23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2007
I really liked Harumi's first book 'Harumi's Japanese Cooking' (and what cook could resist investigating 'Japan's answer to Delia Smith'?) but was well aware even when cooking and eating those dishes that this wasn't entirely the 'real thing'. As the previous reviewer says, Harumi seemed slightly worried about presenting full-on Japanese to the western audience, or the British audience in particular since what I purchased was the British edition of her book.
Well, she's still worried; but less so! I mean, you won't find any 'dancing sushi' or fish cut up live for sashimi here; but on the other hand as a Brit, I can understand that Harumi may have been inhibited as much by her knowledge that over here, on an island that's surrounded by water, we simply can't buy seafood that's fresh enough, as by regard for our inbred squeamishness about killing what we eat. I mean, I was in a certain very well known supermarket the other day, asked for herring at the fish counter; they didn't have any, but the salesman (I hesitate to call him a fishmonger) told me that if I'd been in the day before I could have had it at a great price. Because it was three days old ...
Mercifully Harumi manages to include here plenty of authentic Japanese home-style recipes which do not require quivering-fresh seafood: miso soups, noodle dishes (no ramen this time!) and hotpots. There's even one more-or-less-raw fish dish which is suitable for the British cook with access only to supermarket mackerel: the lightly-pickled mackerel 'sashimi' is strongly flavoured with vinegar and soy sauce, and thus sufficiently forgiving of less than entirely perfect fish to make a delicious dish even over here.
Regarding the previous reviewer's comment on sugar content, well it's true! And what's more, I strongly suspect Harumi has toned down her dishes in this respect for the Western market. For a cuisine that's supposedly so healthy and natural the Japanese use an astonishing amount of both sugar (both as sugar, and in mirin seasoning) and alcohol in their day to day cooking, and if you don't like it, you might be better off investigating a different cookery style.
I found this book an enjoyable read, and the recipes are both simple and do-able even in a country without a strong tradition of the use of fresh seasonal ingredients (though thankfully this does seem to be changing at the moment). Harumi's Hints, included with many of the recipes, give highly useful and practical pointers to suitable western substitutions for less available ingredients, while she takes pains to explain any less familiar cooking techniques in detail.
Harumi herself comes over as a modest, traditional Japanese housewife who has more or less by accident ended up as a global culinary celebrity. I don't know how accurate this picture is, but it's an attractive one, and the book reads correspondingly attractively. I look forward to hearing more from Harumi and to learning more about this fascinating cuisine. Oh, and by the way - the home-made udon noodles, which involve much stomping (yes, with your feet!) on the plastic-bag-encased dough, is a must try, if only on an 'have to attempt it just once in order to say I've done it' basis!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2009
I have to disagree with the previous reviewers.
Kurihara-sensei spends a lot of time in the UK and London in particular.
Unfortunately not everyone has the access to the ingredients many londoners can pick up and we have to make do with what we can get locally and over the internet.
The cook presents real recipes that people use in everyday life in Japan and the presentation is well laid out and easy to get to grips with, i suspect that the western palate is just not used to the sweetness of the Japanese one, they do love their sugar!. There are a variety of sweet and salty, acid and sour tastes in the recipes, something for most people, not just fish, rice and noodles.
Anyone who wants to see Kurihara-sensei in the flesh should take a look at NHK World on sky516 at 4:30 on a monday afternoon to see the wonderful flavoursome food she creates.