cover image Japan: The Vegetarian Cookbook

Japan: The Vegetarian Cookbook

Nancy Singleton Hachisu. Phaidon, $54.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-83866-627-9

“Japanese vegetarian food is prepared with mindfulness,” writes Hachisu (Food Artisans of Japan) in this thought-provoking collection, before wryly admitting that it took her two decades to achieve the proper mindset about rinsing rice. That combination of gentle encouragement and humor sets this cookbook apart. The breadth of Hachisu’s knowledge is impressive, whether discussing varieties of mountain yams or conveying the experience of dining on “soul-soothing” food in a Buddhist temple. Elsewhere, she waxes eloquent about konbu kelp and small vegetable dishes, “the heartbeat of Japanese vegetarian food.” Chapters are organized by cooking method, occasionally loosely defined. For example, the chapter of stir-fried and grilled selections includes a baked gratin of pressed tofu, potatoes, bamboo, and tomato sauce. Recipes for fried foods include a salad dressed with curry vinaigrette and topped with homemade potato chips, and fried okra with seared tomatoes. Rather than attempting to imitate meat, the author allows plant-based ingredients to shine, making full use of resources: a rice dish with grated carrots incorporates the oft-discarded tops of the root vegetable, and a moist chestnut cake calls for okara, the pulp left after making tofu. A glossary and a section on sourcing hard-to-find ingredients round things out. This complex and lovingly presented effort is sure to whet appetites. (May)