This week Good Egg’s Mika Bareket steers us in the direction of a great little book by Maori Murota, Tokyo Cult Recipes (HarperCollins Canada).
GFR: Hello there Mika… this month you have selected Tokyo Cult Recipes. What drew you towards this book?
MB: My coworker, Jess Dixon noticed the UK import about a year ago, and tipped me off. I hadn’t delved into many Japanese cookbooks since my Harumi obsession of several years ago. Turns out this book is a great companion to Everyday Harumi as it focuses more on snacks and small meals, whereas Harumi’s books are family meal-oriented.
GFR: So, after New York and Venice, this is the third in the Cult Recipes series, how does it compare?
MB: The previous “cult” titles were not on my radar. I feel like I can wrap my head around the foods of Venice and New York pretty well. But Tokyo’s culinary customs intrigue me because I know relatively little, but am duly fascinated by what I do know.
GFR: I found it to be a pretty good looking book, as in I found the art direction pretty easy on the eyes. Your thoughts?
MB: Oof. So handsome. I tend to cook more from utilitarian, unillustrated books. But for inspiration and sheer pleasure, I love the design of this one, particularly the photos and fonts. There is a dreamy shot of very thinly sliced, nearly transparent fish. Words could never do justice to the beauty of sashimi.
GFR: I rarely cook Japanese at home… are the recipes in this book reasonably accessible for the home cook?
MB: Yes, but read the instructions carefully and refer to the notes in the front of the book for the basic components, i.e. rice preparation, dashi, etc.
GFR: For some reason I’ve always been shit-scared of making my own sushi… now this is probably an irrational fear, however… have you ever experimented with it?
MB: When I was young and foolish, I made nigiri sushi and chirashi at home. It cost a fortune and was not great. It’s now one of the things I leave to the experts, partly because of their access to quality fish. If I lived in proximity to super fresh, affordable fish, I’d do this stuff at home more often. Location, location, location.
GFR: I sometimes have real cravings for bad sushi… you know, most of the places along Bloor scratch that itch. It’s been a while since I have had really good sushi.
Where do you go when you want to get your sushi on?
MB: Zen in Scarberia. Olivia Go (Tosho Knife Arts) took me there years ago, and since then it’s been my birthday dinner of choice. Japango is pretty good, but claustrophobic on most nights. I go there for a fancy lunch once or twice a year. Yasu is next on my list. I hear great things.
GFR: And for good Japanese food in general… any recommendations?
MB: I’m into the izakaya thing. Simple, cheap cocktails and fried snacks… what’s not to like? Don Don is fun. Ramen-wise, Isshin Ramen is my go-to. Super springy noodles and their broth is less fatty than some other places, but still has depth of flavour. And I recently checked out Imanishi with my staff, and we had a swell time. Snacky menu in a very cute, quiet room.
GFR: Our son insists upon attempting to eat with “sticks” whenever we eat with chopsticks… usually much to his frustration. You don’t happen to stock any training “sticks”, do you?
MB: Indeed! We have a cute set right now with a balloon animal topper. But I learned with adult sticks when I was five. Kids learn things easily, no?
GFR: And which recipes from this book can you heartily recommend?
MB: Curry Udon. A coworker visited Tokyo recently and noticed that curry-based soups are very popular. I can see why! The Oyako Don (chicken and eggs over rice) recipe is also pure comfort, and very easy. I’d like to try Niku Chazuke (simmered beef over rice with tea), but maybe when the weather cools off.
GFR: Thanks, Mika. This is one that I’ll have to pick up. It looks fantastic.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And this looks like an essential summer purchase.