Japanese Food Made Easy, written by Aya Nishimura, features a wonderful variety of Japanese recipes developed with the home cook in mind. A few highlights include Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers), Kamatama Udon, Sweet Tofu with Hojicha Syrup, Nasu Dengaku (Miso Eggplant), and Yuzu-Marinated Salmon. I will also be sharing her recipe for Cold Udon Noodles with Sesame Miso Sauce following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Murdoch Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Aya Nishimura is a food stylist and recipe writer currently based in London. Born in Japan to a family of chefs and restaurant owners, her passion for food developed at an early age.
Nishimura graduated from Leiths School of Food and Wine. Her work has been featured through leading international publishers along with Monocle, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and Food & Wine.
Japanese Food Made Easy
Nishimura begins with a basic guide to Japanese cooking before getting to the everyday recipes. I especially loved the illustrated Food Map of Japan with drawings of favorite dishes throughout the country. The menu planner at the end of the book is perfect for meal ideas based on a Japanese-Style Breakfast, Ohanami (Cherry Blossom Admiring Party), Barbecue, Vegetarian Spread, and more.
Those new to Japanese cuisine will appreciate the photo guide of notable ingredients such as fresh produce, liquids, and pantry items. The sections on condiments and basics are a great way to add even more flavor with a few simple steps.
Chapters are divided based on course: Izakaya/Bar Food, Side Dishes, One Bowl, Main Meals, Condiments, Desserts & Drinks, and Basics.
The photography is provided by Lisa Linder. Nearly every recipe is paired with a beautifully styled, full-page photo of either the finished dish or a prominent ingredient. There are also a handful of step-by-step illustrations to demonstrate techniques such as rolling an omelette and preparing basic dashi stock.
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Titles are written in English with the Japanese script underneath. Each recipe has a headnote with a short introduction, tips, serving size, prep and cooking time, and menu ideas.
Cold Udon Noodles with Sesame Miso Sauce
I had such a difficult time narrowing down what to feature from Japanese Food Made Easy, but the Cold Udon Noodles with Sesame Miso Sauce ended up being the perfect refreshing lunch for the hot summer days we have had lately.
Toasted sesame seeds are crushed and combined with light brown sugar, red miso, tahini, soy sauce, and dashi to create a sweet and savory sauce. This easy sauce is paired with chewy udon noodles that have been boiled until tender and rinsed under cold water until cool (this also helps remove any excess starch). Overall, everything comes together in about 15 minutes!
Nishimura mentions the creamy sesame sauce can also be used as a dressing for chicken salad or dipping sauce for vegetables.
To prepare the sesame sauce in advance, simply mix together the sesame seeds, sugar, miso, tahini, and soy sauce, then refrigerate in a covered container for up to a week. Stir in the dashi immediately before serving.
Udon (うどん) are thick Japanese noodles with a smooth, chewy texture. They are perfect in soup, stir-fry, or like in this recipe on their own chilled with a flavorful dipping sauce. I often use frozen noodles found in the freezer section of markets with Japanese ingredients, but also recently learned how to make my own Homemade Udon Noodles in case they are not available locally.
If you are new to working with miso, Nishimura has put together a short guide noting the different types. Red miso is recommended for the Cold Udon Noodles with Sesame Miso Sauce. Made from rice and soybeans, red miso has a deep reddish brown color and is fermented for over 12 months to create a strong and slightly caramel flavor.
Dashi is a basic stock used in Japanese cooking. It is made from Kombu (dried Japanese kelp) and Katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Nishimura has a recipe for Basic Dashi Stock in her book or it can be prepared using powdered dashi. You can also find my instructions on how to make dashi in the first step of this Niku Udon (Japanese Meat Udon).
I also made the Japanese-Style Potato Salad, Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms with Garlic Butter, Sweet Soy-Simmered Pork Belly & Egg, and Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte.
The Japanese-Style Potato Salad comes from the Izakaya/Bar Food chapter. Steamed, coarsely mashed potatoes are combined with hard-boiled eggs, ham, cucumber, and onion. The mixture is seasoned simply with mayonnaise and rice vinegar for an easy and flavorful side.
The Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms with Garlic Butter was one of my favorites from the book. Shiitake mushrooms are covered in butter and slices of garlic, then grilled until tender and golden. Immediately before serving, they are topped with a little soy sauce and squeeze of lemon juice.
The Sweet Soy-Simmered Pork Belly & Egg takes a little more time compared to the other recipes, but it is mostly hands off. Pieces of pork belly are simmered with spring onions, garlic, and ginger for about an hour, then transferred to a sweet soy-based sauce to simmer further until thickened and tender. A few minutes before serving, hard-boiled eggs are added to the pot too. Pair with Japanese or English mustard for a wonderful contrast in flavors.
The Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte is the first recipe in the Desserts & Drinks chapter. It comes together in only about 2 minutes for a light and refreshing drink. Matcha powder is blended into a sweetened milk mixture, then frothed to add an airy texture. Pour into ice-filled glasses and dust with additional matcha right before serving.
Japanese Food Made Easy is a wonderful pick for those interested in Japanese cuisine and comfort food. Most of the recipes come together easily in a short amount of time. There is an amazing variety of appetizers, vegetables, one-pot meals, meat, seafood, desserts, drinks, and more.
Most of the ingredients are becoming more readily available in larger American grocery stores. Having a market nearby with Japanese ingredients will be helpful in finding items such as miso, wakame, shiso, daikon, kombu, hojicha, enoki mushrooms, katsuobushi, glutinous rice flour, soba, and tofu.
Cold Udon Noodles with Sesame Miso Sauce Recipe
Excerpt from Japanese Food Made Easy
Cold Udon Noodles with Sesame Miso Sauce
- 1/4 cup (40 grams) white sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) red miso
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce
- 400 milliliters (14 fl oz) basic dashi stock
- 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) frozen udon noodles or 400 grams (14 ounces) dried udon noodles
- Gently toast the sesame seeds in a small frying pan over low heat, shaking the pan from time to time to prevent burning.
- As soon as you hear the sesame seeds popping, take the pan off the heat and leave them to cool down.
- Transfer the sesame seeds to a suribachi or mortar and coarsely grind them.
- Mix the sugar, miso, tahini, soy sauce, dashi and ground sesame seeds in a bowl, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- Cook the udon noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain and rinse under cold running water until cool.
- Divide the noodles among four plates. Serve the dipping sauce in small individual bowls and dip the noodles into sauce as you eat them.