The Japanese Kitchen may well be the gold standard of Japanese cookbooks. Chef, teacher and author, Hiroko Shimbo brings one of the world's healthiest cuisines into the western kitchen. The rage for sushi has often overshadowed the rich variety of other Japanese foods, but Shimbo is so passionate and so meticulous in both instructions and recipes that the range of Japanese dishes opens before the reader. As Ming Tsai states in the introduction, "Hiroko's strong belief in traditionalism and purity of cuisine is manifested through her words and her cooking."
Shimbo's skills as teacher and chef combine to create the excellence of the book, and provide the basis for organization. The book is in two sections, the first a thorough guide to Japanese cooking equipment, ingredients, cooking techniques, key ingredients such as all types of tofu, soy sauces, miso's, sake, as well as products, Japanese noodles and the all-important types of rice. Shimbo is thorough in this section, believing that "once you understand, there are no hidden secrets and no barriers to mastering Japanese cooking." Her delight in demystifying the Japanese kitchen is evident in the readability of the text. We turned pages in fascination.
In the ingredients section of Part One, Shimbo has given recipes (many of them as basic as a good miso soup)that allow each ingredient to reveal its essential nature. With this understanding she proceeds to the second section which has recipes from her own kitchen.
The second section is devoted to luscious recipes. Taking nothing for granted, she continues to give translations of each ingredient enclosed in parentheses, and cross references to the basic recipes when necessary. Though a Japanese meal is served with all courses on the table simultaneously, Shimbo has organized her chapters by standard western division from appetizers to soups, vegetable dishes, rice and noodle dishes, main course dishes and desserts. You may want to espouse the Japanese presentation method adopted by the refined Japanese aesthetic, possibly the most elegantly served cuisine in the world. shimbo offers many of the traditional dishes with a spin of her own following. Recipes often have short notes attached giving cultural tidbits or cooking tips. Among the many recipes, you will find Easy Simmered Chicken and Chestnuts, Chirashizushi, a one-pot meal of Rice, Beef, Burdock Root and Mushrooms made in a rice cooker. She includes Yakitori grilling, Ponzu Sauce and the use of ramen Green Plum Wine from her own mother's kitchen.
There are illustrations throughout by Rodica Prato.
This book belongs on every shelf. And when you try a few of these recipes you will want to learn the Japanese phrase spoken at the end of a meal: gochisosama. This means "I have feasted." You will feast well with Ms. Shimbo leading the way.