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A Cook's Journey to Japan

A Cook's Journey to Japan

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Fish Tales and Rice Paddies 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens

Sarah Marx Feldner

photography by Noboru Murata; styling by Yumi Kawachi


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Book Details
 Price
 4.00
 Pages
 306 p
 File Size 
 9,167 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 ISBN
 978-1-4629-0556-0 (ebook) 
 Copyright©   
 2010 Sarah Marx Feldner
 All Photographs ©
 2010 Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd

Foreword 
A Culinary Tour of Japan's Regional Cuisines
My own Japan journey began more than four decades ago in a coastal town
on the island of Shikoku. Never intending to stay for very long, I was not
especially interested in cooking at the time, and certainly not skilled in it. I
sometimes marvel at the deep and powerful way in which Japan’s food
culture grabbed my attention from the start. In fact, it still won’t let go. I
remain inquisitive, asking improbable questions that often perplex the
storekeepers I query and their customers with whom I chat as I peek into
their shopping carts. Over the years, the roles of student-teacher have
blended, even reversed: I seem to be the one offering my fellow Japanese
shoppers tips on selecting the best bamboo shoots, or how to make a quick
and thrifty pickle with carrot and radish peels. And I am the one who has
made a career out of teaching the Japanese culinary arts, taking pleasure in
kindling interest in others, helping them fan and stoke the flames of their curiosity.

Although I am firmly committed to mentoring the next generation, I
am not able to work with everyone who approaches me. When Sarah Marx
Feldner first contacted me in January of 2005, I was putting the finishes
touches on my fourth cookbook, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese
Home Kitchen. Sarah said she had an idea for a cookbook of her own . . .
not just a collection of recipes, but stories about the people who cooked
these dishes and how she had met them while living and working as a
teacher in rural Japan. Sarah wanted to provide instruction on how to
recreate homestyle dishes as a way of encouraging others to explore new
foods, getting them to join her on a journey of discovery beyond their daily
routine. Struggling in my own way with Washoku to give voice to Japan’s
home cooking, Sarah’s project excited me. Her passion of purpose
(abundant enthusiasm is needed to complete such an ambitious project) and
commitment to “doing it right” (no haphazard shortcuts) impressed me . . .
so did her story and her desire to share it with others.
Sarah has energetically collected recipes from the kitchens and hearts
of Japanese home cooks she met in her travels. Less concerned with
teaching you to make dishes that boast of deep history than introducing you
to contemporary fare, Sarah shows you home cooking as it is enjoyed today
in busy, thrift-conscious households throughout the Japanese archipelago.
Many of these, like Chicken’n Rice Stew (Keihan)—a tasty broth-stewed
chicken—enjoyed in southern Kyushu, Soy Sauce Marinated Fava Beans
(Shoyumame), a specialty of Shikoku, or Vegetable-Stuffed Rolls (Oyaki)
hailing from Nagano, will provide you with a culinary tour of Japanese
regional cuisine in the comfort and familiar surroundings of your own
kitchen. Others, like Japanese Egg Salad Sandwiches and White Radish
Salad served with mentaiko-mayo (a salad dressing made with spicy cod
roe) are relatively new to Japan but already are classics-in-the-making (in
fact, mayonnaise is rapidly becoming indispensable in the modern Japanese
home kitchen).

Although Sarah’s journey and my own were started decades apart and
in very different parts of Japan, there are many similarities. Learning
through observation, a fondness for note taking, tenacious trial and error,
and insatiable curiosity is our common methodology. Sharing our
experiences with a wider audience, wanting to inform as we entertain
others, is our common goal.
Dozo, meshiagre! (Go ahead, dig in!) Sarah will guide you well . . .
Elizabeth Andoh
Tokyo Osaka, July 28, 2009

Introduction
A Search for Everyday Recipes 
and the Stories that Inspire Them
You could say this book arose out of desperation.
I had what most would consider a good life—a job at a growing food
magazine and an adorable bungalow (with a kitchen that had been recently
remodeled and featured in a national magazine!). But for me, it was simply
the wrong place, wrong time.

