Book Review: Japanese Homestyle Cooking

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What do Japanese eat at home? The answer is in the Japanese language–“gohan” which means meal also means rice, so not surprisingly, a bowl of rice is fundamental to every meal. The rest is usually referred to as “okazu” which literally means “numbers” so lots of accompanying dishes to go with the rice is ideal, though 3-7 would do it.

Last night for example, Kei and I had with our rice tonkatsu on a bed of shredded cabbage, fresh edamame because they are in season, pumpkin simmered in sweet sauce of dashi, soy sauce and sugar, cucumber nukazuke or cucumbers pickled in rice bran (great this time of year). Very simple, and very typical.

Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Tokiko Suzuki includes lots of okazu type dishes and is a comprehensive cookbook and practical tips like slicing techniques, with great step by step pics. I like the little details, like pointing out that boiling the dashi before placing the fish to simmer to prevent the dish becoming smelly. It’s not a stylish book so does not fall into the food porn category, and quite a lot of detailed instructions, so you have to be prepared to read it…which may not suit people with twitter attention spans. Tokiko Suzuki is a TV food chef, and well respected. It’s written for the American market so some proper nouns (like fish names) may need translation.

This is not a particularly attractive book, but its value in being practical and useable outweighs any stylistic considerations.

Japanese Family-Style Recipes by Hiroko Urakami is a glossier book, with bigger photos and simpler recipes. Good book for beginners, and has most of the basic recipes Japanese kids grow up with. It’s a good book for creative chefs to get ideas from and improvise.

by Masako Fukui, Copyright Kei’s Kitchen

Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Toshiko Suzuki, originally published in 1998

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