Saturday, June 11, 2011

Japanese cookbooks in English

The Japanese are renowned for their quest for excellence and have always pursued their passion in their respective fields with vigour and pride. From high tech breakthoughs to their strive for beauty in everyday life, Japanese culture is amazing with the juxtapose of complexity and simplicity, tradition and edgy. And I am always amazed by the range of Japanese do it yourself books. If only they were available in English.

Fortunately, two excellent Japanese cookbooks which are in English are Harumi's Japanese Cooking and Keiko Ishida's Okashi - Sweet Treats made with Love. Harumi Kurihara is the Martha Stewart of Japan with a huge Japanese fanbase. Though not a professionally trained cook , she has elevated the art of everyday cooking with receipes that are elegant yet simple and delicious. Being a housewife herself, she understood the time constraints they have in taking care of the family. Harumi's Japanese Cooking was awarded the best cookbook of the year in 2004 at the 10th Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, an amazing feat considering that hers was chosen from a pool of 5000 cookbooks from 67 countries.
What is unique about her book is that she breaks down the mystery of Japanese cooking even right from the basic step of making dashi - a fish based stock which is the heart of many Japanese dishes.Some of her receipes that I've tried include the simple somen noodle salad made from tinned tuna, somen, cucumber, mayonnaise and onion. Simple as it sounds , it is a real delicious treat.

Keiko Ishida on the other hand is a pastry chef trained in Paris who specialises in French deserts with a Japanese twist. She has taught in both Japan and Singapore and it is lovely to know that her English book was published here in Singapore. What makes her cookbook stand out among the many baking books out there is her use of Japanese ingredients such as green tea, red bean, black sesame etc with the French style of baking. I've never been able to make a really light and rich chocolate cake till I saw her receipe recommending that the egg white meringue be folded into the beaten butter, chocolate and sugar mixture using a whisk. All along, I've been folding in the egg white using a wooden spoon which I supposed has taken away some of the air in the mixture. This air is needed to make the cake light. It's just that simple and her chocolate cake receipe is my absolute favourite which I bake very often as treats for my family. I get great pleasure from the whiff of baked cakes and cookies in the comfort of my own home and the sight of my husband and daughters waiting anxiously for their tea time treats. Some wonderful receipes in this book include green tea chiffon cake, green tea tiramisu, almond snow balls, Keiko style mango puddings and of course my favourite chocolate cake.

No comments: