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This review is from: Japanese Kitchen, The: 250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit (Non) (Paperback)
Japanese food still remains a bit of a unknown quantity to many people or, at the very best, people have heard of, or even tried, some Sushi dishes. Yet there is a whole lot more to discover and possibly enjoy.
English-language books are relatively few and far between and this venerable, colossal book packs in 250 recipes to allow the enthusiast to make their own dishes at home and, of course, possibly discover something new to try when visiting a Japanese restaurant. At the very least one can gain through this book a greater understanding of Japanese culinary matters.
Nothing is taken for granted or assumed of the reader and they are immediately provided with an interesting introduction to the whole "thing" about Japanese dining, dining etiquette and of course food preparation. The Japanese kitchen is given a good introduction with an explanation to many tools and implements that can normally be found there and used in food preparation.
The reader is given an extensive tutorial in the methods commonly used as well with, where relevant, differences with their Western equivalencies being highlighted. After that a similar tutorial is given over specific ingredients found within Japanese recipes and the author has gone into quite a lot of detail about their origins, availability and even desirability. It is pleasing that, where necessary, a lot of differentiation is given to similar ingredient items such as rice and noodles as they can be as diverse as chalk and cheese, despite belonging to the same common food type.
Some line drawings accompany the text although it would have been nice to have had full colour photographs, particularly of the ingredients, to have aided the inquisitive and uncertain reader.
It is clear that Japanese society places value on the entire package and experience rather than just viewing food as a "consumable item:" Many of the recipes provided would be filed under "traditional" yet there are also some more hybrid, modern recipes that may upset a purist and please the more adventurous. The recipes themselves are split into broad categories of appetisers, soups, vegetable dishes, sushi, rice and noodles and then various mains before, at the end, the deserts.
As stated, the lack of full colour photographs is a concern when you are hopefully going to try a new recipe that is wholly unfamiliar and you wonder how it should look so that it could be vaguely authentic visually at the very least.
The book has a fairly extensive index although the book does feel a little disjointed and the index can be lacking or not particularly user-friendly. One hopes that, should a revision ever be made, that this would enjoy some serious reworking. A good index is critical for the inexperienced who wish to find their bearings and get the information they want without fuss.
Overall this book deserves to be viewed as a classic reference work in English for those interested in Japanese food and how to produce it in their own kitchen. There are shortfalls but despite this the book remains as equally valid today as it was when it had originally been published.