Book Review: Harumi’s Japanese Cooking

New to Japanese cooking? Then Harumi’s Japanese Cooking by Japan’s celebrity housewife Harumi Kurihara is the book for you.

Her recipes are easy, and accessible to non-Japanese people in terms of technique, ingredients, flavours, and presentation. And while she “westernises” some of her recipes (like White Fish and Mozzarella Carpaccio Salad), she still adheres to the basic principles of Japanese cuisine, says Kei. There are too many books out there that feign Japanese, forgetting the basics.

What are these basics? Well dashi or bonito stock for a start. Most people want to skip dashi making and use Hondashi or other powdered alternatives, but that’s the same as cooking chicken soup with Maggi stock cubes. We all take shortcuts, but it’s important to first know the real thing. So take time to read the section on dashi and also read the Introduction before launching into the recipes as they contain valuable information, and will help you appreciate Japanese cooking more.

All the recipes are pretty easy and especially the Tofu section is nice, as it introduces you to different ways of cooking with tofu rather than just cubing and popping into miso soup. Even Tofu with Basil and Gorgonzola Dressing might sound unusual, but the flavours might be quite Japanese (given natto is like smelly cheese).

The pictures are beautiful too and while presentation is westernised, this book still stays quintessentially Japanese—everything is finely chopped and delicate, and attention is paid to colour and negative space when arranging food. These are the things that make Japanese food uniquely Japanese. It is also what separates this book from other Japanese cookbooks written for the English language market,

Harumi Kurihara is often called the Martha Stewart of Japan. She’s penned a gazillion books, magazines, mooks (book/magazine), has her own range of kitchen and homeware and even hand crème. She calls herself a “serious housewife” and revels in home duties, carving out a vast capitalist empire from the love of domesticity. Her husband was a famous Japanese TV newscaster and his media mates, impressed with Harumi’s cooking when hubby brought them home, were the ones that encouraged her to become a domestic empress, or so the Harumi narrative goes. Her son and daughter are in similar culinary related professions.

Check out her vast empire

Harumi Kurihara’s Official site

by Masako Fukui, Copyright Kei’s Kitchen

Harumi’s Japanese Cooking, originally published in 2004

There are many incarnations of this book, and Harumi has published a number of other books in recent years, but we still recommend this original book to those unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine.