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The Culinary Library

Worthwhile gift choices from Santa's book bag

By Mick Vann, December 13, 2002, Food

The Japanese Kitchen: 250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit

by Hiroko Shimbo

Harvard Common Press, 384 pp., $16.95 (paper)

Hiroko Shimbo's first work, The Japanese Kitchen, brightly illuminates the dark and mysterious world of Japanese cuisine. There have been few references written in English that have tackled the subject at all, much less with the clarity that Shimbo provides.

Perhaps what has enabled her to create such an accessible and easily understandable guide to what most consider a vexing topic is her numerous years as a teacher of the art of Japanese cooking and her years leading culinary tours to her home country. Her experience with countless students through the years allows her to anticipate every question and present the reader with the simplest, most straightforward method for producing a wide range of classic Japanese dishes.

Shimbo starts with the tools and equipment needed, progresses into an encyclopedic explanation of all of the ingredients involved, then attacks the recipes in a concise manner that leaves the reader with the confidence that they are ready to challenge one of the Iron Chefs.

This alone would be enough for other cookbooks, but the bonus here is that the food produced is delicious, authentic, and strictly first rate. The Japanese Kitchen is the only Japanese cookery title you, or anyone on your gift list, will ever need. It covers the topic so completely, from every angle, that once you've cooked your way through the incredible recipes, you'll reach that Zen-like state of total enlightenment.

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