I have always been a little on the fence about cookbooks, mostly due to the fact that I have not had a great history of following recipes; Japanese Cuisine and anything that resembles baking are the two notable exceptions. My preference is for books that give inspiration not just a list of recipes for one to blindly follow. This means that the books must have plenty of good pictures, pretty much as a minimum one for each finished recipe and some step by step shots where useful.
When I look for books on Japanese cuisine I tend to be even more picky. Given the intricate presentation awarded even to the simplest sushi plate I feel you want more and more to sea the beauty in order to learn from that.
“Edomae Sushi: Art, Tradition, Simplicity” by Kikuo Shimizu fits into that sweetspot of good information and great photography. The pictures are huge, particularly the shots of the individual sushi items with just a splattering of text on the page to classify the dish. Even many of the accompanying text pages have photos interspersed with them.
The introductory section of the book provides great insights from the author about “Edomae”, the beginnings of sushi in the area around Tokyo Bay between the 17th and 19th centuries, the life of a sushi chef and shop owner and the philosophy behind making sushi; not to mention some beautiful photographs of ingredients and the authors restaurant.
The bulk of the book is devoted to the sushi itself, presented in a kind of “reverse-engineered” style. Most items have a double page devoted to them with a large picture of a completed piece of sushi on the left with basic naming and preparation details and to the right detailed discussion on the ingredient itself, appropriate seasons and preparation background. Here is the greatest value in the book; even if you never want to get your hands stuck into the rice you will never again be an uneducated diner. The flipped to this is, that unless you go Japan or a very good sushi restaurant in your country you may be more educated than those running the place. Use this power wisely and humbly as with all things, and importantly keep yourself from being chased from your local sushi train by an unhappy chef with a very large knife ;).
Nicely rounding off this tome are some general instructions on making sushi and preparing some ingredients and for the freaky like me who have dreams (nightmares ;)) about running their own restaurant a short memoir of the authors sushi journey. Overall a well written well produced book for any lover of sushi.