Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Looking at Japanese Recipes

This evening, I sat down for a closer look at all the Japanese recipes in my cookbooks. As always, my vintage Time Life cookbook called The Cooking of Japan had the most tantalizing recipes. It?s not as glossy and progressive as my more modern cookbooks, but there is something about all those recipes, and especially the photographs, that inspires me. In it, I found recipes for a stuffed cucumber appetizer, and another for seaweed wrapped shrimp. It also has recipes and instructions for classics such as sushi, sashimi, tempura and yakitori.

Second runner up in the cookbook category was the tiny little full-color soft cover book called Homestyle Japanese Cooking, published by Periplus Mini Cookbooks. It has lots of lovely recipes, with eye-popping photos to go with. Appetizers included Sesame Chicken Loaf, and Chicken Stuffed with Scallions. Main courses included Sautéed Pork with Ginger, and Japanese Mixed Grill. For vegetable side dishes, Spinach with Sesame Dressing, Eggplant with Miso, and Cold Somen Noodles with Prawns.

A companion book called Quick & Easy Sushi & Sashimi, by the same publisher, has some creative variations on the old standards, including Temaki Hand Rolls, Inari Zushi filled with Crab, and Fukasa Zushi, little wafer-thin omelets with various fillings, rolled burrito-style into lovely little tamago pillows.

Even The Joy of Cooking had quite a few interesting recipes, the most tempting of which were the appetizers: Chicken Dumplings, Seafood Dumplings, and Beef & Scallion Rolls.

Oddly enough, Essentials of Asian Cuisine wasn?t such an inspiration this time. It was really wonderful for last month?s Vietnamese dinner, but I didn?t find a single Japanese recipe that tickled my taste buds. Ditto for The Gift of Japanese Cooking. Pretty to look at, but much too basic. It also lacks the vibrant photographs, which are always the best inspiration for cooking Japanese.

So, I think I?ve found plenty of recipes for my Tampopo dinner, and of course, I?ll probably end up improvising, as usual. But the only problem is how to narrow them down to a practical menu? I want to make them all!