By Alex Prichard, Well Fed Network – I’ve always been a little intimidated by the idea of cooking Japanese food (I’m very good at eating it though!). Part of this is because my parents have a Japanese friend who is a wonderful cook. He produces food which looks fantastic, tastes fantastic and takes him an age to prepare. I have no problems slaving for hours over a hot stove, but I’m very lazy when it comes to plating up.
Cooking Japanese is the type of cookbook that you would be quite happy to have just to look at the pictures. Every recipe is illustrated, so you have a very clear idea of how your dish should look – and presentation is a very important aspect of Japanese cuisine. The book is very uncluttered (each recipe is on its own page) and features a double page spread on producing perfect sushi rice, as well as several ‘three ways with …’ sections, which give feature common (Japanese – perhaps less familiar to cooks in the west) ingredients like dashi.
When it came to cooking from this book it was very difficult to choose dishes. Every picture looks so appetising that you more or less feel like one of everything! That is, obviously, unrealistic. In the end, three dishes were produced along a sesame seed theme. You can read about the full experience, with recipes, over at Eating Leeds – I’ll just provide a summary.
The centrepiece of the meal was sesame marinated steak. The steak was marinated in a ginger, sesame seed, garlic and soy sauce marinade, before being cooked. It was served with a soy and ginger based dipping sauce, and decorated with spring onions and the juicy bits and pieces from the pan.
Served with this were two very simple vegetable dishes, both served with (different) sesame dressings: spinach rolls (lightly cooked spinach, dressed with a splash of soy sauce and rolled in a sushi mat) and fresh green beans. Both dressings were very easy to make and both dishes were light, refreshing and delicious. The spinach dish would actually lend itself very well to being served as an hors d’oeuvre or canape.
All the instructions were clear, the dishes were easy to put together and everything tasted fantastic. If you don’t live near a good Asian or Oriental food shop you may struggle to source some ingredients (such as dashi, pickled plums, mirin or even the seemingly endless array of different types of soy sauce), but, for the few things not in the kitchen, I found I was able to make sensible substitutions.
As you’d expect, Cooking Japanese has a good range of rice and noodle based recipes, and it was a shame not to get to try one of these out too. However, given the success of everything else, I see no reason why I won’t be attempting more Japanese food in future.
Available on Amazon UK: Cooking Japanese