If I had to name a cookbook that both embodied home cooking and simple elegance, it would be Atsuko’s Japanese Kitchen by Atsuko Ikeda. It’s the reason why I was looking forward to this review.
Back when I first started to cook, I was drawn to Japanese cuisine. Shabu shabu, Japanese curry, miso soup with a proper dashi, etc. were the things I was trying to make in my home kitchen. Somewhere, I stopped cooking Japanese food (with the exception of the occasional nabe). I’m not sure why. Maybe because it stopped feeling new to me?
But Ms. Ikeda does an excellent job of taking those familiar Japanese dishes and adding a modern flair, taking a familiar homemade dish and giving it a breath of newness. Some examples are:
- Smoked mackerel and dill onigiri
- Mushrooms with blue cheese, yuzu ponzu, and truffle
- Molten eggs with lightly seared marinated steak (molten eggs seem to be jammy eggs)
- Mushroom and soy milk soup
That isn’t to say that there are no traditional recipes in this book. For a few days, I couldn’t decide whether to test out her chicken and eggs on rice (oyakodon) recipe, or her beef and potato stew (nikujaga) recipe. (And then I chose neither for this review.)
The book is divided into fairly standard chapters:
- My Japanese kitchen
- Regional Dishes
- The secrets of Japanese cuisine
- Small dishes for sharing
- Soups and Noodles
- Easy one-plate meals
- Special occasion meals
- Sides and Dressings
The recipes I’m interested in making that I haven’t named already:
Glazed lotus root and chicken meatballs – I was introduced to this recipe years ago, and I may have lost the recipe. I love renkon (lotus root) and you don’t see this stuffed renkon recipe in English written cookbooks often.
- Ceviche-style scallops with citrus sauce – On paper, it reminds me of a dish from Tyler Kinnett, Executive Chef at Harvest (one of my favorite restaurants in the Greater Boston area).
- Chicken in nanban seasonings with tartar sauce – Somehow, I never heard chicken nanban until recently. It’s apparently the Japanese version of sweet and sour chicken.
- Fried and steamed salmon in miso garlic sauce – The photo for this recipe really appeals to me. It’s listed in the special occasion meals chapter but the ingredient list isn’t daunting, nor are the instructions.
- Pumpkin salad – Kabocha squash, Japanese mayo, Greek yogurt, raisins, and almonds. It sounds intriguing.
- Azuki bean paste pancake sandwiches – It never occurred to me to make my own dorayaki. I love red bean desserts!
And a shout out to the photographer, Yuki Sugiura. Every recipe is accompanied was a gorgeous photo to inspire!
For my review recipe, I ultimately picked the chicken teriyaki with lime. (The recipe serves it over quinoa rice, but it’s been hot here in the Greater Boston area so I chose not to cook another dish. I ate it with store bought naan, and salad. I’ll make the rice next time.) I like Japanese teriyaki but I just never make it at home, but I was really curious how the lime matched the dish.
Aside from the chicken and the lime, I had all of the ingredients in the recipe. (Full disclosure, I swapped the leeks with onion.) It was easy to make, so I can vouch that it’s a perfect dish to make at home. Ms. Ikeda claims “after trying this recipe, you might never purchase ready-made teriyaki sauce again.” I’m inclined to agree! I thought this was delicious! And the touch of lime elevated the recipe from being boring and ordinary.
If you’re interested in Japanese food, or if you’re looking for some new ideas that can be used for everyday cooking, I highly recommend this book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I wasn’t. In fact, I think I’ll make the fried ginger pork for dinner this weekend.
Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Ryland and Peters for this review. I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.