When I grow up in Australia in the 70's and 80's, it would be very rare indeed to venture out into Japanese restaurants. Times have changed, and by the 90's, there were hundreds of Japanese restaurants and snack bars that tempted us to adventure forward and embrace Japanese food. Now, eating sushi rolls from a take-away food bar is common place, as anyone who works in the Sydney CBD would attest.
We know Japanese food is more healthy on the whole than the sugar and fat rich diets that are, sadly, the norm in Western society, but to the uninitiated, preparing sushi or tempura is a bit daunting. Well, as Emi Kazuko shows in his book, Street Café Japan, will show, preparing Japanese food is no more complex than the food you cook at home.
The book is not a step by step 'how to' cookery book, though it doesn't assume any particular knowledge in Japanese cookery. To help you understand what you are doing, there is a short, but fact-full introduction to psyche of the Japanese, why food and eating out is an important part of their culture and the styles of cafés and restaurants that you find in Japan. Next, there is a passage on The Japanese Kitchen. It discusses the typical equipment, from the daikon-oroshi, or grater, to the knives. To finish off the introduction, there is a section on cooking Japanese rice and one on making Sumeshi rice, or vinegared rice.
The recipes are divided into four sections, being: Soups and Starters, Main Dishes, Side Dishes and Desserts and Drinks. There are sixteen soup and starter recipes, which range from the obligatory Tofu no Misoshiru (Miso Soup with Tofu and Mange-tout) through Iwashi no Nanban-zuke (Sardines marinated in Vinegar and Chilli) and on to Ika-zushi (Squid Sashi.) The Main Dishes are just as diverse, with over thirty dishes to try. They cover such dishes as Tempora Moriawase (Assorted Temporta), Tori no Teriyaki (Chicken Teriyaki) and Shoyu Ramen (Ramen with Pork.) There are, also, fifteen side dishes and six dessert and drinks recipes.
The recipes that are presented in Street Café Japan are generally easy to make. Some will require some practise to master, but isn't that half the fun of cooking? The range of dishes will improve your repertoire of Japanese cookery and there is plenty of vegetarian options, so everyone should be happy.