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Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond

Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond

5.0 1
by Tadashi Ono, Harris Salat

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A collection of more than 100 recipes that introduces Japanese comfort food to American home cooks, exploring new ingredients, techniques, and the surprising origins of popular dishes like gyoza and tempura. 

Move over, sushi.

It’s time for gyoza, curry, tonkatsu, and furai. These icons of Japanese comfort food cooking


A collection of more than 100 recipes that introduces Japanese comfort food to American home cooks, exploring new ingredients, techniques, and the surprising origins of popular dishes like gyoza and tempura. 

Move over, sushi.

It’s time for gyoza, curry, tonkatsu, and furai. These icons of Japanese comfort food cooking are the dishes you’ll find in every kitchen and street corner hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Japan—the hearty, flavor-packed dishes that everyone in Japan, from school kids to grandmas, craves.

In Japanese Soul Cooking, Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat introduce you to this irresistible, homey style of cooking. As you explore the range of exciting, satisfying fare, you may recognize some familiar favorites, such as ramen, soba, udon, and tempura. Others are lesser known Japanese classics—such as wafu pasta (spaghetti with bold, fragrant toppings like miso meat sauce), tatsuta-age (fried chicken marinated in garlic, ginger, and other Japanese seasonings), and savory omelets with crabmeat and shiitake mushrooms—that will instantly become standards in your kitchen as well. With foolproof instructions and step-by-step photographs, you’ll soon be knocking out chahan fried rice, mentaiko spaghetti, saikoro steak, and more for friends and family.

Ono and Salat’s fascinating exploration of the surprising origins and global influences behind popular dishes is accompanied by rich location photography that captures the energy and essence of this food in everyday Japanese life, bringing beloved Japanese comfort food to Western home cooks for the first time.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - William Grimes
Ono and Salat serve up dollops of fascinating food history, and some very good recipes, as they explore the vernacular dishes that constitute Japanese diner food…With zest and an irrepressible you-can-do-it attitude, the authors explain and write the scripts for gyoza dumplings, curries, tonkatsu, the floured and deep-fried dishes known as kara-age, tempuras, soba, udon and other humble Japanese fare.
Publishers Weekly
The breadth and diversity of Japanese cuisine can be daunting for a novice—there are twenty-odd known regional styles of ramen alone—but this smart book handily demystifies the noodle bowl and its comfort food counterparts. Ono, executive chef of Matsuri in New York, and Salat (japanesefoodreport.com) tackle basic dishes like ramen, gyoza, curry, tonkatsu (along with many others), positing a cultural history, a master recipe and several variations on the basic theme. Add to that a glossary of ingredients and helpful tips such as how to prepare oysters for deep-fried furai, how to cook dried soba and an introduction to Kewpie mayonnaise, and this tome becomes an invaluable resource. Perhaps most fascinating of all is the way Japanese cuisine has absorbed and remixed cooking from Korea, the United States, China and elsewhere to produce such innovations as pork fried rice with red pickled ginger and "Napolitan" Spaghetti, made with smoked sausages, ketchup, and sake. The authors' unbridled enthusiasm makes this cookbook as fun and delicious as the must-try recipes. Photos. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“This is the book on Japanese cooking I have been waiting for without knowing it! Tadashi and Harris have compiled a wonderful collection of recipes that veers sharply from the mysterious and lofty world of sushi and kaiseki and lands smack dab in the home kitchen, telling a great story of foreign culinary traditions colliding with traditional Japanese technique along the way.”
—Andy Ricker, chef-owner of Pok Pok

 “Sushi? Bah! Japanese food is so much more than raw fish, and this book is a joyful (and useful!) exploration of the earthy, fatty, meaty, rib-sticking, lip-smacking fare—the noodles and curries and deep-fried delights—that millions of Japanese depend on every day. I get hungry just thinking about it.”
—Matt Gross, editor, BonAppetit.com

“Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat bring to mouthwatering life a fascinating story: how Western influences opened up a nation’s taste buds and created a new Japanese cuisine of modern comfort food classics. Anyone obsessed with a steaming bowl of ramen, light-as-air tempura, or the perfect gyoza will find that there’s all that—and more—right here, just waiting to be cooked and devoured."
—Joe Yonan, author of Eat Your Vegetables and food and travel editor of the Washington Post

Library Journal
Chef Ono and food writer Salat (The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables) previously published two cookbooks on Japanese comfort foods. Their latest collaboration, a survey of mostly fried, curried, and noodle-based dishes (e.g., Osaka-style okonomiyaki, classic pork gyoza, yaki udon), requires a willingness to prepare multiple components and locate unfamiliar ingredients. The ramens are complicated but less so than those in David Chang and Peter Meehan's Momofuku and Ivan Orkin's Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint. VERDICT Readers who complete the required shopping and prep will discover that these recipes are very doable in home kitchens. Highly recommended.

