137 of 138 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2006
This is, hands down, my favorite cookbook. There are over 90 pages of extensive notes on food preparation before you even get to the first recipe. If you are like me and have never prepared Japanese food before, these notes are essential. You learn about the basic ingredients (there are hundereds of different misos), basic cooking techniques (how to drain and press miso), and how to make a variety of basic cooking stocks. Each section is filled with beautiful photographs so you will be able to identify exactly what you are looking for when you get to the Japanese market. One of the previous reviewers was confused because they couldn't tell which miso to use in a recipe. The answer: whichever one you like. That is one of the best aspects of this cookbook. This isn't gourmet cooking, this is is Washoku (home cooking) designed to be cooked to your families taste. As an unexpected bonus the author will often point out regional differences in preparing dishes and give the reader the option of which approach they would like to follow. A great book for anyone that wants to learn basic Japanese cooking. Buyer beware: make sure you have access to an Asian grocery store. The typical American grocer carries very few of the necessary ingredients.
86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2006
I am biased about this book, but in a good way and with deep respect for the Japanese culture and the author. My husband Bob Heiss was one of the recipe testers who worked on this book from our kitchen in Massachusetts. During this process we had constant emails going to and from Toyko about the progress of the recipes, questions about confusing issues, product availability, etc. I know that a handful of others across the USA were putting similar time into the perfection of these recipes and this book. As someone observing this process,but benefiting from the results, I was very impressed with the amount of effort that Ms.Andoh put into making sure that the recipes would be clear and concise to American readers.
If you are curious about Japanese food but have perhaps been intimidated by it, then please give this book a try. I know that that you will get excellent results from these recipes - all of the dishes and sauces that I tasted were delicious and accentuated with very well-defined flavors.
As a food enthusiast, I for one am ready to move beyond 'sushi' and learn more about the fascinating world of Japanese food and cooking.
78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2010
This is definitely a five-star book in theory. It's probably the only Japanese cookbook that comes close to Shizuo Tsuji's in its thoroughness and completeness. But that's also the downfall of this book, it is really too similar to Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art without offering anything that breaks through the precedent. Those of us who own and cook from the previous book a lot might find this book a little bit boring. As soon as I got this book I thumbed through the pages and I only picked out 4 recipes at first blush that I really felt like I needed to try. This is a pretty good size book, too. I've cooked more than those 4 since then, but the book didn't have the profound impact on me that it should have, probably because I've read it all before in Japanese Cooking.
I will say though, that this book can offer some things that Japanese Cooking doesn't have, mainly photography. There are pictures not only of finished dishes but of ingredients too, and even though those are artistically well done they are also quite informative. It helps to know what something looks like when you're looking for it in a store, I would suppose. But there are some steps skipped in this book that Japanese Cooking doesn't overlook. A specific example is a couple days ago when I made an asparagus and black sesame salad from Washoku to go along with lunch. Earlier today I was just perusing Japanese Cooking when it mentioned to never use wet ingredients in an aemono. Oops, nothing was mentioned about that in Washoku. I checked and sure enough, my salad, which was perfectly nutty and crisp at lunch, was now sitting in a pool of gray asparagus water. It might have gone without mentioning because no one bothered to check how it would keep as a leftover, but Japanese Cooking mentioned it, which just shows a more complete understanding of the cuisine in that book.
I would say that either this book or Japanese Cooking would probably be the best basic Japanese cookbook out of all the ones out there. You certainly don't need both though. I would browse through both of them and see which format fits your style most. If you need visual stimulation and prefer coffee-table style books, then Washoku is your seminal book on Japanese food and cooking. If you value, on the other hand, a very in-depth informative, Julia Child-type approach and format, I would have to recommend sticking with Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji.
117 of 127 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2005
This may be the most beautiful book on Japanese food to date. There is a thorough pantry chapter, guiding the reader on what to look for when purchasing, and how to prep the materials for cooking. There is also a detailed chapter on cooking techniques, with easy to follow directions.
The recipes cover the basics with a few modern, like a black sesame ice cream. There are "Kitchen Harmony" and "Harmony at Table" notes adding another depth to the recipes with cultural tips on presentation, for example.
