Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art

Shizuo Tsuji

Book cover

This is one of the best reading-cookbooks I have ever read, and I have no doubt that it will also be one of the best cooking-cookbooks. From the ‘80s, this book is sort of an analog to Julia’s Child’s French cookbook–the first book that comprehensively introduced Japanese cuisine to the Western home cook, around the time that the largely Japanese-inspired West Coast fresh food revolution was going on in American restaurants.

The book is structured as a systematic introduction to Japanese cooking, starting with sections on ingredients and tools, and moving on to each different type of food (sashimi, sushi, simmered food, fried food, steamed food, etc.). A few recipes are interspersed with the prose and then a larger number of recipes are stuck in the back.

I feel very lucky to live near a few specialized Japanese food stores where I can get the appropriate ingredients, but Tsuji is also at pains to focus on the mindset and values of the cuisine, which stand apart from the ingredients, and to talk about what common American ingredients can substitute when the Japanese specialties aren’t available.

Reading this book has coincided with an effort on my part to start getting much more of my food from the farmer’s market (not sure in which direction to trace the causality; probably both). Tsuji is no ideologue, but fresh high-quality ingredients simply prepared are the soul of his cuisine. I’m already planning a Japanese barbecue for when the cherry blossoms come out in Brooklyn.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars