命の出汁 – broth of vigour

an adventure in japanese cuisine, an obsession with the izakaya


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Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook

While by no means a vegetarian, several times a year as Orthodox Christians we go vegan during the fasting periods. Given the prevalence of dashi in everything I have usually relied on western vegan recipes during this time. As we come up on the Nativity Fast I decided to look into some Japanese Vegetarian cookbooks and try out something new.

First I tripped upon Kansha by Elizabeth Andoh. I have one of her other cookbooks Washoku, and while I really like her research and her writing it just doesn’t cut the mustard with my “inspiration index”. Basically, nowhere near enough photos.

So I fell back on my old favourite inspiration, Nobu Matsuhisa with Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook. Very much styled on his other recipe books which have provided me with great dreams over the years it is filled with great recipes and delightful photography. There are a myriad of interesting dishes to try, most of them not difficult at all with access to the right ingredients. Different recipes for Dashi that are very vegan are included and used throughout most of the dishes.

Many of the dishes use the vegetarian stock for cooking or marinating in a traditional Japanese approach. There are also variations on classic Nobu twists such as using the “New Style Oil” approach, that he pioneered with sashimi to make it more palatable for the raw fish skeptic, to attack beautiful fruit tomatoes. There is a variation one of my favourite asparagus dishes, previously with egg sauce and salmon roe (Ikura) this time with a more healthy approach as well as vegan using a miso based sauce and long onions as garnish. The front cover surprised me when I got to the recipe, vegetable sushi (sure) but vegetables are “cured” with konbu.

There are some unfortunate recipes that no doubt are inspired by his clients; a proliferation of truffles used in many recipes are great but a little off the radar for many of us. Sure, they are vegan but incredibly expensive (and while legal in my fasting regimen defy the spirit of why it is done).

Overall a great inspiration book; many solid recipes but underlying techniques that can be migrated to other vegetables and ingredients. Oh, and he dips fruit tomatoes in chocolate, fabulous!!!!! Highly recommended and I hope to show you some of the recipes and techniques as I try them over the coming months.


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Edomae Sushi: Art, Tradition, Simplicity

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.