I have been studying Japanese food for several years. Washoku will be a reference book on many levels, for recipes, for background on ingredients and techniques, and for the pleasure of reading.
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2006
Superb book. I am in love with the Asian Groceries and Markets in Ellicott City, Maryland and shop there a couple times a month. I try to buy an unfamiliar item each time I go, but often can not use them.
The first part of Washoku is worth the price of the whole book and then some. It is a thorough encyclopedia of ingredients, products, etc. Explanantions of use and pictures predominate the discussion and it is marvelous. I am ecstatic--learning more and more each time I pick up the book. It is a treasure trove.
The recipes too are well done--cross referencing the ingredients with page numbers from the first chapter.
This is a book that I wish had the author's autograph. I predict it will be a prize winner and am delighted to have it in my cookbook collection. Ms. Andoh is to be congratulated on an outstanding contribution to clear communication of Japanese cuisine especially for those of us who would rather cook than carry out!!!!
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2007
After using a library copy of this book for several weeks, I am definitely purchasing my own copy. It's a beautiful book, yes, but more important, the recipes are easy to use and produce a fairly authentic flavor with little fuss and bother. I have one slight suggestion for future volumes by Andoh and other Japanese cookbook authors. It would be extremely helpful if the names for ingredients (in the ingredient glossary) would be given in both romaji and Japanese characters. When shopping, I often find products that are made in Japan and labeled only in Japanese. Since my reading knowledge of Japanese is extremely limited, it's difficult to figure out what the item is exactly. With hiragana and/or kanji labels in the book, one could compare to the product label and shopping would be far easier!
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2007
For a country so obsessed with food, why is it that we never take the time to really think about the way we eat the particular foods on our table. Do we ever consider the texture and color when preparing a meal? Is it at all important that the items on our plate achieve a certain harmony with each other? What do we know about our methods of food preparation in spiritual terms? And why is it that we only think about our stomachs at mealtime and not our metaphysical hunger? Because we just don't. It has no place in our culture of Fast Food and microwave-ready dinners.
It's only when you pick up Elizabeth Andoh's book, Washoku: Recipes From The Japanese Home Kitchen, that you begin to see how simple it is to think in these terms. Andoh talks about discovering the art and science of the food of her adopted country, her monther-in-law's Japanese home kitchen and lengths she went in preparing not only healthy meals but truly fulfilling dishes made with order and harmony.
Washoku explains the philosophy of thinking about the balance of color, taste, texture, technique, and ingredients in a meal. Andoh, In short, teaches you how and why each meal should feature five colors, five flavors, five cooking techniques and engage all five senses. The fifth principle, based in Buddhist practices, urges cook and diner to be mindful of the work that went into the meal, to be grateful, to put aside ill feelings, to eat for spiritual as well as physical well-being.
It is a truly wonder book. I couldn't wait to add it to my kitchen bookshelf.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I have always held Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art to be the finest book available on Japanese cooking, but now I have to hold up "Washoku" as a strong contender. This book, written by American Elizabeth Andoh, who first learned Japanese cooking from her mother-in-law, and then from the Yanagihara school of classical cuisine in Tokyo, is equally comprehensive and even easier to use.
Andoh begins with a comprehensive study of Japanese ingredients and cooking styles. The first section of the book, "The Washoku Pantry," gives an in-depth description of the spices and seasonings, vegetables, fish and meat, rice and noodles, seeds and nuts, and all other ingredients necessary to achieve authentic flavor. Because this is real Japanese cooking, not all of these ingredients will be readily available at your local grocery store (unless you are very luck, or live in Japan!), however many of them can be ordered over the internet and are available in specialty Asian grocers. Next is "In the Washoku Kitchen," where various techniques are discussed, such as broiling, grilling and pan searing, removing bitterness, cutting and grating. Having cooked at an izakaya in Japan, I learned most of these techniques first hand, but I found Andoh's descriptions to be a nice refresher course and easy to follow.
