JAPANESE SOUL COOKING: RAMEN, TONKATSU, TEMPURA, AND MORE FROM THE STREETS AND KITCHENS OF TOKYO AND BEYOND
By Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat (Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed Press, 2013, 256 pp., $27.50, hardcover)
Even if you didn’t grow up eating okonomiyaki (pancake) or omu (omelette) rice, the savory, robust flavors in “Japanese Soul Cooking” will remind you of home.
Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat introduce readers to a bit of background and history of each food and for most chapters also provide “Master Recipes,” base recipes that that shows a well-honed standard for that particular food that can then be built upon for variations. The book is organized into 13 chapters that are each grouped by a type of food, such as “Curry” or “Yoshoku,” (“Western-style cooking) and is filled with full-color photos of food and step-by-step instructions. Also included are shots of versions of the food being prepared, served and enjoyed by Japanese people — locals, family members, local chefs, and for one recipe, even the Japanese Defense Force. They give a sense of just how ubiquitous the food really is.
Each chapter begins with a brief history of each food — how it was introduced into Japanese cuisine, its evolution and adaptation of flavor, and what makes it so beloved today. The range of diversity in the recipes is wide, and while every recipe is considered a beloved Japanese home-style dish with firm roots in Japanese cuisine, readers will learn the many origins of these now-Japanese foods from other countries such as the United States, China and Korea, just to name a few, and how their introduction and evolution made its mark on Japan’s culinary landscape.
Recipes vary in difficulty. Beginners can start with one-pot or one-bowl recipes: a simple zaru soba, a summertime classic of buckwheat noodles with dipping sauce, or perhaps a classic pork chahan, fried rice with slices of pork belly, seasoned with hints of sesame oil and soy sauce. Once you get the hang of things, try your hand at making okayodon, hot rice with sautéed chicken and onion swimming in a pool of egg; karage, a deep fried, savory Japanese-style fried chicken that’s perfect with beer; or hamburger steak, a juicy beef and pork patty served with a savory sauce and is a classic childhood favorite for many Japanese children. Then, when you’re really on a roll, try your hand at making some gyoza with hane (“wings” on the postickers that will give them an extra-crispy crunch), or perhaps the ever-enduring Japanese classic, tempura (battered and deep-fried items).
Anyone who grew up in a Japanese household will have eaten a variation of most, if not all, of these beloved recipes throughout their lifetime, and the flavors illustrated in these recipes are sure to remind them of home. “Japanese Soul Cooking” is the perfect book for people who want to make food just like they ate growing up, or those who eat cozy Japanese home-style food and get to know a selection of food that many Japanese households have enjoyed for generations.