Many people make a New Year’s resolution to either start cooking more or start cooking healthier. I already do both of those, for the most part, so my resolution this year was a tad different.
I am attempting to start cooking more “Japanese”.
I’m lucky enough to live in Japan in a prefecture that’s known for its agricultural bounty. I have countless supermarkets and produce stands nearby and access to some of the most unique – and healthy – ingredients in the world. I’m just not always sure what to do with them. I mean, chicken pot pie comes naturally. Shrimp tempura does not.
The following cookbooks do a really good job of steering me in the right direction – I hope they inspire your own culinary creations!
1. I’m still trying to figure out how to snag an invite to Nancy Hachiso’s traditional farmhouse kitchen. Her weighty but beautiful new tome Japanese Farm Food reads like a conversation between confidants – she not only shows off her stunning home, she shares her favorite recipes in an easy-to-read (and prepare) style. This reads like both a cookbook and a novel.
2. The Japanese Kitchen was one of the first cookbooks that I picked up in my quest to master local cooking. Kimiko Barber shares typical Japanese ingredients in an extremely approachable style – each ingredient is profiled with its history, storage information, health benefits and a recipe as well as numerous gorgeous photos. None of the recipes seem beyond the reach of the home cook, a fact an amateur like myself can appreciate.
3. We all know that most Japanese food is quite healthy, but just how good for you are these “superfoods”? Japanese Foods That Heal by John and Jan Belleme answers that question – and many more – while sharing useful cooking techniques and multiple recipes for each profiled food. The book is light on pictures but I still found it a fascinating read. Anyone with an interest in the food/health connection should have this on their shelf.
4. If you think boxed lunches are just for the school cafeteria, think again. Makiko Itoh makes brown-bagging cool again. Her Just Bento Cookbook offers both traditional lunches (sukiyaki style beef donburi) and unique options (Mediterranean Mezze-style bento). For even more ideas, you can always follow Itoh’s blogs, Just Bento and Just Hungry.
5. Sushi is the one thing I can capably prepare in my own kitchen but I’m always on the hunt for new roll ideas. That’s why I love the suggestions in Perfect Sushi by Parragon Publishing. They have plenty of typical ideas (cucumber rolls, inside out california rolls) and some incredibly creative dishes (roast beef wraps with wasabi mayonnaise, ham and egg pressed sushi). Even if you’ve never rolled sushi before, the instructions in this manual are very straight-forward.