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Using high-quality, seasonal ingredients in simple preparations, Sonoko Sakai offers recipes with a gentle voice and a passion for authentic Japanese cooking. Beginning with the pantry, the flavors of this cuisine are explored alongside fundamental recipes, such as dashi and pickles, and traditional techniques, like making noodles and properly cooking rice. Use these building blocks to cook an abundance of everyday recipes with dishes like Grilled Onigiri (rice balls) and Japanese Chicken Curry.
From there, the book expands into an exploration of dishes organized by breakfast; vegetables and grains; meat; fish; noodles, dumplings, and savory pancakes; and sweets and beverages. With classic dishes like Kenchin-jiru (Hearty Vegetable Soup with Sobagaki Buckwheat Dumplings), Temaki Zushi (Sushi Hand Rolls), and Oden (Vegetable, Seafood, and Meat Hot Pot) to more inventive dishes like Mochi Waffles with Tatsuta (Fried Chicken) and Maple Yuzu Kosho, First Garden Soba Salad with Lemon-White Miso Vinaigrette, and Amazake (Fermented Rice Drink) Ice Pops with Pickled Cherry Blossoms this is a rich guide to Japanese home cooking. Featuring stunning photographs by Rick Poon, the book also includes stories of food purveyors in California and Japan. This is a generous and authoritative book that will appeal to home cooks of all levels.
From the Publisher
Sonoko Sakai Is Your Teacher
Like an orchestra, Japanese cooking is a melding of components. Ingredients in a dish build flavors, and flavors within a dish build on one another. Same thing in a meal—all the dishes build on one another for a resulting symphony of tastes and sensations. The dashi that you will learn to make will show up as a base or seasoning in many other recipes.
Discover Japanese Flavors
In the first section, we will consider the “instruments” of our orchestra and begin to build Japanese flavors. The instruments are our ingredients, some of which will be very familiar to you (eggs, flour, rice) and others perhaps less familiar (bonito flakes, seaweeds). By the end, you will have a fully stocked Japanese kitchen—from grocery store shelves to the garden, and from the stovetop to the refrigerator—and an understanding of how to use and cook the ingredients in that kitchen.
Cooking with a Reverence for Craft
Although I have now lived in California for more than forty years, Japan will always be my home away from home, and it will always be my culinary home. This book gives the sense of craft and reverence of three generations of women in my family: the wisdom, elegance, and independent spirit my grandmother shared with me; my mother’s passion for life and people; and my own culinary discoveries.
Learn to Make Noodles
It has been almost ten years since I began making noodles by hand. My initial motivation was based on a persistent, chronic kind of hunger. I couldn’t find any good noodles in the United States, and I would have to wait until I returned to Japan to get my “good noodle” fix. But I wanted to eat better noodles at home in Los Angeles, so I began studying noodle making whenever I was back in Japan. I am still on this pursuit, and I will teach you what I know.
Use the Five Basic Seasonings
Much of the flavor of Japanese cuisine comes from its distinctive fermented seasonings, which can be daunting to new cooks. But don’t be afraid! Japanese cuisine has five basic seasonings: salt, sugar, soy sauce, miso, and vinegar, and I will teach you the order and ways to use them. I also show how to prepare curry bricks from scratch, using fresh spices and seeds—my students are always amazed at how delicious the curry turns out.
Create and Enjoy Everyday Recipes
You will find recipes for the simple okazu (dishes) that I like to cook and eat, such as Nishime (dashi infused root vegetables), Grilled Eggplant with Herbs Gyoza (fried dumplings), and Koji (marinated salmon). Other classic dishes include Chawanmushi (a savory, soupy warm custard) with Manila Clams and Shiitake Mushrooms and Takikomi-Gohan (vegetables and chicken rice).
Go Beyond the Building Blocks
Once you learn the pantry recipes, you’ll be ready for the full expression of Japanese home cooking. My emphasis is on adapting traditional recipes so that they work with a wide range of ingredients. The result is a collection of recipes that make Japanese cooking more accessible to the Western cook.
Build Confidence for Inventive Dishes
Recipes in part two include Ojiya (porridge with Kabocha Squash and Ginger, Kenchin-jiru (hearty vegetable Soup with Sobagaki), Chimaki (wrapped steamed rice dumplings), Oden (Vegetable, Seafood, and meat hot pot), Wakame Soup with Manila Clams, and Goya Champuru (bitter melon, pork, and tofu Scramble.
See Food Purveyors in Action
Featuring stunning photographs by Rick Poon, the book also includes stories of food purveyors in California and Japan, including Niki Nakayama and Carole Nakayama Iida of n/naka, Robin Koda of Koda Farms, and farmers Alex Weiser, Jon Hammond, Sherry Mandell of the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project.