Book Review: My Japanese Table

My Japanese Table - Book Review

For me, Japanese food has always been a mixed bag. There are many foods like ramen and tonkatsu that I love. Other dishes, however, can leave me shaking my head in wonder and asking myself “Why would anyone want to eat this?”. For that reason I was interested in taking a peak at the Japanese cookbook My Japanese Table to see what I was missing out on.

A Study of Japanese Tastes

When I was last in Japan a friend asked me an interesting question – How would you rate these food areas in terms of most important to least important – taste, price, texture and healthiness? He had been doing a bit of a test by asking Westerners as well as the Japanese that question. His responses were pretty interesting.

While my preferences ranked taste and price highly, the Japanese tended to focus more on healthiness and texture. That explained a lot to us on why Japanese eat the way they do. I once asked a Japanese teacher why she was drinking black vinegar every morning. Her response was simply “Because it’s healthy for me!”. To be honest, I didn’t buy that excuse when my mom made be drink cod liver oil, and I don’t buy it now. I guess tasting good may not be the most important thing in Japanese cuisine.

Western Tastes with Japanese Recipes

My Japanese Table - Book Review

At first when I saw this book was written by Debra Samuels, a westerner and not a native Japanese, I questioned how useful or authentic the recipes would be. But the more I thought about it the more I realized it could be exactly what I was looking for. What I really desired was Japanese food that was fit more to a western pallet. And while the author has spent many years in Japan and no doubt her recipes are very much Japanese authentic, there are no black vinegar drinks included, and I like to think some of the more “healthy” selections didn’t make the grade.

What’s Inside

This book contains all the classic Japanese food areas from noodles to sushi. And while some of the ingredients may be outside your standard kitchen stocked items, you should be able to pick up most of them in the Asian section of any major supermarket.

The recipes are not too difficult and don’t contain many elaborate steps. For example, from watching okonomiyaki being prepared, I’ve always figured that it would be a difficult meal to make. However, the recipe is only 7 steps long and uses some pretty basic ingredients.

My Japanese Table - Book Review

I’m really looking forward to trying out the tonkatsu recipe to see if it’s something I can make at home. It will probably require looking for some pre-made tonkatsu sauce, but I have a feeling that may not be as hard to find as I think. I’ll let you know how it goes :)

All in all, this book was a surprise and I actually came away with several recipes that I would like to try. So if you’re thinking of adding some Japanese dishes to your repertoire, give My Japanese Table a look.

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