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Read an Excerpt

Let’s start with a groundbreaking moment back in 1872, when Emperor Meiji of Japan did something no other ruler of that country had done for a thousand years, namely, bite into a juicy hunk of meat in public. That simple act stunned his subjects—and forever changed the course of Japanese culture. It gave birth to a new kind of cooking in Japan, a new kind of hearty, rib-sticking comfort food cooking that’s beloved there to this day. It’s a world apart from traditional Japanese standards like miso soup, grilled fish, and pickled vegetables, and it’s the amazing—and surprising—cooking that we celebrate in this book.
     But how could a singular chomp shake up an entire country?
     Nineteen years earlier, in 1853, American warships had suddenly appeared in the Japanese port of Yokohama. Until then, the country’s leaders had sealed off Japan from the rest of the world for more than two hundred years, during which time Japanese couldn’t leave on pain of death. But while Japan faced inward those two centuries, America and European nations exploded into the most powerful economic and military powers on earth. So when Yankee warships showed up, and then demanded Japan open their doors to trade—or else—the Japanese had little choice but to accept.
     Soon more Westerners planted themselves in Japan. Their arrival triggered a profound upheaval in the country that led to the formation of a modern state under the emperor, who was determined to launch an industrial revolution and build a modern military just like in the West.
     Foreigners arriving in Japan brought with them strange and new ingredients, dishes, and eating habits—many of these centered on consuming meat. Up to then, meat eating in Japan was taboo, actually banned by Buddhist edict for a millennium. During their period of isolation, Japanese relied primarily on fish, vegetables, tofu, and traditional seasonings like dashi, miso, and soy sauce. But the emperor and his minions credited meat and dairy eating for the strapping physiques of the Westerners, who towered over Japanese at the time. So they urged Japanese to consume meat and other Western foods. The emperor’s very public meat encounter followed, and soon after that, in 1873, an official banquet was thrown in Japan for a visiting Italian royal, where, for the first time, this formal meal was prepared entirely of French cuisine.
     These seminal events got the Western cuisine ball rolling, and before long, eating Western-style cuisine became a powerful symbol of modernity in Japan.
     In the late nineteenth century, Western-style restaurants began to appear in Japan, like Seiyo-ken (“Western House”), which opened its doors in Tokyo in 1872. At the same time, the Japanese military began adopting Western-style foods. From these beginnings, ordinary Japanese began to learn of this new style of eating. Chefs, food companies, and cooks began to adapt these dishes to Japanese tastes, mixing and matching both Western and local ingredients, such as butter and soy sauce. Within a few decades, the mass media, especially women’s magazines and radio shows, began featuring this cooking. What started as restaurant fare, like tonkatsu, or military chow, like curry, began to filter into homes across Japan. By the first half of the twentieth century, Chinese and Korean dishes like ebi chili, bulgogi, and chahan, also adapted to Japanese tastes, joined Western cooking in this culinary march. And in the years after World War II, Americans occupying Japan added their own unique food influences, including Japanese-style (wafu) pasta.
     The embrace of foreign food evolved in Japan into a parallel cuisine, comfort food cooking that became as beloved as traditional Japanese fare. This modern style of eating picked up steam as Japan became increasingly urbanized, and we consider even stalwart dishes like soba, udon, and tempura to be a part of it.
     What fascinates us, as you’ll read in the pages that follow, are how so many of the dishes we describe began life as restaurant cooking, but then were quickly embraced by home cooks. And even today, these dishes are enjoyed both at neighborhood eateries and at the dining table. And that’s key. Because, as you’ll see in the pages that follow, these dishes are as delicious and amazing as they are simple and easy to whip up.
     We organize our book by greatest hits, so soon you’ll be swooning over ramen, gyoza, curry, tonkatsu, furai, okonomiyaki, wafu pasta, and all the other dishes we introduce here, just like Japanese everywhere. Packed with flavor, easy to cook, and totally irresistible, these recipes will have you at the first bite. Enjoy!

Ramen Soup and Chashu
Master Recipe

A round of applause goes to Tadashi for creating a home cook’s version of ramen soup from scratch. As we mentioned earlier, this recipe is Tadashi’s adaptation of Tokyo’s prototypical clean, fragrant ramen soup. Note that we cook the pork shoulder for chashu along with the stock ingredients. Chashu is slow-braised meat that’s simmered until tender. It’s then sliced and laid on top of ramen noodles. The way we cook it, in the soup, is the way real ramen joints do—a one-two punch that adds richness and flavor to both the soup and the tender pork. You can prepare a batch of ramen soup ahead of time, and keep it in the freezer for up to one month. For the chashu, fresh pork belly or pork loin also works great.
Makes 2 quarts
2 pounds chicken bones (bones and carcass)
1⁄2 ounce ginger, skin left on
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound boneless pork shoulder (one piece, ask your butcher to tie it, if needed)
3 quarts water
1 scallion
1⁄2 small carrot (about 2 ounces)
Rinse the chicken bones well under cold running water. Crush the ginger by placing a kitchen knife over the ginger, and press down on the knife with your palm. Repeat for the garlic. Add all the ingredients to a large stockpot, and place on a burner over high heat. When the liquid boils, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered. Skim off any scum that accumulates on the surface and discard. Simmer for about 2 hours, until the soup reduces to 2 quarts. Remove the pork shoulder and set aside for chashu. (If you’re not using it right away, store it in the refrigerator.) Strain the soup through a cheesecloth-lined colander or fine-mesh sieve, discarding the remaining ingredients.

All-Chicken Variation Substitute 1 pound of boneless chicken for the pork shoulder (we prefer dark meat, but white meat is fine, too). Use this chicken for chashu in the recipes that follow.

Meet the Author

TADASHI ONO is a Japanese chef and author based in New York City. He has been featured in the New York TimesGourmet, and Food & Wine.
HAARIS SALAT's stories about food and culture have appeared in the New York TimesSaveur, and Gourmet. In 2012, Salat opened the Japanese comfort food restaurant Ganso in Brooklyn (gansonyc.com). He is the author, with Takashi Yagihashi, of Takashi’s Noodles.
Together, Ono and Salat are the authors of Japanese Hot Pots and The Japanese Grill.

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Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Noodles, fried food, excellent soups call be found in this book. Easy to follow and great results so far.