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Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know About Cooking Paperback – 6 May 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099516446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099516446
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Booth is one of the sharpest food writers around, and this is essential fare for foodies" (Simon Shaw Mail on Sunday)

"Booth's style is hugely enjoyable...an entertaining guide to the food you should try on a trip to the area" (David Phelan Timeout)

"Booth's descriptions of food made my mouth water. This book is a must for all lovers of Japanese cuisine" (Guardian)

"The reader will learn much about one of the great Cuisines of the world" (Christopher Hirst The Independent)

"He wins you over with his sheer enthusiasm, wide reading and research and he's able to render difficult food processes into digestible bites" (Joseph Woods Irish Times)

Book Description

A fascinating and hilarious journey through the extraordinary culinary landscape of Japan.

Winner of the Guild of Food Writers Kate Whiteman Award for the best book on food and travel.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am an expatriate from Japan. I happened to read this book as I learned the translation became one of the selling books in Japan.
The story covers almost all the typical cuisine from northern to far southern territory with in-depth insight and abundant experience that even normal Japanese rarely encounter. I found a lot of things, including what is not open to public thru reading this book. I would like to recommend this vivid report which an ordinary Japanese would be unable to notice to those who have interests not merely with Japanese food but with the country itself.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book whilst I was living in Japan as I thought it could be a good insight on my travels to try local cuisines. I was expecting a witty, humorous account of a writer unfamiliar with Japanese food and keen to discover more about Japanese food (and to a larger extent, Japanese culture).

Instead, I got a series of vignettes, too short to offer any significant information which seemed to mainly focus on the author's random thoughts rather than any true, meaningful cultural experiences. Of course, me not liking the author's tone is a personal preference I grant you but one thing I couldn't abide was the author's rudeness in certain situations.

For example, at the beginning of the book, the author says he will try to avoid being offensive towards the Japanese, yet later in the book he goes completely against this as he writes dialogue spoken by a Japanese person using r's instead of l's and vice versa - unnecessary and offensive in my opinion. Another episode that also left a feeling of distaste in my mouth is when the author has lunch with (what he assumes to be) a gay man, and precedes to be completely ignorant and homophobic when he runs away from the man, despite the man kindly paying for his lunch and seemingly interested in what the author has to say. If he was truly gay and romantically interested in the author, the author should have had the decency to state he was straight, married and not interested and continue acting like a civilised person but instead, he lies and runs away as quickly as possible, (using the excuse he wants a second lunch rather than the fact that being in the presence of a gay man makes him uncomfortable).
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Format: Paperback
From the schism between Kanto and Kansai, from Hokkaido to Okinanwa, from sake to soy, Sushi and beyond is follows the adventure of a man and his young family around the genius food epicentre that is Japan.

This book is a food travel diary, which is a good thing as it differentiates it from a simple culture/cookbook. Booth seems to have some good credentials when it comes to cooking, as well as a witty writing style and a gaijin-only daring, making his story both fascinating and funny. It covers all of the subjects mentioned above, as well as seaweed, the fish market, MSG, vegetables, ramen, beef, wasabi and regional specialities amongst others. He even manages to visit the best secret restaurant in the whole of Japan.

He also interviews famous chefs, protective farmers and celebrated experts. Every story is a mixture of passion for food, and a touch of sadness, for the loss of interest in traditional Japanese cuisine.

With a base of good research and a dash of humility and humor, Booth manages to both engage and excite the reader... and their tastebuds.
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Michael Booth is a fluent writer, and the book contains some entertaining anecdotes as he travels around Japan for three months with his family. However for me it was marred by a lack of editing, and the feeling that it was not quite foodie enough for hard core food lovers, and yet not quite authentic enough a travelogue for someone looking for a travel book. It rather falls between two stools in this regard. Japan and its food scene is vast, varied and complex, so it is hardly surprising that on what appears to be his only trip to Japan he could only lift the kimono a little. I enjoyed his account of a wagyu beef farm, but it was odd for him to just dismiss the whole genre of Japanese beef as "it's not ice cream, it's an animal". Sure, the ultra-marbled specimens of beef are so soft that you can forget you are eating beef, but then just opt for one of the less marbled grades, as many top chefs do.

As someone who has worked in professional kitchens he has generally good insight into food, and it is nice to see that he does not get too carried away with the mystique e.g. he also seems to find fugu a fish that is as much valued for its sense of danger as its inherent taste, or lack thereof. On the other hand some of the travel observations seem peculiar - Japanese taxi drivers are unfailingly polite, but many are utterly clueless about finding even straightforward destinations (the stagnant economy has lured many non-professional cabbies into this profession), so his comments here seem strange, or at least very different to my own experiences in Japan. It is also a pity that he writes reverently about an invitation-only kaiseki restaurant that, by definition, few will be able to try.
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