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The Joy of Japanese Cooking Paperback – April 15, 2002
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Having "eaten my way around" at some restaurants in Japan and at many US Japanese restaurants, it's a double pleasure to see presentations I recognize as "classics", and to have the author describe clearly, often with clearly labelled drawings, just how to cut and arrange the component items from vegetables to fish and different types of sushi, and have you proud to serve them in a well presented dish or platter!
Not sure how to serve Japanese dishes...not a problem! The author show how to make tea, serve sake, and even shows the traditional order of courses as suggestions. Nearly all of the ingredients can be obtained at a typical local Asian grocery, with the remaining ones obtainable over the internet.The inari zushi covers or "bags" even come in cans, so that shortcut takes care of a few steps, if one is so inclined.
There are over 17 simple salad dressings, 8 simple ways to prepare tasty attractive rice dishes, and beautiful photos of sukiyaki to sushi, so you know how the item should look. She even has some pages on decorative food cutting. It's petty clear which are simple recipes, and which are more complex by the list of ingredients, so work your way up, from many simple and elegant recipes, to more complex if you desire.
There's a glossary of Japanese ingredients, and their substitutes, when appropriate.
The only "fault" I found is that the classic "shabu-shabu" was not in the index as such, I had to find it under "casseroles", as nabemono (a quick stew) is translated into that in English, and udon noodles are under "noodles"...fair enough!
I have the hardbound 311 page, 1994 4th printing of the 1986 copyright, and this book is preferable over many of the more recent books with it's ease of making simple tasty meals, and overall helpfulness, with pictures and suggestions to make the meals look like artistic gourmet meals, epecially if you have little prior food artistry experience.
When I say complete, this book covers:
* Basics: ingredients, seasonings, utensils, cookware, tableware.
* Techniques: making dashi (if you don't know what that is, you aren't cooking Japanese cuisine), cooking rice, preparing fish, and so on.
* A section of various main ingredients: seafood, chicken, eggs, beef, pork, tofu, vegetables.
* A section of meal sections: appetizers, soups, salads, casseroles, rice, pickles, desserts. Includes various sashimi and sushi preparations in the rice chapter.
* Above and beyond: menu planning and menus with schedules as well as sections on tea and sake.
To be clear here, when I purchased this book I had been loving Japanese cuisine for nearly ten years at sushi bars and restaurants but that was it. By this time, I was just beginning to dive deeper into Japanese culture and history. Now, after another fifteen years, I read, write, and speak some of the language, have experience in Japanese martial arts, and have a much deeper understanding of the culture and history. And yet this book still holds up and has recipes and ideas to try.
Maybe if you are Japanese and living in Japan this book doesn't relate but for the intended audience, Americans, this is the penultimate book. If someone has another that they think is better, I am always willing to try it and admit it.
The English translations of dishes are quaint, misleading and unhelpful. Nabemono as "casseroles"? Nikujaga as "Simmered beef and potatoes"? In many cases the Japanese term would be better.
The index is not helpful. If you look up "sukiyaki" in the index you will not find it under "sukiyaki". If you know the Japanese names of foods, the book is not convenient to use. You have to guess what arbitrary English name the author may have chosen.
The measurements are an inconsistent mix of metric and non metric - a good editor would have fixed that. (Why not both?)
Only a limited coverage of Japanese food is given. Many well known dishes didn't make it, but in fairness, you have to draw the line somewhere!
A few unauthentic ingredients are included and I think they should be described as such. I would rather only substitute when I can't find what I really want but the auther seems to have made a few decisions in this regard without telling us.
Coverage tends to be a little skewed toward foods presumably preferred by foreigners, which makes the book a little less appropriate for serious cooks.