Harumi’s Japanese Cooking
They call her the Martha Stewart of Japan, and that’s not too far from the truth. In fact, Harumi Kurihara embodies many of the virtues that have made our Martha so popular; she is incredibly classy, well mannered, efficient, creative, an expert on all things domestic, and she challenges us to think of food differently and to make everything just a little bit healthier and more beautiful. You don’t get a moniker like “Cooking Expert and Lifestyle Guru” for nothing!
Harumi’s Japanese Cooking is not really a traditional Japanese cookbook, in the way that many recipes are designed to appeal to the harried and time pressed cook and she often uses less traditional cooking techniques. There is also a strong emphasis on fusion, blending the best of the East and West. Generally, if a cookbook is marketing itself as cuisine of a given region and yet it’s not true to that area or culture’s heritage, that would be when I snootily toss it aside with a huff and a flip of hair, proclaiming it to be Foodie Fluff that I have no interest in. I judge. It’s just what I do. If I want to know details about Italian cooking I’ll be scoping out Marcella before I crack the spine on Giada, if you know what I mean. Not to fan the flames of discontent or anything, but Amazon suggests that people who like Giada also enjoy the Barefoot Contessa….just saying…..
As always, it seems that I’m dawdling off track, so henceforth and heretowith I shall endeavor to focus only on Harumi. What I meant to get across earlier is that despite the fact that this is a Japanese cookbook, it is very much a modern Japanese cookbook. It tips it’s hat to globalization and allows us to enjoy updated traditional classics as well as palate-teasing new dishes that invite flavors and ingredients from around the world to dance their way into your plate. And oh, she does it well. Nestled between dishes like Tofu with Egg and Panfried Noodles with Pork and Bok Choy we have jewels like Tofu with Basil and Gorgonzola Dressing….
Or the spectacular looking White Fish and Mozzarella Carpaccio Salad.
There is also an extensive section dedicated to creating interesting Sushi and Zushi dishes which I can’t wait to try out.
Here is the crunch about what makes this cookbook so dadgammit fantabulous: simple writing and everyday ingredients. If you have even a mediocre Asian grocery that you can visit you will be able to make 90% of these recipes. They are accessible and you won’t be daunted by trying to find a substitute for the nocturnal giant sea urchin that can only be found in one small pond along Japan’s western coast. Pair that with her style of writing which is quietly confident, well articulated, and with clear instructions. I suppose that I’m actually praising the translator here, but I’ll let them bicker over who will receive the credit. Really, for the consumer of creative and modern Japanese cuisine that would rather tie on an apron than spend ridiculous amounts of money dining out on similar fare, this book is for YOU.
Before you go, I should also mention that Harumi was born in 1947 and wrote her first cookbook when I was just a twinkle in my mother’s eye. Published in 1974, the title was Gochisosama Ga Kikitakute!, which means, “I want to hear you say: ‘I’m all finished and that was great!'”. I…uh….I think some things are better without translation. Harumi’s first major cookbook published in English was Harumi’s Japanese Cooking, which was awarded the prestigious Best Cookbook of the Year award (and the best world Asian cuisine book) at the 10th Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2004. This is no small feat from within a pool of 5000 cookbooks representing almost 70 countries.
Anyway, she gets my vote and this cookbook has a spot of distinction on my shelves. In fact, I think I might go make the Tofu with Basil in Gorgonzola Sauce and try to convince Mike that it’s just ‘Japanese Cheese’. Wish me luck…..