Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: Japanese Soul Cooking

Last week was my birthday (I'm entering the last year of my 20's!) and I was totally spoiled in every way. Raku and I went out for afternoon tea, John took me out for drinks at a brand new rooftop bar, and on top of that I got presents! Don't worry, posts are coming soon about the latest afternoon tea and the gorgeous, fancy, futuristic purse that John got me.  But today is all about the amazing cookbook Raku gave me!

If you've read this blog with any regularity (or if you know me) you know how much I love to cook. But I'll be honest, I don't usually love cookbooks. I love the idea of them, but sometimes they're fussy, or I want more explanation/description/direction, or the pictures are boring, or worst of all my palate/cooking style just don't match up with the book's.  I get most of my recipes from the internet either from food blogs that I love to read, or by trying to recreate something delicious I've eaten in a restaurant.

I know I've also expressed my gaijin guilt here before that while living in Tokyo I've been trying new Thai, Indian, Mexican, Korean, Greek, French, and Italian recipes and pretty much ignored Japanese food entirely.  Part of this is because it's so easy to just get Japanese here that it seems silly to cook it myself, but it's also partly because sometimes the ingredients are scary or I don't know what they are and where to find them.  I've looked at a few Japanese cookbooks, but so many of them are all about dishes that I am totally unfamiliar with even after more than a year and a half of living here, and require a LOT of effort for dishes that don't necessarily look like John or I might want to eat them.  At the same time there are a lot of Japanese dishes that John and I are growing to love, and I want to be able to make them someday when we can't just walk down the street to get them.

And that's where Raku, genius that she is, came to the rescue.  Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat is a gorgeous book full of Japanese recipes that I can't wait to make!  Each recipe gives a history of the dish, advice about how to serve it (from appearance to accompaniments), and an explanation of the Japanese ingredients, where to find them in Asian markets, and what to substitute from a regular grocery store if you can't find them.  There are beautiful photographs, some showing step by step techniques and other showing dishes and Tokyo street scenes.  The pages are thick and high quality, and for some reason I love that the photos aren't glossy.

The recipes aren't necessarily the healthiest, but they are all the things you'd find in home kitchens, lunch sets, and izakayas: gyoza (dumplings), karaage (fried chicken), ramen, curry, omurice, soba, and the list goes on.  I've never seen John show any interest in a cookbook, but even he looked through the whole book and couldn't stop commenting on how great the photography was and how delicious everything looked. I can't wait to cook my way through it and blog about all the recipes as I go!

Read About JSC Recipes:
Oyakodon/Gyudon/Shiso Pasta
Mabo Dofu
Sapporo Soup Curry
Sesame Karaage
Tan Tan Men
Pork Gyoza
Ebi Chili

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