Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
May 18, 2010 07:15 AM

My Comfort Food

Another comfort food post! But this is from someone growing up in Japan - so it's no paean to blue box macn'cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. Instead, I'm singing the praises of the simple katsuobushi over rice with shoyu. To see a video clip from the Japanese series, Shinya Shokudo, go here:

applehome -

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Our dear mutual friend Sam was the bridge between your Japan-centric and my Mexico-centric preferences. May Sam's legacy encourage us all to experiment with exotic food and other good things we have not yet discovered.

    1. In Sam's memory, I bought Everyday Harumi (definitely "fusion" Japanese but still....) and am going to start working on some of those comfort foods. BTW, love your blog and welcome back.

      1 Reply
      1. I saw your blog entry earlier this morning.. I've been reading you for some time now (when you do write...LOL). That katsuobushi over rice with shoyu looked absolutely gorgeous. Even though I have never cooked Japanese food before I think I could make it without a recipe...?? I just have to track down the shaved bonito. One needs no subtitles for that scene. Her smile really Does say it all.
        Wellcome back, applehome.

        1. Somehow, with HIS stomach growling, I expected her to cook for him! Maybe if I understood Japanese I wouldn't have?

          Somehow, I don't think it would taste as good with preshaved bonito! On the other hand, it may well be I haven't looked that hard, but I don't recall seeing whole dried bonito in any of the Japanese or PanAsian markets where I've shopped. Wish my Benriner had a box like that to catch things!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Caroline1

            You're right that the pre-shaved stuff just doesn't have the concentrated oomph flavor to go with rice on its own. I do use it to make dashi - although I add niboshi. Remember Morimoto's "elixir of life" in the original IC? He used only the pre-shaved katsuobushi, but he use tons of it - I guess he could afford it.

            I don't think a Benriner would do it. The fish is rock hard - as if it were petrified. The blade and assembly on the box are an actual Japanese carpenter's plane and need to be adjusted for proper depth. Note that the power stroke is the pull, not the push, as with all Japanese carpentry (and even bushido/samurai swords) - opposite of western ways.

            He offered that he also liked "nekomanma" and would make some from scratch. He asked if she had time, and she said yes, but little money. It's a bittersweet story - pretty good drama for a 1/2 hour show. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any sub files for the series and I have to sit here and translate for my son.

            Thanks, all, for your kind comments and for taking the time to look at the blog (as well as my posts here). This is indeed Sam's legacy - we spoke (emailed) of real shaved katsuobushi more than once.

          2. Applehome, will you recommend a Japanese cookbook which would help get a Westerner,, get started cooking Japanese food??

            9 Replies
            1. re: Gio

              The absolute best - the bible of Japanese cooking (with a forward by MFK FIsher) is Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji - here it is at Amazon:

              Another one, that was contributed to by fellow chowhound Yukari Pratt, is Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku - Amazon: .

              Tsuji's has been a classic for decades. He explains things so well and you learn so much from just reading it. Andoh's is much more of an immediate use cookbook - less learning history and lore, although there is some there as well. Japanese cooking (not the book) is divided into two main parts - yoshoku and washoku. Yoshoku is the "foreigner's food" - all the curries, fried tempuras etc, that came in with the Europeans and that were made over into Japanese classics. Washoku is the traditional Japanese cooking, millenia old. Andoh obviously concentrates on the latter, and her book is especially about home cooking.

              C Oliver mentioned Harumi - I haven't seen any of her books so can't comment.

              1. re: applehome

                One of my Chow-buddies recommended it when I treated myself to a little cook's shopping spree after winning a few buxks at the casino. It's definitely not pure Japanese but it looks good. I'll have to check out the ones you mention.

                1. re: applehome

                  I think I bought this book on another thread, since there were no compressed threads, and I have to say, it's the most beautifully described book on Japanese fod I've ever seen. I read it like a novel, going over parts and rereading unfamiliar techniques over and over. It's the ultimate book on Japanese cooking there is.

                  1. re: applehome

                    Thanks for your recommendatioins and information ! That was so well explained. The Tsuji book was one of 2 Japanese books that were up for nominations for this month's COTM, the 2nd being Washoku. It didn't happen but I feel certain we'll have a Japanese month yet. In the mean time it looks as if I'll have some light summer reading after all. Can't wait to get started.

                    1. re: applehome

                      Applehome, Thanks for the recommendation, I would love to get this book - do you think the new edition is much better than the 1st edition (which I can get a lot more cheaply)?

                      1. re: visciole

                        The new edition has a forward by Ruth Reichl - I've enjoyed her work, but don't know if that's worth any extra money. Tsuji's son also contributes a new preface. But I haven't heard that there were any changes to the actual text itself.

                        1. re: applehome

                          Thank you, it sounds like I can go for the old edition. I like Ruth, too, but I'm really primarily interested in the techniques and recipes.

                          1. re: visciole

                            I just checked and found that you can read the forward and the preface for the new edition using Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. So there you go.

                            I second the recommendation for these books. Tsuji's really is the English bible of Japanese cooking.

                      2. re: applehome

                        Tsuji is also known as the most respected culinary academy in Japan, and its book is the introductory level book for Japanese cooking.

                        Harumi Kurihara's name is synonymous with home cooking (katei ryori) in Japan. She could be considered Japan's Julia Child in a way. I wouldn't call it fusion, but her recipes are developed with homemakers in mind, with ingredients readily available at the supermarkets. She has probably inspired scores of home cooks to cook creatively using western ingredients with Japanese technique, or vice versa.

                        Another author worth checking out is Kentaro Kobayashi (known just as Kentaro in Japan). You might remember him and his mom (the real Julia Child of Japan) from the original Iron Chef (mom beat the Iron Chef, Kentaro lost by a narrow margin, I think). Anyway, Kentaro has a series of books on a variety of comfort foods (donburi, noodles, bento, etc.) translated in English. But he applies his own creativity and twists as well as lays out the traditional.

                        Japanese food magazines are also great (if you read Japanese). But interestingly, even food magazines are divided into women's and men's sections. The women's magazines are clearly marketed to homemakers, and shelved with fashion, gossip, or mother-oriented magazines, and the men's are shelved with the car, stereo, sports magazines. Kurihara is usually found in the women's section. Not sure where Kentaro is found, but the men's section usually deals more with the history of food, or more restaurant industry topics, and dining guides (like Otona no Shumatsu, or Dancyu, or Serai). And the recipes you find in these sources differ from the household creative (Kurihara), to distilling the traditional elements (like you find in Dancyu or Serai).