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Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Japanese Kitchen - 250 Recipes In A Traditional Spirit

by Hiroko Shimbo
Foreward by Ming Tsai

The Japanese Kitchen
In the foreword to The Japanese Kitchen, celebrity East-meets-West chef Ming Tsai praises Hiroko Shimbo’s “belief in traditionalism and purity of cuisine,” but also recognizes that Japanese gastronomy is a living art that does not exist in an isolated time capsule. The Japanese-born and New York-based Shimbo is well aware of her North American audience.

She incorporates “international” ingredients like olive oil into some of her recipes and gives US-based sources for harder to find Japanese ingredients.

Shimbo succeeds in transmitting the “traditional spirit” of Japanese gastronomy in an elegant and accessible way to contemporary Western readers.

The Japanese Kitchen contains over 250 recipes as well as discussions about Japanese food etiquette, ingredients, and techniques in a paperback tome the thickness of a phonebook. While there are plenty of helpful black and white illustrations of Japanese ingredients and techniques, there are no photographs to accompany the recipes. However, this is more than compensated for by Shimbo’s writing style, which at the same time informative with interesting cultural and historical background to various recipes and warm and personal as she shares anecdotes and memories of certain dishes.

Equally interesting are Shimbo’s coverage of the basics from making sushi rice and nabe one-pot stews to more contemporary innovations such as “Soybean Hummus,” “Abura-Age (fried tofu skin) Pizza,” and “Japanese-Style Braised Spareribs” (Spareribs are not a traditional Japanese ingredient). Despite this branching out from purist notions of Japanese cuisine, Shimbo still gives the reader a solid foundation in traditional methods and techniques and manages to avoid the pitfalls and excesses of faddish fusion.

In addition to the admiration of Ming Tsai, Shimbo has also attracted the esteem of her colleagues in the culinary establishment. The book is a finalist in the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Cookbook Awards. Chef and author, Mark Miller declares, “Hiroko Shimbo’s The Japanese Kitchen is to Japanese cuisine what Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking is to French cuisine.” Indeed, The Japanese Kitchen has something to offer to professional cooks and amateur enthusiasts alike as a definitive and encyclopedic oeuvre of Japanese gastronomy.

Lee-Sean Huang

Buy This Book From Amazon US
More reviews of Japanese cookery books can be found here

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