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Recommended Reading
Listed below are some of my favorite cookbooks. I own every single one of them and can highly recommend each one. For other recommended books, please visit the online store.

Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen
By Elizabeth Andoh

This book was only published in 2005, but is well on its way to becoming a classic. In fact, it is so comprehensive that reading it is like taking a graduate course in washoku (Japanese cuisine). It is chock-full of useful information, including an in-depth explanation of Japanese food philosophy, techniques, background and history. Elizabeth Andoh was born in the United States, where she is widely regarded as the leading authority on Japanese food. After marrying a Japanese man in the late 1960s and becoming part of a traditional Japanese family, she embarked on a lifelong quest to first understand Japanese food and culture, and then to introduce foreigners to it. Her newly released book featuring vegetarian cuisine, Kansha is reviewed below.

PROS: Full of essential information and advice, this book is a comprehensive guide to Japanese cuisine, full of delicious traditional recipes.

CONS: There are not very many photos of completed dishes.

Kansha: Celebrating Japan's Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions
By Elizabeth Andoh

I was lucky enough to have a sneak peak of some of the content and recipes of this new book by Elizabeth Andoh because I was on her advisory council. But reading the finished product is quite a joy, as it covers not just Japanese cuisine, but culture. I especially like Andoh's explanation of the concept and practice of Kansha: of appreciating the bounty of nature; of cherishing and respecting the hard work that goes into growing our food; of using every scrap of produce that we buy. Even meat lovers will appreciate the dishes featured here, as they highlight abundance instead of abstinence. It's a timely subject with a much-needed focus. FULL REVIEW

PROS: A comprehensive look at the classic vegan and vegetarian traditions of Japan, with recipes that taste rich and wonderful.

CONS: I wish there were more photos. When I saw the photo of Pom Pom Sushi I thought, "So that's what it's supposed to look like!"

 
Kitcho: Japan's Ultimate Dining Experience
By Kunio Takaoka

As much about art and tableware as it is about food, Kitcho: Japan's Ultimate Dining Experience is a visual feast. It is an evocative and highly descriptive explanation of Kunio Tokuoka's "Rimpa-style cuisine"; as explosively creative, sumptously gorgeous and poetic as Rimpa-style art. The book describes the experience of dining at Kitcho Arashiyama, which is widely regarded as Japan's ultimate dining experience. If you believe (as we do), that Japanese cuisine is the best in the world, this would make Kitcho the ultimate dining experience in the world. FULL REVIEW

PROS: As gorgeous as it is, the book also has thoughtful explanations of important Japanese concepts, such as mitate (seeing one thing as another) so its beauty is not just skin-deep.

CONS: There are no recipes, only descriptions. Only skilled cooks and professional chefs could attempt to recreate Takaoka's dishes.

 

Kaiseki: The Exquisite Art of Kyoto's Kikunoi Restaurant
by Yoshihiro Murata

I had an opportunity to interview Yoshihiro Murata while I was in Tokyo a few months ago, and then dined at his flagship kyo-kaiseki restaurant Kikunoi a week later. What a revelation! This book is an inspiration for the aspiring chef and may cause swooning for the home cook and hunger pangs in prospective diners. Full of gorgeous photographs by leading food photographer Masashi Kuma, this recommended book is a great introduction to the subtleties of kaiseki cuisine. You can even use it as a guidebook to the restaurant.

PROS: Drop-dead gorgeous and inspirational. A valuable addition to any cook's library. The recipes are actually quite simple if you are familiar with Japanese cooking.

CONS: Some of the ingredients are not found outside of Kyoto, let alone Japan. But Murata has long-standing ties to suppliers in Kyoto, and not everyone can have fresh yuba delivered to their door.

 

Harumi’s Japanese Cooking
By Harumi Kurihara

Harumi – known only by her first name – is Japan’s answer to Martha Stewart. She is known for her bright and engaging personality and her innovative approach to contemporary Japanese cooking. This is her first book to be translated into English, and the recipes are easy, delicious and feature ingredients that can be found in your local market. The writing style is breezy, friendly and accessible, like Harumi herself. I can’t help but admire her, and can see why she’s so popular in Japan. She also has an extensive line of well-designed cookware and tableware.

PROS: With beautiful photographs and delicious recipes presented in an easy-to-follow format, this book most accurately reflects today’s Japanese home cooking.

CONS: It doesn’t cover many traditional dishes, nor give much history about Japanese food. It would be a wonderful companion book to Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh.

Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking
By Harumi Kurihara

This is the follow-up book to Harumi’s Japanese Cooking, and provides 70 new recipes from “the Martha Stewart of Japan.” This book contains recipes specifically for the Western palate. It also includes a nice section on tableware, and focuses a little more on Harumi herself.

PROS: The much-anticipated book is just as good as her first.

CONS: Like the first book, it focuses on New Japanese cuisine, and lacks historical and cultural information.

Shunju: New Japanese Cuisine
By Takashi Sugimoto and Marcia Iwate

Shunju means spring/autumn, and this beautiful coffee table-sized book is full of award-winning photography and inspiring recipes from the Shunju restaurants created by some of the best chefs in Japan. The Shunju style of cooking focuses on simple recipes using farm-fresh seasonal ingredients, and regularly uses what can be considered non-Japanese ingredients such as garlic and butter. Of all the cookbooks I own, this one is most closely attuned to the way I cook at home. However, since I don’t have a wood-burning stove or have much opportunity to cook with charcoal, the retaurants' food tastes better. I also don’t have a trendy Takashi Sugimoto-designed space in which to serve my creations, but this book brings back memories of dining there.

PROS: Reading this inspiring book, you can be up to speed with the exciting advances in the Japanese dining world, which reflect the worldwide trend of sustainable, locally grown organic produce. The book design is also very cool, there are photos of very cool interiors, so it would be a perfect gift for design freaks.

CONS: The recipes contain ingredients that are hard to find outside of Japan, and substitutions are not mentioned.

 

 
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