So . . . I quit my job, sold my house, put everything I owned into
storage (aka my dad’s house) and returned to Japan.
About four years previous, I was graduating from college with a
degree in Spanish and Applied Linguistics (Teaching English as a Second
Language). And while the obvious choice would have been to go teach in a
Spanish-speaking country, I, never being the one to follow too close to
regimen, went to Japan instead—where it was only on the plane ride over
that I first learned how to say hello (konichiwa) and count to three (ichi, ni, san).

This, though, ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. I
got a job in a lesser-known town (Iwaki) at a small, independent language
school where I was one of the only Western teachers—forcing me to fully
immerse myself in Japanese culture (instead of spending my time with
other foreigners like myself).

Early on in my stay my sister came to visit and, one evening, I took
her to Kyosaka for dinner—one of the best restaurants in town. The
restaurant’s name is a combination of two famous Japanese cities—Kyoto
and Osaka—and serves up some of the best okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza)
—the Kansai region’s specialty—you’ll ever eat.

Again, it was meant to be. We had a cute, young woman for our
waitress who had just returned from studying in Oxford, so she was able to
help us with our Japanese (by speaking English). I took an immediate liking
to her—it was hard not to, her smiling face just welcomed you in. My sister,
knowing my tendency towards shyness, set up a lunch date for Hitomi and
me a couple days later, and we have remained wonderful friends ever since!
(I was there at her wedding, flew back to Japan after the birth of her first child . . . )

And really, it was her whole family that adopted me. Hiromi-san is
Hitomi’s aunt, and the owner of Kyosaka, who is there tirelessly cooking
every night. She is also my kindred spirit. Together, the two of us can talk
about food for hours . . . forever . . . which is especially impressive as she
speaks very little English, and while my Japanese got better and better over
time, my ability was limited. (This was a common pitfall of mine. While I
—eventually—could hold my own on a discussion about Japanese food,
once the subject switched to anything non-food related, I was immediately
taken out of my element, only returning a blank stare to a question that
could have been as simple as “how’s the weather?”—a development that
always caught my conversation partner off guard).

Fast forward a couple years . . . I’m at the job with the house, along
with a freshly minted master’s in Library and Information Science with an
emphasis on Culinary Collections and Food Research. Painfully bored,
feeling scarily trapped and stuck (exactly what no twenty-eight year old
wants to feel from life), I took a look at my job—where I was developing
recipes, writing stories and assisting with photo shoots—and naively
thought, hey, I can do this on my own, too.
And that’s when I moved back to Japan with the intention of writing a
Japanese cookbook.

It was a bold decision (some would probably call it “stupid”), but it’s
been a fun rollercoaster of a ride ever since. Looking back, I completely
miscalculated the amount of time it takes to put a book of this scope together.

But I also had luck on my side. Being a librarian by education, I
definitely did my fair share of research ahead of time, which is how I came
across Elizabeth Andoh. While I spoke with a few other well-known
authorities in the field beforehand, it was Andoh-san who really took me
under her wing. She became my mentor throughout the project, and it was
beyond fortunate for me to have someone with her successful “inside”
experience guiding me. (She had three books published at that time, and
was in the process of putting the finishing touches on Washoku when we
first met.) Again a sign of my cluelessness: She had told me to plan to
devote four years to my cookbook project, which I ignorantly thought was
crazy; that I could easily condense my time down to two years, if that. But
as I sit here now, writing this introduction (one of the final steps of the
book-writing process) I am at the end of my fourth year working on this book!

So I’m back in Japan . . . using Iwaki (my Japanese “hometown”) as a
base. Since Hitomi now had two little ones and a small apartment to house
her family of four, I stayed with Hiromi-san, who lived just a few short
blocks away, instead.

