Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen

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Ten Speed Press

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"Elizabeth Andoh's groundbreaking cookbook introduces Western audiences to the age-old concept of washoku, the art of creating nutritional and aesthetic harmony at the table, one that transforms our thinking about Japanese cuisine and culture. Composed with deep scholarship and loving craftsmanship, Washoku is filled with authentic recipes and personal stories that place the Japanese cooking and dining experience in a much needed cultural perspective only an insider could share." --Grace Young, author of The Breath of a Wok "For American cooks, Elizabeth Andoh is THE guru of Japanese cuisine. It seems there's nothing she doesn't know, her language is clear and understandable, and her recipes work. What more could you want?" --Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything "We cook from the heart (kokoro) and express our feelings with our dishes. In this book, Elizabeth Andoh conveys the way of the Japanese kokoro through cooking to people around the world." -- Nobu Matsuhisa "Elizabeth Andoh’s beautiful new book is not just a cookbook filled with enticing recipes, but a fascinating treatise explaining the philosophy behind Japanese home cooking and Japanese cuisine as a whole. Washoku confirms Elizabeth’s stellar reputation as one of the most knowledgeable authorities on Japanese food and culture." --Nina Simonds, author of A Spoonful of Ginger In 1975, Gourmet magazine published a series on traditional Japanese food —the first of its kind in a major American food magazine — written by a graduate of the prestigious Yanagihara School of classical cuisine in Tokyo. Today, the author of that groundbreaking series, Elizabeth Andoh, is recognized as the leading English-language authority on the subject. She shares her knowledge and passion for the food culture of Japan in WASHOKU, an authoritative, deeply personal tribute to one of the world ’s most distinctive culinary traditions. Andoh begins by setting forth the ethos of washoku (traditional Japanese food), exploring its nuanced approach to balancing flavor, applying technique, and considering aesthetics hand-in-hand with nutrition. With detailed descriptions of ingredients complemented by stunning full-color photography, the book’s comprehensive chapter on the Japanese pantry is practically a book unto itself. The recipes for soups, rice dishes and noodles, meat and poultry, seafood, and desserts are models of clarity and precision, and the rich cultural context and practical notes that Andoh provides help readers master the rhythm and flow of the washoku kitchen. Much more than just a collection of recipes, WASHOKU is a journey through a cuisine that is rich in history and as handsome as it is healthful.


Elizabeth Andoh
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illustrated edition
Ten Speed Press
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Ten Speed Press
Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen
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Pros: good pictures, some creative recipes, well written, clear, no pandering to the sushi crowd
Cons: strange omissions
I was supposed to have this review finished about 3 months ago, but to be honest, I have been stumped like never before.  I had my preconceived notions when I volunteered to review a “Japanese cookbookâ€.  I like most people, I thought sushi, tempura, teriyaki and the like.  The book that arrived on my porch was nothing like, “the likeâ€.  I have been cooking for many years and have a collection of more cookbooks than I will ever use, but I have never felt so intimidated by a book in my life.   Is that a bad thing?  Not really.  Intimidation is something that pushes many to excel or try things they never would have done otherwise.  For me, it was the latter.  I soon found myself in San Francisco, in Japantown, in a grocery store.   There I was walking the aisles looking for ingredients I had never heard of.  The price stickers may have said, “Buy 1, get 1 free†but I would have never known. The thing about this was, this book had me trying something new.  That is something no other book in my collection can claim.

The book opens with a chapter on the Washoku philosophy.  The philosophy behind the cooking consists of five principles, each having five topics color (red, yellow, green, black, white), tastes (salty, sour, sweet, bitter, spicy), five preparation styles to minimize salt, sugar and oil, the five senses, 5 outlooks on how to eat.  Each recipe is constructed with this philosophy in mind. 

After the introduction we get into the opening chapter, “The Washoku Pantryâ€.  Who knew there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of different types of miso?  How about the four most common types of Kombu (kelp)?  Or that the Japanese love pickled items, which they call tsukemono?  This chapter consists of 50 pages of commonly used ingredients in the Japanese kitchen.  After the pantry chapter you move through an index that looks as familiar as any cookbook.  Topics include stocks, sauces, condiments, soups, rice, noodles, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, tofu, eggs and dessert.  Within each chapter you have side notes called “Kitchen Harmonyâ€, which gives you a little more information about ingredients, techniques, Japanese culture, etc.  In these side notes you can also find references back to the five principles of Washoku.

I found this book to not only be an excellent cookbook, but a great guide into something we do not do too often, cook outside of our comfort zone.  I can say with reasonable certainty I probably would not have decided to cook Miso-Marinated Broiled Fish or Carrots & Konnyaku Tossed in Creamy Tofu Sauce on a whim.  If I had to find any fault with the book, it would be that some of the ingredients may be difficult to find.  There is a “Resources†section in the back of the book for mail ordering that does provide some help.   I recommend this book to anyone looking to learn something new, expand on something they may know a little about, or just the curious soul with the desire to learn Japanese cuisine outside of sushi, tempura and teriyaki.


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