Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Let's Cook Japanese Food!
I have finally found a Japanese cookbook that is as good as having my Japanese mother-in-law by my side in the kitchen. Amy Kaneko’s “Let’s Cook Japanese Food! Everyday Recipes for Home Cooking” (Chronicle Books) demystifies Japanese cooking and, most importantly for me, offers a number of recipes for “yoshoku” cuisine, those Western dishes the Japanese have borrowed from other cultures and made uniquely their own. These include mapo dofu (China), gratin (France), tempura (Portugal), and many more.
Japanese food means a lot of different things to different people, from gloppy teriyaki sauce dumped on steak to spider rolls on up to the pristine presentation of delicate small plates (kaiseki) that take years to master. But the dishes in “Let’s Cook Japanese Food!” are those you would encounter in a Japanese home or at an informal Japanese coffee shop restaurant in a department store. You’ll find many authentic favorites here, everything from Toriniku Kara-age (Fried Marinated Chicken) to Miso Soup to Omu Raisu (Omelet Stuffed with Tomatoey Chicken Rice) to my Japanese husband’s favorite, Okonomiyaki (“As-You-Like-It” Pancake).
Like me, Kaneko is an American who married into a Japanese family. Unlike me, she is a great cook and learned well from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Her easy-to-use cookbook has now turned me into a pretty decent Japanese cook. My Mapo Dofu (Chinese Style Spicy Tofu with Pork) and Sunomono (Cucumber and Shrimp Vinegared Salad) went over quite well with my husband last night. “Oishii!” he said. That means “delicious,” a comment that will make a cook from any country beam with pride.