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Friday, November 13, 2009

The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen

The Breakaway Japanese Kitchenエリックさんの新・和食

The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen

by Eric Gower

Kodansha International
ISBN: 4-77002-949-7 112 pp

A dedicated gourmet, the author spent 15 years in Japan but never lost his carefree, Californian touch. Bemoaning the fact that people "come to like and expect the standard repertoire when it comes to Japanese food" and that Japanese "learn from childhood that there's a right way to eat almost anything," he relishes the opportunity to ignore convention and combine the quintessentially Japanese with the distinctly non-Japanese.

"Orange Tarragon Cauliflower Simmered In Sake" or "Miso Apricot Glaze" for white fish give a fair idea of what to expect. This is not a Japanese cookbook, but rather an eclectic selection of dishes incorporating Japanese staples like soy, persimmons and shiso with the olive oil, butter and fresh herbs such as mint and coriander found in a Western kitchen.

Some dishes such as the "Boozy Japanese Potatoes" (parboiled then cooked in sake and rounded off with soy and butter) or the "Shiitake Ginger Pasta" manage a happy marriage of flavours. Others might seem a little too outlandish, but this depends on how experimental you like to be. What the book does do is give a much-needed reminder that there’s a whole lot more you can do with any given ingredient if you leave straight and narrow conventions behind and try something new.

While the book has gorgeous photographs throughout and is very slick, one of its strengths is that, not being a professional chef, Gower’s recipes are undaunting and he makes a good guide for those looking for a little more zest from familiar ingredients.

Aidan O'Connor

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