Gohan: Everyday Japanese Cooking: Memories and Stories from My Family’s Kitchen, written by Emiko Davies, features a wonderful and comforting collection of homestyle meals along with beautiful photography and writing. A few highlights include Clear Soup with Clams (Asari no Suimono), Scattered Sushi (Chirashizushi), Green Beans with Sesame Dressing (Ingen no Gomaae), Winter Hotpot (Oden), and Red Bean Buns (Anpan). I will also be sharing her recipe for Japanese Potato Salad following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Smith Street 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.
Emiko Davies is a food writer, photographer, and author. She was born in Australia to a Japanese mother and Australian father and has lived in Tuscany since 2005 with her family.
Her work has been featured in numerous publications such as Financial Times, Gourmet Traveller, Food & Wine, Food52, Peddler Journal, and Corriere della Sera. This is her sixth cookbook including Florentine, Tortellini at Midnight, and Acquacotta.
Gohan: Everyday Japanese Cooking
Emiko begins Gohan with an introduction of her family and the inspiration behind the book. For those new to Japanese cuisine, she also has notes on prominent ingredients and cooking techniques.
Chapters are divided according to the following: Home-made Pantry Staples, Japanese Breakfast, Rice, Vegetables, Noodles & Street Food, Family Favourites, The West Meets Japan, and Sweets.
I particularly appreciate the focus on mealtime traditions and etiquette surrounding the food. The pages are filled with history and cultural influences that have shaped the cuisine along with the landscape and seasons.
For even more reading, Emiko has included a list of books and websites in English for more information on Japanese home cooking.
The photography is provided by Emiko Davies, Hana Davies, and Yuki Sugiura. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a full-page photo of the finished dish. There are a few step-by-step photos to demonstrate techniques such as forming Onigiri and cooking Ebiyaki. I especially love the inclusion of family photos to bring together the memories and food.
Measurements are listed in Metric and US Customary. Titles are written in English and Japanese (both Romanized and Japanese script). Each recipe has a headnote with background information, personal memories, yield, helpful tips, and serving ideas.
Japanese Potato Salad
The Japanese Potato Salad (ポテトサラダ) was perfect for using up some extra vegetables. This light and fluffy version pairs the potatoes with cucumbers, carrot, onion, egg, and a bit of Japanese mayonnaise to bring everything together.
A part of Yoshoku (洋食, Western-influenced cuisine), it was inspired by the Insalata Russa (Russian Salad) brought to Japan after the Meiji Restoration.
After boiling the potato pieces until tender (the carrots and onion are added during the last 5 minutes to soften), they are stirred briefly until just combined with the remaining ingredients.
This creates a partially mashed texture with a few smaller pieces remaining. The Japanese mayonnaise complements that creamy texture and adds a light tanginess to the Japanese Potato Salad.
A Few Tips
The potato salad is best with starchy potatoes such as King Edward or Russet. Cut the potatoes into roughly the same size pieces so they cook evenly.
Before adding the cucumbers, toss with salt and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Rinse and squeeze out any excess liquid.
This recipe uses 2 tablespoons (40 milliliters in Australian measurements) of Japanese mayonnaise. Use slightly heaping tablespoons if using the American 15 milliliter size. For those in Northern Virginia, I have been able to find Japanese mayonnaise at Lotte Market and Wegmans in Chantilly.
To softly set the (large, room temperature) egg, simmer for 7 minutes or closer to 10 minutes for a more firm texture.
I also made Grilled Mochi and Cheese Snack (磯辺餅), Egg and Rice (卵のご飯), Braised Beef Bowl (牛丼), and Curry Croquettes (カレーコロッケ).
I was so excited to see the recipe for the Grilled Mochi and Cheese Snack. This delicious treat uses Kirimochi as the base- which I happened to have a whole bag of for the New Year to make Ozoni. The dried mochi blocks are grilled until puffed with a chewy texture, then seasoned with soy sauce and layered with a slice of cheese for a fun and delicious twist.
The Egg and Rice is a quick and easy use of leftovers. This cooked version of Tamago no Gohan brings together fresh or leftover rice with an egg just until heated through and lightly seasoned with soy sauce.
The Braised Beef Bowl (Gyudon) was another favorite from the rice chapter. Very thinly sliced beef is briefly cooked in a sweet and savory sukiyaki sauce and served over a bed of freshly steamed rice. It all comes together quickly with such fantastic flavors. Emiko has also mentioned a vegetarian version using sliced king trumpet mushrooms.
The recipe for Curry Croquettes (Kare Korokke) comes from The West Meets Japan chapter. I fell in love with these bites (plus Kare Pan) while in Tokyo and was immediately drawn to the recipe. Potatoes are cooked until tender, then combined with a curry-spiced meat mixture. They are then formed into individual pieces, coated with Panko, and fried until golden.
Gohan is a fantastic pick for those interested in seasonal Japanese cuisine for the home cook. Many of the dishes come together in as little as 30 minutes with minimal prep. Others require longer resting or cooking times. There are a few options for vegetarians along with substitutions when available. Emiko has provided recipes for a few staple items in case you can’t get them locally including homemade panko.
Many of the ingredients are becoming more readily available in larger American grocery stores. A few items may require an East Asian market or online searching such as kombu, katsuobushi, Ume plum vinegar, shiso, daikon, fresh seafood, natto, dried shiitake mushrooms, doubanjiang, lotus root, shirataki noodles, dried adzuki beans, kanten, and kinako.
Japanese Potato Salad Recipe
Excerpt from Gohan
Japanese Potato Salad
- 1/2 long Japanese cucumber thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt plus extra to taste
- 3 large starchy potatoes such as King Edward or Russet potatoes
- 1 small carrot peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 onion thinly sliced lengthways
- 1 soft-boiled egg
- 2 tablespoons (40 milliliters) Japanese mayonnaise Australian tablespoons are 20 milliliters compared to the US 15 milliliters, adjust to taste
- Place the cucumbers in a bowl with the salt and toss to combine.
- Let them sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse and squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible, then pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Peel and roughly chop the potatoes and place them in a saucepan of cold water.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the carrot and the onion for the last 5 minutes of cooking, then drain.
- Place the potatoes, carrot and onion back into the saucepan and stir briefly- this will start breaking up the potatoes. You still want partial soft chunks of potato.
- Peel and mash the egg, then combine all the ingredients gently together along with some salt to taste.