It took me awhile to find a really good Japanese cookbook to start with. I like books with good photographs, otherwise, I can't tell what the food is supposed to look like. Also, I find it much easier to get in the cooking mood if I can flip through and drool over all the beautifully delicious looking meals.
The first book I bought (not featured here) was awful. No pictures, complex instructions and just plain dull. I have never cooked from that book. I knew that I would never get started if I didn't choose just the right book. Luckily I chose right the next time!
Just Bento By Makiko Itoh
This book is amazing! Perfect for a beginner. Every recipe has a beautiful photograph, the instructions are easy to follow and the layout is eye pleasing. The first meal I made from this book was Chicken and Three-color Pepper Stir-fry Bento. Actually I think that was the first Japanese meal I ever made. This book is specifically for bento (Japanese lunch boxes) but you can just as easily use it for dinners. Each recipe has a central dish (usually a protein) and several side dishes (usually vegetables). The stir-fry had blanched broccoli and instant cucumber pickles. I do not like pickles. I had a terrifying pickle experience when I was a kid and have since sworn off all pickles and vinegar soaked vegetable. That being said, there is no vinegar in a instant pickle (just salt and lemon juice!) and they are delicious! I eat them all the time now!
What I like most about this book is how each dish has a complementary side for it. You can mix them up too, but it is like having a whole dinner planned out for you. Plus she has great instructions, time tables and advise. You can make each bento in only twenty minutes and many freeze well. It's a no fuss way of having delicious Japanese food everyday!
Ten-Minute Bento By Megumi Fujii
While we're on the subject of bento, this is a nice little book that my sister gave me for Christmas last year. I haven't used it as much as Just Bento, but the recipes are enticing and beautifully photographed. I enjoy looking through this book for inspiration and side dishes.
My only complaint is that the recipes are quick because a lot of it is done in the microwave. I don't even have a microwave so I have to improvise.
Japanese Farm Food By Nancy Singleton Hachisu
I love, love, love this book! Not only are the recipes wonderful, but it has many stories about the farm in Japan where the author lives. This is a practical, interesting, and tasty guide to farm food, a whole other genre of Washoku. When I got this cookbook I decided to make a Japanese feast for my sister's upcoming birthday. I carefully selected the recipes and spent a whole day in the kitchen. I made salmon, potato salad, miso snap peas, egg custard with asparagus and an two sorbets. My favorite (and a regular addition to all family gatherings since) is the Japanese Potato Salad. It has those fantastic instant pickles in it!
The only problem with this book is that there are tons of ingredients that I just cannot get in the rural town I live in. I could grow them, but sadly I have what you might call a "shrivel up and die finger" when it comes to gardening. However, my mother is an excellent gardener, and I plan on making her plant all the Japanese vegetables I want.
The Japanese Grill By Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
I had been planning on buying a grill for a while (ever since I moved to an apartment with a porch) and while I was researching which one to get I found this book. Oh glorious Japanese grilled food! I bought it and a hibachi grill and set about preparing a feast. I made nineteen dishes, with the help of my mother on a second grill. This was a pretty tall oder for someone who had never grilled before, but it was for my sister's birthday (yes, again). All the food was delicious, and the guests were totally awed.
I love the setup of this cookbook, its an easy read and filled with useful instructions and interesting side info. The photos are breathtaking and I often flip through it just to envision eating the food. I was a vegetarian for five years, then started eating fish again, then poultry. Right now I don't eat red meat or pork. (Pigs are my favorite animal, aside from kitties). Though this book has great vegetable dishes and plenty of poultry and seafood, it actually makes me think about eating red meat again. Go figure.
Japanese Hot Pots By Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
I ordered this book at the same time as the grilling one and didn't even realize they were written by the same people until I took them out of the box. Hot pots are something I have been wanting to try for years, ever since I discovered they were a thing. However, I got this book in June and haven't made anything from it yet. It seems wrong to make them in the summer. I look forward to cold wether!
I have looked through and read parts of the book with great anticipation. The food looks fantastic and I can tell that the format is the same as their grill book. Nice and easy as well as super informative.
Japanese Soul Cooking By Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
I guess I just don't pay attention to who writes the cookbooks since I managed to order this book without realizing it was the same people, again. I was thrilled though, since I like the format and contents of the other two so much. Broken into sections, like Ramen, Tempura, Tonkatsu, Udon and more, this book has recipes for all the classics. These meals are comforting and delicious, most are pretty simple. I've only made a couple of things from this book so far, but I can't wait to sink my teeth into more.
