Whether it be the skillful and detailed presentation or the often exotic and hard-to-find ingredients, Japanese cuisine has a reputation for being difficult to cook. In this new cookbook, Morimoto sets out to show the American home cook that Japanese dishes, especially recipes from Japanese home cooks, can be surprisingly easy to prepare. Having taken a few classes in Japanese home cooking and trying my hand at different dishes over the years, I agree and while I don't claim to be an expert and my dishes are often a mix of cuisines rather than authentic Japanese, I have found that it doesn't have to to scary to cook delicious Japanese dishes at home.
Still, it's nice to have such an expert guide in the kitchen and Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking is a cookbook that is useful, beautiful, and interesting to read. It is divided by category; Dashi (the basic soup stock, Gohan (rice), Supu (soups), Yaku (grilled, broiled or seared), Musu (steamed), Niru (simmered), Itame Ru (stir-fried), Men (noodles), Ageru (to fry), Ae Ru (dressings) and Tsukeru (pickled). It also starts off with Morimoto's thoughts about Japanese cooking and how to create a Japanese meal from the different recipes, and it includes a glossary of Japanese ingredients and sources to find them.
The recipes are made up of classics--ones that are popular here in America, as well as dishes that are lesser-known here, and many recipes include the chef's clever spins that make the dishes fun. It's a beautiful book--almost every major recipe has a gorgeous color photo and an introduction from Morimoto about the dish. The recipe instructions are clear and there are even some "Japanese Grandmother Wisdom" notes included with tips and explanations sprinkled through the book.
Having spent time in Japan for work years ago, reading it took me back to so many delicious meals I enjoyed. I found myself tabbing many of the recipes to make like Ohitashi (dashi-marinated kale), Furikake with Shrimp Shells and Potato Chips (I tend to buy my fuikake seasoning!), Chahan (Japanese-style fried rice), Asari No Miso Shiru (miso soup with clams), Tamago Supu (Japanese egg drop soup), Sake Shioyaki (salt-grilled salmon), Sakana No Sakamushi (fish steamed in kombu with spicy soy sauce), Oden (Japanese-style hot pot with sesame aioli), Kinpira (stir-fried parsnip and carrot), Zaru Udon (chilled udon noodles with scallions and ginger), Kaki Age (shrimp and vegetable fritters), Ingen No Goma Ae (green beans with sesame dressing) and Tataki Kyuri (smashed cucumber pickles).
Even with all of the choices, it was not hard for me to decide on a dish to try out this fabulous cookbook for the #JapaneseHomeCooking event--it just had to be the Tekka Don No Poke or Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl. I live in Hawaii and love poke, so it had to be made!
Morimoto says, "Once you secure sushi-grade tuna, this meal in a bowl takes almost no effort to make. I upgrade the typical tekka don--sliced raw tuna, often briefly marinated in soy sauce--by merging it with the Hawaiian dish tuna poke (pronounced PO-kay) which I fell for while opening my restaurant in Waikiki. The cubes of luscious crimson fish dressed with a little salt, sugar, and spice taste great over wonderfully plain white rice or less traditional but no less delicious sushi rice."
Tekka Don No Poke or Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl
Adapted from Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking by Morimoto
1/4 cup Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 to 2 tsp tobanjan (chile bean sauce) preferably a Japanese brand
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 lb sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 medium Haas avocado, peeled and pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 cups cooked short-grain white rice or cooked vinegared short-grain white rice
1 nori seaweed sheet
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh shiso leaves (also called Japanese mint or perilla) or scallion greens (I used fresh mint and scallions)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, tobanjan, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the tuna and avocado to the bowl, toss well, and set aside to marinate for a few minutes but no more than 5 minutes.
Divide the rice among 4 wide bowls. Top each bowl with the tuna and avocado, leaving the sauce behind. Then drizzle the sauce over the tuna and avocado. Tear the nori into small pieces and scatter some over each bowl; top with the shiso and sesame seeds. Eat right away.
Notes/Results: This was a delicious poke-style bowl--a great combination of flavors and textures and just enough spice to make it interesting. As Morimoto stated, it is quick to put togethe--once you have your rice cooked and tuna secured. With the exception of picking up the fresh ahi tuna and an avocado, I had most of the rest of the ingredients in my pantry. I was bummed that although I can usually find fresh shiso leaves at my neighborhood grocery store, of course the moment I wanted them for this recipe there were none to had at any nearby store. I made do with a combination of some fresh mint leaves and green onion. The tobanjan or Japanese chile bean sauce is pretty spicy but I used 1 1/2 tsps (the recipe called for 1 to 2 tsps) and only marinated the tuna in it, figuring that it is was too spicy, the avocado chunks and rice would cool things down--and they did nicely. I was extremely happy with this delicious meal-in-a-bowl and I will happily make it again.
You can see the recipes and cookbook reviews from the other nine bloggers participating in the Japanese Home Cooking Party on the Book Club Cookbook website.
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Note: A review copy of "Mastering the Art of Japanese Cooking" was provided to me by the publisher and The Book Club Cookbook in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking is my fourteenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the November Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.