From there, I would go out traveling for two weeks to a month at a
time, intent on speaking to whomever would talk back. And it was amazing
how gracious the people I came across were: I would stay at hostels—so I
could have better access to the owners and their kitchen; I would grill the
volunteers at every train station tourist information center I arrived at; I
enlisted the help of the Goodwill Guides (volunteer tour guides); and
reached out to my extended network of Japanese “contacts” who would
generously invite me into their homes, where a delicious meal and the
accompanying recipe would so often be shared.

Interestingly, the more I cooked in people’s homes, the more I noticed
that few would work from an actual recipe. Instead, most simply cooked “to
taste.” It wasn’t until I was cooking with Sekia-san in Niigata that I found
someone using a cookbook—of which she had photocopied the recipes she
was making for me to reference. But as I took a closer look, I saw that there
were no measurements provided, only a list of ingredients. When I
expressed my confusion to Sekia-san, she explained that people’s tastes are
too varied, that it is considered an insult to tell someone, say, how much
sugar to use, as the amount you might enjoy versus your neighbor’s could
vary greatly. (While there are definitely a large number of Japanese
cookbooks out there with detailed instructions and measurements, it was
this freestyle cooking philosophy I most frequently encountered.)
Throughout this entire process, I felt that I had a guardian angel
(shugotenshi) following me around. For the most part, all of my
experiences—for a girl traveling the Japanese countryside, by herself, with
only a backpack and laptop strapped to her frame—were good. There were,
I admit, two questionable experiences, but I was the one to blame. Like
when I accepted an invitation into an older gentleman’s home for lunch,
who I had just said “hello” to on the side of the road. And shortly after
entering his something-isn’t-quite-right-here house and quickly realizing
this was no place for me to be, I immediately made an excuse to leave,
basically running out the door. Or the time I stubbornly turned down a ride
back to my remote hostel, thinking I could walk the seemingly short
distance back. But instead, found myself lost in the rice paddies in the
middle of nowhere in the dead of night with no idea which direction to
head. Again, my guardian angel appeared. This time, in a bright red car
with a friendly young woman willing to safely take me home. It was one of
the only times I’ve hitchhiked.

Throughout the adventure (or to be more technical, my “research”) I
tried to stick to the smaller cities. I just felt overwhelmed by the bustle of
the big cities, and found people easier to talk to—and more willing to talk—
in the smaller rural towns.

I traveled from the northern tip of Honshu (mainland Japan—just
before Hokkaido) to the southern tip of Kyushu (just before Okinawa). And
it was eye-opening, that for a country roughly the size of California, how
varied the cuisine is from region to region. The terrain has a lot to do with
it. Whether the town is on the ocean (sea), or surrounded by mountains, has
a large impact on how the people of that area eat.

In a way, this book is my small way to give something back to Japan.
Having had some of my best, most memorable times there, this collection
of recipes and the stories that accompany them are my way of saying
“thank you” for providing the experiences that made this book possible.
Even after researching (and eating!) in Japan, and then doing more
research at home in the States, I still don’t consider myself an expert on
Japanese food. But in a way, I think it has been to my advantage, as I am
able to look at the cuisine through fresh eyes—observing techniques and
ingredients that are often overlooked by those who are immersed in the
food and culture.

It was also my intention to provide an introduction to Japanese cuisine
that I truly felt was accessible. I love food, and I love Japan. But even for
me, there are only a handful of Japanese cookbooks out there that I feel
comfortable enough with to try the recipes—too often the ingredients and
presentations seem too foreign or difficult. My goal with this book was to
provide recipes that I—as an outside Westerner—could easily relate to.
Recipes, that while still traditional Japanese, are also well within my
comfort zone of both familiarity and experimentation. And traveling the
countryside, in search of these recipes, I was surprised by how accessible
Japanese homestyle cooking is, and how easily adaptable it is to the
Western palate—and Western grocery stores.

