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Nov 14, 2004 04:50 PM

Japanese cook books

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Can anyone recommend a definitive Japanese recipe book? I have bought the recent Harumi's Japanese Cooking and am disappointed with it - I wanted something more in-depth. It has recipes which seem very Westernised (basil/rosemary...).
I think I am looking for the Japanese equivalent of Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop or Simple French Food by Richard Olney.

Has anyone an opinion on any of the following?
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art (Shizuo Tsuji, M.F.K. Fisher )
Shunju: New Japanese Cuisine (Charlie Trotter (Foreword), Takashi Sugimoto, Marcia Iwatate )
or the Nobu cookbooks?


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  1. I own Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art

    I don't know the other cookbooks you mention above, so I can't offer a comparison.

    But I will say that I really like it. It's the kind of cookbook I appreciate - lots of text, discussion of technique, useful drawings. Some pictures of completed dishes, but not a highly photographed, visual book. He breaks it down initially by method or style of cooking with some recipes and then in the second section gives more recipes.

    It's one of those books that's pretty detailed, but he also assumes you know what you're doing in a kitchen - the closest comparison I can think of is Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco (introducing a new cuisine at a fairly high level).

    Since it's almost 25 years old, perhaps a bit dated. I think the author was writing for an American audience that was inexperienced with Japanese food. But I'd rather have more explanation than less in my cookbooks so it works for me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ks

      I agree with you about this book. I love the simple teriyaki recipe.

    2. I'm half Japanese - I was born there and came to this country at age 9. I watched my Japanese mother cook fantastic meals all her life, and I cook and eat mainly in a Japanese style - the rice cooker is never empty of rice, and we have home made tsukemono with virtually every dinner (ok, not with chili and hot dogs).

      I've owned Tsuji's book for over 20 years. It's a definitive guide. When I have questions, it has answers. I've purchased a couple of others over the years - none of the ones you mentioned - and I may get some recipe ideas from them, but I never turn to them for specific information. The recipe's in Japanese Cooking are authentic, and cover many styles and traditions. The historic information - derivations, originations of styles and methods - is very good, and explains so much that my mother never did. I know that there's a lot of modern cuisine - items that started in the west and were brought back to Japan (like avocado and mayo in sushi!!!) - that you won't find in this book, but virtually every traditional and authentic style is represented. If there is a more definitive book on Japanese Cooking, I've never seen it.

      1. I was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother. Am currently studying washoku in Tokyo and I own several Japanese cookbooks. Hands down Tsuji is the authoritative book. Others you may want to consider include Elizabeth Andoh`s. Although, they are all out of print so you will have to do some searching, but great resources as well. She has three of them.

        Hopefully there will be more Japanese cookbooks coming out in the future, but for now, invest in the Tsuji. You will not regret it.


        1. I have (and use) Karen Green's "Japanese Cooking for the American Table" (or something like that). At first I was skeptical (dare I say with a racist context?), but after reading some of the recipes and her explanations, she's obviously done her homework. One of the things she covers is ingredient availability to the typical US consumer.

          While most of my Japanese home cooking comes from either my restaurant life or either Mom's or Obachan's recipes, the first resource I tap when I need it is Green's book.