Do you want to cook delicious Japanese home meals and also increase your Japanese vocabulary?. This book has both!. I really like bilingual books. In this case, you can see side by side (or up and down) same text written in English and Japanese. If you want to prepare a traditional Japanese homemade meal experience, I would highly recommend this book.
Kawakami’s intention was to create a book for people interested in Japanese cuisine and Japanese people who want to study English. Recipes were chosen based on their “doability”, so that people could prepare them without needing special equipment.
The first part of the book has very detailed explanations and images about essential cooking utensils and techniques. There’s more than 20 pages dedicated to knives, sharpening, and cutting vegetables and fish. Soup stock and rice cooking are the first recipes to appear, followed by ingredient measuring, cooking methods (simmer, grill, steam, etc), Japanese ingredients, seasonings, etc. Specially liked the extended explanations about the different kinds of miso around Japan as well as soy and sugar varieties. Attention is also paid to the importance of tableware in Japanese cooking as well as decorative cutting, garnishing and seasonal dishes. Last but not least, chopsticks, Japanese tea etiquette and the balance of meals according to their taste, color, and cooking method.
The next 4 parts of the book consist of recipes divided as ‘main dishes’, ‘western and Chinese dishes’, ‘side dishes’ and ‘rice and soup and pickles’. Each recipe has step by step instructions, pictures for every step and instructions in both Japanese and English. I was really happy to see many popular recipes like sukiyaki, tonkatsu and omuraisu but also many others which were new to me, for example: chawanmushi ( steamed egg hotchpotch) or red miso soup with clams. Yummm.
It’s great to see a cookbook that makes it as easy as can be for beginners. However, as an accurate Japanese cookbook, you’ll most likely need to purchase some of the ingredients from specialized shops, but it depends on where you live. The extra tips that accompany each recipe are quite useful (like when telling you not to fan and mix the sushi rice at the same time). A must-have for those interested in real, everyday-life Japanese cuisine and culture. Looking forward to more books like this one. It would be awesome if Kawakami Fumiyo’s next book would have this same format and focus on bread and desserts from Japan! I’m drooling just thinking about it.