Classic Home Cooking from Japan: A Step-by-Step Beginner’s Guide to Japan’s Favorite Dishes, written by Asako Yoshida, features a variety of 80 traditional and modern recipes created for the home cook. A few highlights include Mackerel in Miso Sauce, Beef and Asparagus Rolls, Mixed Tempura Fritters, Spinach in Dashi, and Lemony Sea Bream Salad. I will also be sharing her recipe for Simmered Beef and Tofu following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Tuttle Publishing 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.
Asako Yoshida studied at several specialized schools and started teaching cooking full-time in 2012 with a focus on traditional recipes with classic techniques. She also develops recipes and consults for food corporations and contributes to magazines and books.
Classic Home Cooking from Japan
Originally called Chanto Oboetai Washoku and translated into English by Makiko Itoh, Classic Home Cooking from Japan is a wonderful primer for those with access to Japanese ingredients who looking for everyday recipes packed with flavor. Asako begins with a basic introduction to Japanese cooking and pantry staples before diving into the recipes.
Chapters are divided based on type of dish: Ten Japanese Classics, Meat and Fish Main Dishes, Everyday Side Dishes, Rice Dishes and Soup, and Modern Twists on Classic Dishes. The contents have a list of the included recipes with page numbers for easy reference.
Beginners will especially appreciate the in-depth look at preparing dashi stock (the foundation soup stock found in many savory dishes), seafood, rice, and even helpful guides on how to measure ingredients, cut vegetables into specific shapes, and more preparation tips.
Every single recipe is accompanied by a photo of at least the finished dish. There are also many step-by-step photos to demonstrate specific techniques. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Each recipe includes a headnote with generally a short introduction, serving size (usually 2), helpful tips, and occasionally variations.
Simmered Beef and Tofu
After glancing at the recipes, I was immediately drawn to the Simmered Beef and Tofu (肉豆腐, Niku Tofu/ Niku Dofu) for a comforting, yet light meal. Best of all, it comes together in less than 20 minutes (especially if you purchased beef already thinly sliced)!
Thinly sliced beef, firm tofu, and green onions are simmered in a light sweet and salty sauce similar to sukiyaki. It was perfect paired with rice. If desired, allow the Simmered Beef and Tofu to rest for a few minutes before serving to let the flavors blend further.
Use firm tofu for this dish. Softer versions will fall apart when simmering and handling. Only simmer the beef and tofu for about 10 minutes total. If you cook the tofu and beef too long, they will lose the tender texture.
I usually purchase already thinly sliced beef for even easier preparation. To cut at home, thinly slice the meat against the grain. If you are having difficulty slicing it evenly, place the beef in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes to make it more firm and easier to cut.
Not to be confused with the dark soy sauce used in Southeast Asian cooking, Asako mentions dark soy sauce (Koikuchi,濃口醤油) to distinguish it from the usukuchi (light soy sauce) that is used in soups or dishes that require a lighter color. Koikuchi is made with equal parts soy bean and wheat and is the most common soy sauce used in Japanese cooking.
This recipe can easily be doubled to serve four.
I also made the Japanese Rolled Omelet, Curried Chicken Teriyaki, Pan-Fried Mushrooms, and Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl.
The Japanese Rolled Omelet is a delicious, light egg dish made using a specialty tamagoyaki pan. Eggs are beaten with dashi and soy sauce, strained (I forgot this step so my eggs weren’t quite as smooth), then cooked and rolled in layers. After pressing in a sushi mat, the omelet is cut into strips and served with a little grated daikon on the side.
The Curried Chicken Teriyaki is a fun variation of the classic Chicken Teriyaki. Curry powder is added to the basic teriyaki sauce before simmering with the chicken to create a shiny, thickened glaze. It is one of my new favorites to pair with rice and steamed broccoli.
The Everyday Side Dishes chapter has an abundance of quick and easy vegetable ideas. I tried the Pan-Fried Mushrooms and it comes together in only 10 minutes! Dashi, mirin, and light soy sauce are simmered until blended, then combined with grated daikon. It is served with a variety of pan-fried mushrooms. I followed Asako’s lead and used a mixture of shiitake, shimeji, and maitake mushrooms.
Oyakodon (Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl) is one of my favorite comfort foods and I was so excited to see it included in the book. Sliced pieces of chicken are simmered with green onions in a lightly sweet sauce, then beaten eggs are poured in and cooked just until creamy and soft-set.
Classic Home Cooking from Japan is a great pick for those interested in homestyle Japanese cuisine. All of the recipes have been developed with the home cook in mind. Most are perfect for weeknights and come together within 30 minutes. A handful of the stews/other recipes do require more prep and longer simmering or marinating times. While you won’t find any beverages or desserts, there is a nice variety of salads, meat, seafood, and vegetables (as a note, many of the vegetable recipes include a fish-based dashi).
Having a market with Japanese ingredients nearby will be helpful in locating items such as sake, mirin, Japanese-style Worcestershire sauce, light soy sauce, lotus root, fresh seafood, miso, tofu, ponzu sauce, daikon, seaweed, Napa cabbage, black vinegar, tahini, umeboshi, and more.
Simmered Beef and Tofu Recipe
Excerpt from Classic Home Cooking from Japan
Simmered Beef and Tofu
- 1 block (8 ounces, 250 grams) firm tofu
- 4 thin green onions scallions
- 5 ounces (125 grams) thinly sliced beef
For the simmering liquid:
- 2/3 cup (160 milliliters) kombu dashi stock
- 2 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce Koikuchi, regular soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons raw sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sake
- Cut the tofu into 8 pieces. Slice the green onions into 3 inch (8 cm) diagonal pieces.
- Put all the simmering liquid ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Add the tofu and simmer for about 4 minutes.
- Add the beef and simmer for a further 3 minutes.
- Add the green onions at the end, and simmer briefly.
- Serve immediately or allow to cool slightly and serve with plain rice or as a snack while drinking.