in a tea cup as an appetizer. You know you're in a real Japanese restaurant if your meal starts with chawanmushi.

That's a lotta egg. Your book sounds traditional, not faddish. I don't think there were faddish Japanese -- or any ethnic faddish -- cookbooks in the early 70's.

Misoshiru and omisoshiru are the same -- "o-" is an honorific prefix. It's just a more polite/feminine way of saying things. "Mi-" is also an honorific prefix. "Omiotsuke" is an extremely polite way of saying misoshiru, but is used often enough that it's not considered extremely polite anymore, ironically. (The same thing happened in English with the word "you." "You" is the polite form of "thou" and "thee" and was used so much, it became no longer polite -- and "thee" and "thou" stopped being used entirely.)

As for the original topic of Japanese cook books, I've seen/have some old Japanese American ones like the local Japanese historical society's cookbook. The Japanese have been here for so long really -- 150+ years -- if you look at the book, it's more Betty Crocker than Tanaka Taro. You'll find as many meat loaf recipes as mochi recipes. As for ancient Japanese cookbooks from Japan in Japanese -- no idea.

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Fishy eggs - my guess is well-used cooking oil. When I first came to Japan in 1979, oil was re-used much longer.

Retro = "Showa" food. Some of the fads were similar to western ones, but maybe the biggest one was that never-ending love affair with mayonnaise!

I remember hearing that the biggest 20th century fad may have been things wrapped in nori, as cheap,thin sheets of dried nori are a fairly modern technology.

Showa dinners...ton-jiru (miso soup with pork, konnyaku and root vegetables), taki-komi gohan (rice cooked with shredded vegetables and sometimes meat), ginger-fried pork slices with shredded cabbage and sliced tomato as a side...

Omiotsuke - my Hokkaido-born husband used to say omiotsuke,but has gradually shifted to miso-shiru.

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Yay for Amazon Prime. Found a copy of Japanese Country Cooking for a penny plus 3.99 shipping, delivered in two days. The book definitely features inaka (country) food. I'm pretty sure that Mingei Ya, whose owners supplied the recipes, would have never actually served these dishes the way they're written. First, they're extremely "rustic" -- one recipe is literally cut up some pork, deep fry, serve with soy sauce -- and the book is written by an American who spent some time in Japan, doesn't speak Japanese, but most importantly, is writing for an American audience that knows nothing of Japaanese food. He makes sweeping generalizations about the cuisine and makes substitutions accordingly. The overall tone is a bit condescending toward Japanese cuisine, but his approach seems spot on for a 60's American audience.

Dashi, the mother stock in Japanese cuisine, made from kombu (dried kelp) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), is cut. The author says it tastes like old fish, and subs with stock of any kind. And tells you not to try natto (fermented soy beans), which he only describes as "different" -- with quotes. He doesn't omit miso (femented soy bean paste), using it in half a dozen recipes, but doesn't exactly tell you what it is or how to make it/find it.

It's a decent book if you already know Japanese food and are looking for some chou inaka ryouri, I dunno, for novelty sake, but if you have no idea what I just said, I'd suggest a newer, better Japanese food primer.

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Showa dinners...ton-jiru (miso soup with pork, konnyaku and root vegetables), taki-komi gohan (rice cooked with shredded vegetables and sometimes meat), ginger-fried pork slices with shredded cabbage and sliced tomato as a side...

Some of my favourite Japanese dishes! I didn't know they dated to the Showa era.

Percival, it sounds like your find compares negatively to the Time Life Foods of the World book on Japan, which I think treated Japanese food rather directly. Who do you think the audience was meant to be for "Japanese Country Cooking"?

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The audience I think is like the author: one of America's first Japanophiles. Think Sukiyaki -- which ridiculously has nothing to do with even food, let alone sukiyaki. The book starts off at length with recipes for sukiyaki and variants. When the book is published, Tora! Tora! Tora!, which will show Pearl Harbor from a Japanese point of view for the first time, is still in production with Akira Kurosawa, to come out the next year. And soon, Shogun... The book itself is maybe 25-30% personal anecdotes and cultural lessons, quite a few off-color in today's standards.

The book definitely is not for Japanese Americans at the time.

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I have the Martin book and have used it but not recently. The oldest of my 16 Japanese cook books is the "Pleasures of Japanese Cooking" by Heihachi Tanaka and Betty A. Nicholas, a more authentic book than the Martins'. It was the first book that I found the recipe for pickled Kombu which I had in a Japanese restaurant. It was an instant love affair for me and I was glad to be able to make it myself.

Now will someone tell me the correct name for this please.

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