Read this cookbook: “Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking” by Masaharu Morimoto (Ecco, $45)
By Wendell Brock
A sophisticated cuisine based around raw fish and rice, Japanese food hasn’t exactly been embraced by American home cooks.
Say you want to make sushi for dinner? Fine by me. I’ll be at the bar.
But as Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto points out is his new book, there’s a swath of Japanese cooking that doesn’t require fish wisdom, impeccable knife skills or parades of tiny dishes that look like miniature masterpieces.
“We Japanese chefs know a secret,” the Hiroshima native and global restaurateur writes in his intro. “The flavors that our customers adore aren’t so hard to create. They exist in the incredible, underexplored world of Japanese home cooking.”
While you might leave the nigiri and sashimi to the pros, it’s easy to make temaki at home. Nori stuffed with vinegared rice and a filling, then rolled into a cone shape, this hand-roll sushi is as easy to put together as tacos.
Salt grilled salmon requires but three ingredients. It’s the technique – rubbing on the salt, washing it off, grilling carefully – that elevates the elemental dish.
While I will probably never make soba from scratch, what’s to stop me from turning store-bought udon into a seafood stir-fry, or making yakisoba with pork belly, cabbage and ginger. Speaking of noodles, seems the Japanese have a fondness for spaghetti. Here, Morimoto-san suggests a super-easy, kid-friendly dish of chicken teriyaki combined with al dente pasta and showered with basil leaves.
One dish I fell in love with in Japan was tonkatsu (panko-crusted fried pork cutlet), which can be served as a simple appetizer with little more than a lemon wedge and some sweet-tang, ketchup-y sauce. If I had tonkatsu leftovers, I’d probably make a sandwich with sweet pickle slices and mayo: Chick-fil-A-style. Morimoto smothers his leftover pork filets with eggs (almost like an omelet), then slides them over a bowl of rice: donburi style.
As the chef points out, Japanese home cooking “owes its characteristic flavors to a half-dozen pantry ingredients.” If you’re inclined to try your hand at these recipes, you can find everything you need on Buford Highway. Who knows? You might be an Iron Chef, too.
Wendell Brock is an Atlanta food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and the winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).