Interested in Deepening Your Experience of Japanese Cuisine? Meet Elizabeth Andoh.

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If you love Japanese food but think it too mysterious and intimidating to cook at home, or if you just want to deepen your knowledge of this sophisticated cuisine, Elizabeth Andoh is someone you’ll want to get to know. Andoh, born into an American family of doctors, went to Japan on a fellowship in the late sixties, fell in love with the food and culture and married into a Japanese family. Having formally studied Japanese language and cooking, she is the author of five cookbooks. For thirty years she was Gourmet magazine’s correspondent in Japan, and is widely regarded as the go-to English language authority on Japanese food. If there are any books better than Washoku (from 2005), and Kansha (published last year) to give you a grounding in Japanese cuisine, I don’t know what they would be. Published by Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press, both are handsome books, with spare, but beautifully composed, naturally lit photographs by Leigh Beisch. While each book contains one hundred or more carefully written and well tested recipes, Andoh’s approach is not only to transmit recipes, but to lead the reader step-by-step to an understanding of cooking which is so practical and insightful that it will be useful no matter what style of cooking you pursue.

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Washoku, which she translates as “harmony of food,” opens with an explanation of the traditional ways of food preparation in Japan, including the ancient five “principles” which have long been an important underpinning of Japanese thought. Want to make sure your meal is balanced?  Does it include five colors, five flavors, five cooking methods?  She points out that these rules aren’t meant to be interpreted rigidly, but they do give you a viewpoint from which to evaluate your cooking and your thinking.She includes a detailed explanation of the Japanese pantry including beans, flour, fish, herbs, miso, mushrooms, pickles, noodles, rice, tea and much more.  This section alone is worth the price of the book. Recipe sections cover everything from stocks to noodles, to meat and poultry, to tofu and eggs, as well as dessert. Continue reading