From there, of course, we get to the good stuff. The recipes begin with the basic stocks and condiments that are the foundation of Japanese food. Many of these can be purchased in pre-made form, but they are no match for freshly made stock using quality ingredients. She uses mostly English names for the foods throughout the book, such as "Basic Sea Stock" for dashi, which can be a bit awkward for those used to Japanese food, but she does include the Japanese name underneath the English name. Her stock and sauce recipes are fantastic, with really nice ponzu (smoky citrus-soy sauce) recipe and a few different miso bases.
There are sections on soups, rice dishes, noodles, vegetables, fish, meat and poultry, tofu and eggs and deserts. Most of her recipes are quite subtle in flavor, and comparing them to recipes in other Japanese cookbooks, such as Quick & Easy Japanese Cuisine for Everyone, I found that Andoh eliminates several of the non-authentic ingredients such as sugar. Pictures for the recipes are few, for which I am thankful because I would rather have more recipes than more pictures, but each chapter has a few to entice and delight.
A few recipes I have particularly enjoyed: "Simmered Snapper, Autumn Rain Style" was poetry on a plate, and one that I have made several times for myself as well as guests. "Citrus-and-Soy Glazed Swordfish" is a nice arrangement of a classic pairing. I have made this recipe with salmon before, but was surprised to find how well it went with swordfish. "Green Beans Tossed in Creamy Sesame-Miso Sauce" was also a hit, as was "Dark Miso Soup with Sweet Potato." A really fun recipe was the "Soy Glazed Beef Burger," which takes an American classic and blends it with dark miso, panko and soy sauce.
I haven't had "Washoku" for too long, but already it is a well-worn book with food stains, the way any cookbook should be. This has replaced several lesser books in my cookbook collection, and anyone looking to make fantastic, authentic Japanese food won't need much more than this.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2011
This cookbook is dignified and old fashioned in a way few coffee-table cookbooks aspire to be. The author makes little concession to the modern grocery store (or the modern lifestyle), whether Japanese or Western; she's recreating a style of cooking rooted in her experiences in 1960's Japan. You get the impression, reading her gentle prose, that if you aren't using Japanese pots and Japanese vegetables, you aren't doing the thing properly. This might alienate some readers, but I found it delightful--you can always make your own substitutions once you know what something's supposed to be like, but you can't reverse engineer an authentic dish from a recipe already adapted to the American kitchen.
She also doesn't like to repeat information. The first few attempts at cooking from this book were therefore a little frustrating, as I often had to flip back and forth to find the description of a Japanese utensil, ingredient, or technique.
However, patience paid off. Not a single recipe has failed so far. The miso soup was hearty but light; the the miso sesame sauce was finger-licking good. The Tokyo rolled omelette was balanced and sweet. Her rice cooking directions yield better results than my Zojirushi. The tangy chicken wings were divine, and the toasty rice cakes, something I'd never before tasted, were instant comfort food. All of this, moreover, was relatively quick to prepare: many of these are homestyle, week-night dishes that can be assembled in short order. Honestly, I thought this book would be a curiousity, something to flip through but not cook from. I couldn't have been more wrong, and it's quickly become a go-to dinnertime reference.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2010
I was absolutely delighted to come across this cookbook! It's the first one I've found in English that tells you how to cook Japanese curry from scratch. All of the others I've found tell me to buy a package of Japanese curry roux. And her instructions work!
I've read the negative reviews as well as the raves, and my reading of the reviews of people unhappy with this book is that they aren't yet familiar with cooking home-style Japanese food and don't have access to the ingredients. If you are looking for a basic first Japanese cookbook, try one of the many books loaded with photos and directions for dishes that can be prepared with ingredients found in most Western supermarkets. You'll be much happier.
But if you want to know how to use various kinds of miso and get detailed instructions on how to prepare a dish, this is definitely the cookbook for you!
I guess I give it four stars instead of five because it's rather like one of Julia Child's books in which you have to shift back and forth between various parts of the book. You definitely have to read about all the ingredients and methods before you prepare to cook. And even living in Honolulu there are many ingredients I can't obtain here. There are recipes missing so that I can't toss out my other cookbooks, but teriyaki salmon is not one of them -- that's to me a typical dish in Japanese restaurants in Honolulu, not Japan. And I admit I'd like more photos and diagrams, but that's wishing for the moon. This is a great cookbook and completely different from any other I've ever found in English. Amazon's price is great too!