The recipes in this book are collected from people like you:
grandmothers, waitresses, fishermen, mothers, hostel owners and artists, all
going about their daily lives in small mountain villages, seaside towns, and
bustling cities. It is an inside peek into how these everyday people are
cooking. Paging through the book, you’ll quickly realize Japan is not just a
country of recipes, but a country of people that use these recipes to feed
their families, satisfy a sweet tooth and celebrate life.
You may be surprised by some of the recipes you’ll find (e.g. Japanese
Egg Salad Sandwiches, page 42; Oolong Tea Chiffon Cake, page 142). But
just as you might try to recreate an Italian Bolognese sauce or Chinese stirfry,
these are examples of international recipes that have been given a
Japanese flair by using the ingredients and cooking methods available there.
This cookbook is a combination of these traditional and “new Japanese”
recipes that are a true representation of how the Japanese kitchen is evolving.

Most of the recipes included here are accompanied by a short story
recounting the experience from which the recipe was collected. For me, this
is an essential component to the book as I strongly believe recipes are so
much more than a bunch of ingredients strung together—they’re about the
culture they come from, the lives of the people that prepare them.
A typical Japanese meal consists of a number of small dishes. Instead
of having, say, meat, potatoes and a salad, you fill up on a selection of tiny
dishes, all artistically thought through and arranged. For each dish—and the
meal as a whole—there are fifteen elements, from three main categories:
color (black, white, yellow, red, green), flavor (salty, sweet, sour, spicy,
bitter) and cooking method (sear, simmer, fry, steam, raw). If choosing a
menu that encompasses these fifteen elements, it’s guaranteed to be
nutritious and aesthetically balanced. This is especially true of the
traditional kaiseki meal.

While this philosophy sounds impressive and sensible, it may also
seem overly complicated and intimidating. I assure you, it isn’t. I bet you’d
realize you’re already considering some aspect of these elements when
planning your own menu (if you need some help creating a complete
Japanese meal, check out the menu suggestions on page 157). But in
keeping with the easy-to-relate-to nature of this cookbook, the recipes are
grouped by how people typically eat—and cook—in the West: by basic
food type. That’s not to say these recipes are any less traditional, they’re
just organized in a way that makes the most sense for the audience they are
intended to reach.

One final note: Thank you for picking up this book. I sincerely mean
that. Writing this cookbook has been a long, emotional process—a true
labor of love. But my goal throughout it all has been to share with you the
Japan I fell in love with. I hope you find the stories as interesting and the
recipes as tasty as they were for me to collect.
Sarah Marx Feldner


