The Japanese Table: Small Plates for Simple Meals

Sofia Hellsten. Hardie Grant, $29.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-78488-215-0
In this touchingly intimate debut, Swedish food writer Hellsten celebrates the food of Japan, a country she first visited in her teens. Organized around the traditional Japanese meal structure of ichiju sansai (one soup, three side dishes), the book is filled with simple recipes meant to be served together in a home-cooked meal. Simple miso soup recalls Hellsten’s time living with a family in the tiny city of Kaizuka, where her host mother, she writes, “still makes the best miso soup I’ve ever tasted.” It is fond memories like that, or of a revelatory tamago-sando with miso mayonnaise eaten in a basement coffee shop in Ginza (a recipe is provided), that fill the spare layout of the book . The fish chapter features sweet miso cod, a traditional recipe Hellsten does not take credit for (“whomever first thought of this combination is a genius,” she notes). But elsewhere, she allows her own creativity to infuse her cooking, as in a pickled herring and cucumber sesame salad that is “not really what you’d find on a Japanese table, I admit.” A final chapter brings together the preceding recipes into beautifully prepared and elegantly photographed meals. This book is as tempting to the eye as it is to the palate. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 10/31/2019
Release date: 01/21/2020
Genre: Lifestyle
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