A Cook's Journey to Japan: 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens by Sarah marx feldner
One of my recent acquisitions, this book is written by a woman who dropped everything to go to Japan and write about food. A woman after my own heart. Her book has a hundred recipes by everyday home cooks from around the country. It's great if you want to know what people are making and eating in their day to day lives.
This book is not a diet book since it doesn't actually give instructions, but it does make a powerful case for why Japanese food is very healthy. Since Japan has the lowest obesity rate of any other developed nation, and its women are the longest lived, she has a point.
It goes into what makes Japanese home cooking special, how it has changed her life, and some of the science behind the healthful qualities of things like seaweed, fish, fresh vegetables and rice. Yes even rice.
I was already dedicated to the Washoku Project when I read this book, but it assured me that I was on the right path to a better and healthier lifestyle. I recommend it.
Culture Shock! Japan by P. Sean Bramble
So this obviously isn't a cookbook (although it has a decent food section) but if you are interested in the culture of Japan it is indispensable. The Culture Shock! books are a great series that are designed for people going to live overseas. It's a plan of mine to go and live in Japan for year at some point, one of the reasons I started the Washoku Project, so I really love this book. If nothing else it is fascinating to learn about how a different culture behaves in this modern world.
Okay, this one isn't actually about food either. It's about decluttering your life, and it had changed mine. You may have heard about this book because it's had a lot of buzz online recently. Like me, you might at first find the idea intimidating, but trust me, if you read it you will find yourself a devotee of KonMari.
I found out about it from Martha Stewart's website and spent a few month hemming and hawing over weather to get it. Finally I used one of my Audible credits to get it and listened to it all in one day. The very next I had started on the process of clearing my belongings.
I've always thought of myself as the sort of person who liked having lots of stuff. It is not true, I didn't even realize that the enormous amount of stuff that I've been hauling from apartment to apartment has been weighing me down for years.
"You're twenty four," you might say, "how much stuff could you possibly have?" Answer: So much stuff. For years I have been unintentionally hoarding junk. I had a stuffed apartment and a full storage unit. I don't even know where half of this stuff comes from. My need to think of myself as a stuff person was only a defense against ever having to face it.
With the help of Mari Kondo's philosophy of "Only keep what sparks joy" I was able to take my huge wardrobe (which filled a dresser, three baskets, a closet and a trunk) and turn it into two dresser drawers. The word thing is, now I feel like I have so many more options because I'm not daunted by the sea of clothes I don't really like.
I haven't finished the program yet, which takes about six months, but I look forward to tackling the next section, books! (However, I'm keeping all the books on this list, because they spark crazy joy.)
This was the first Japanese food blog I started following. If it sound familiar it's because it is the creation of Makiko Itoh, who wrote Just Bento. She has another website, JustBento.com, that specifically deals with bento, but I love her original blog. Whenever I can't decide what to cook for dinner I just browse her site for a while and always find something good.
One of my favorite things she did was the 101 cooking class, a series of posts teaching the basics of Washoku.
Don't worry, there are recipes. This isn't specifically a Japanese food blog, but he does make a lot of Japanese cuisine. I've made lots of food off of this site and it is all excellent and easy to follow. My absolute favorite is the nikuman, a steamed pork bun (I used ground turkey). They take a lot of work to make, but it is well worth it!
I found this one recently while looking for Japanese desserts. I can't even stress enough how cool this site is. Most recipes have a video accompanying them and the recipes are easy and so, so good! My favorite so far is the kasutera Japanese sponge cake. It only has five ingredients and is the best cake I have ever made or eaten. I also made the green tea ice cream, which went with the kasutera perfectly.
The tagline of this website is "Easy Japanese Recipes" and that about sums it up. All the meals I have made from this blog have been really good! She also uses video tutorials and they are stylish and easy to follow.
I stumbled across this site the other day when looking for instructions on making nigiri. Very fun and informative about different kinds of sushi and the techniques for making them. My only complaint is some of their directions are a little hard to follow due to the pictures used. However, if you can figure them out, it makes great sushi.
A good place to find Japanese grocery items. The shipping can be a bit steep on somethings, like produce, but in general the prices are low and they have a wide variety.
Technically this is a resource website for people learning Japanese. But again I find it to be an excellent place to learn about Japanese culture. Well worth checking out.
A great place to find everything you might need for Bento!
This is a wonderful TV show about cooking and food culture. My favorite thing about it is that the host of season one, David Chang, trained in Japan for many years and cooks a lot of Japanese food. Almost every episode they go to Japan, to eat at a ramen joint or see how Katsuobushi is made! The first season is available on Netflix and I recommend it to any one who loves food.