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Japanese Cooking: The Traditions, Techniques, Ingredients, and Recipes
256 pages
Full color
Emi Kazuko
Yasuko Fukuoka
Hermes House Publishing
A terrific source of information and recipes.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Japanese Cooking
By Holly Kolodziejczak

This book is a simple and yet awe-inspiring look into the culinary world of Japan. I’ll be the first to admit that I purchased this book on pure whim. I knew as much about Japanese cooking as I did about brain surgery. However, Japanese Cooking took care of that in just a few short reading sessions. When I purchased this book, I was mainly looking for an idea of what foods were out there in the Japanese style of cuisine. With every other Japanese cookbook that I have looked at, I always ran into the same problem - most of the ingredients that were used in the book were either practically impossible to find or quite expensive. I also didn’t have most of the utensils that they required. Japanese Cooking changed all that, with its simple foods and easy to prepare dishes, presented with authenticity and taste. You can’t ask for anything more, when it comes to a cookbook.

The cover of the book is quite attractive with its artistic display of multi-colored sushi. The book itself is coffee table style, large and brightly colored. It is very easy to just sit down and look at the many pictures in the book, with its full color photographs and authentic woodblock print reprints. The book is arranged in such a way that you could never truly sit down and absorb all the information within all at once, it is simply too much. The organization is also brilliant. It starts out with a progressive history of Japanese cooking. The next 123 pages tell you just about everything you need to know about all aspects of Japanese cuisine and the ingredients, techniques, and history involved.

I truly have never learned so much about what I used to think was a small subject. It is a world in its own right. With the history that was presented in the book, I learned things that I previously had no clue about. For example, the book explained how the Japanese developed their food culture, incorporating the traditional foods of the other regions such as rice and seafood. It also mentioned that Japanese cuisine is similar to Japanese art and architecture, in that it is very minimalist. It was interesting to learn how Japan’s period of isolation helped to develop their style and unique sense of food. After the history lesson, it goes into a little bit about the tea ceremonies and the rituals involved. Then, it explains all of Japan’s major holidays and the foods and customs associated with them. Personally, I can’t wait to visit Japan and enjoy a Japanese holiday.

After the holidays, it moves into a full presentation of Japanese utensils for cooking and eating. It shows you what a typical Japanese kitchen would have in it, and how each item is used. Following that, there is a comprehensive information guide on the spices, vinegars, wines, rices, fruits, vegetables, meats, and preparation guides for common foods - pretty much every ingredient and aspect possible. The guide was complete with ingredients that I must say I had never heard of before, much less ever seen. However, with the simple descriptions and full-color pictures, it was all presented in a way that is interesting to the western palate.

Then finally, we move into the heart and soul of the book. The main reason a person usually purchases a cookbook is the recipes. Unlike most other cookbooks, every single recipe in Japanese Cooking has beautiful, full-color photos of the preparation and final product. It certainly does help, when preparing a dish you may have never even seen before, to know what the final product should look like. Not only are there photos, but also the recipes are simple and easy to follow, with measurements shown in both metric and standard. You may look at the pictures and find yourself thinking, “ I couldn’t ever create something like this,” only to surprise yourself.

I must mention again that ninety-five percent of the ingredients are easily available in any grocery store that has an “oriental foods” section. Not only that, but if you want true authenticity, the book has an index in the back with a list of high-quality oriental markets in North America, Europe, and Australia. That coupled with the ease of the recipes makes this a brilliant how-to tool on Japanese cooking.

Still, even with the simplicity of many of the recipes, there are others that would still challenge even the most experienced cook. Japanese Cooking is there, all across the spectrum. This book is enough to make just about anyone whip out the sake and the shoyu and say “Itadakimasu!”

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