Table of Contents

Foreword 6
Introduction: A Search for Everyday Recipes and the Stories that Inspire
Them 9
Useful Japanese Tools and Utensils 12
Simple Japanese Cooking Techniques 15
Essential Japanese Ingredients 18
The Basics
Fish Stock (Dashi) 26
Vegetarian Stock (Konbu Dashi) 27
Shiitake Mushroom Stock (Shiitake Dashi) 27
White Rice (Gohan) 28
Sushi Rice 29
Hitomi’s Rice Topping (Furikake) 30
Pickled Ginger (Gari) 30
Marinated Mushrooms 31
Golden Thread Eggs (Kinshi Tamago) 32
Peanut Miso 33
Eggplant Miso (Abura Miso) 33
Marinated Fried Tofu (Abura-age) 34
Sesame Salad Dressing 35
Quick and Easy Pickles (Tsukemono) 35
Chapter 1 Snacks and Salads
Rice-Stuffed Marinated Tofu Pockets (Inarizushi) 39
Vegetable-Stuffed Rolls (Oyaki) 40
Japanese Egg Salad Sandwiches 42
Japanese Cocktail Peanuts 43
Crispy Rice Snacks (Okoge) 44
Ginger-Fried Soybeans (Daizu to Chiriman no Ageni) 47
Five Color Salad (Goshiki-ae) 48
White Radish Salad 50
Garlic Chive Pancakes 51
Chapter 2 Soups
Miso Soup with Baby Clams 55
Soy Sauce Soup with Rice Crackers (Nambu Senbei Jiru) 56
Pork and Leek Miso Soup (Tonjiru) 57
Fava Bean Soup (Nokorimono Soramamejiru) 59
Burdock Soup (Gobo Jiru) 60
Get-Well-Soon Udon Soup (Kenchin Udon) 61
Mixed Tofu Soup (Dofujiru) 62
Pork Soup with Dumplings (Nambu Hitssumi) 64
Udon Soup with Chicken Meatballs (Tori Gara Udon) 66
Somen Noodle Miso Soup (Somenjiru) 68
Chapter 3 Rice and Noodles
Almond Rice Onigiri 72
Chicken and Vegetable Rice Medley (Takikomi Gohan) 74
Black and White Rice (Kuromai) 75
Rice with Green Peas (Mame Gohan) 76
Miso-Filled Rice Patties (Café Mikunia Konetsuke) 78
Sushi Rice with Toppings (Barazushi) 81
Chicken’n Rice Stew (Keihan) 82
Fried Soba Noodles and Rice (Soba Meshi) 84
Ginger Rice (Shoga Gohan) 85
Brown Rice with Red Beans (Azuki Gohan) 86
Barley Rice (Mugi Gohan) 86
Soy Sauce Udon Noodles 87
Pan-Fried Noodles (Yaki Udon) 88
Fried Rice Logs (Konetsuke Reiko-Style) 89
Cold Sesame Noodle Salad (Hiyashi Chuka) 91
Chapter 4 Poultry and Meat
Sesame Fried Chicken (Tori Kara-age) 95
Soy-Glazed Chicken Wings 96
Ginger-Simmered Chicken (Chikuzenni/Gameni) 97
Yakitori Chicken Skewers 98
Flavorful Yakitori Sauce 99
Chicken and Vegetable Hotpot (Hakata Mizutaki) 100
Mixed Japanese BBQ 101
Braised Spare Ribs (Tonkotsu) 102
Curry Rice (Kare Raisu) 103
Breaded Pork Cutlets (Tonkatsu) 104
Sesame-Seared Beef 107
Chapter 5 Seafood
Seasoned Fish Burgers (Sanma Po Po Yaki) 111
Scallops with Miso and Eggs (Kaiyoki Miso) 112
Broiled Salmon (Shiojake) 113
Handrolled Sushi (Temakizushi) 114
Sea Bream Rice (Tai Meshi) 116
One-Bite Sushi Nibbles (Temarizushi) 119
Salmon Teriyaki 120
Miso-Marinated Grilled Fish 121
Squid with Edamame 122
Deep-Fried Mackerel (Saba no Namen Zuke) 123
Chapter 6 Vegetables and Tofu
Fresh Eggplant Rice Topper (Dashi) 126
Spicy Carrot and Burdock Root (Kimpira Gobo) 127
Fried Potatoes with Miso and Sesame 128
Miso-Slathered Daikon (Daikon Dengaku) 129
Deep-Fried Tofu in Sweet Fish Stock (Agedashi Dofu) 130
Japanese-Style Vegetable Gratin 132
“Katsuo no Tataki” Fried Eggplant Salad 134
Savory Tofu Patties (Ganmodoki) 136
Seasoned Taro Root (Yaki Satoimo no Kurabu) 137
Soy Sauce Marinated Fava Beans (Shoyumame) 138
Spicy Pan-Seared Eggplant 139
Chapter 7 Desserts and Drinks
Oolong Tea Chiffon Cake 142
Banana Chiff on Cake 143
Green Tea Snow Cone 144
Polar Bear Snow Cone (Shirokuma) 144
Sugared Bread Sticks (Pan no Mimi Oyatsu) 145
Crispy Buckwheat Cookies (Soba Bouro) 146
Toasted Sesame Cookies (Goma Kukki) 147
Green Tea Ice Cream with Black Sugar Syrup (Matcha Aisu) 148
Ginger Tea (Kuzu-yu) 150
Gingerade (Shoga-yu) 151
Green Tea Smoothie 151
Japanese Apricot Liqueur (Umeshu) 152
Japanese Shisho Liqueur (Shisoshu) 153
Japanese Teas 154
Acknowledgments 156
Suggested Menus 157
Resource Guide 157
Index 158

Screenbook


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