I collect cook books the way
some people collect baseball cards. I have all of these books, and I’ll
try to bring a bunch of them to class; I’ve also linked to them at
if you want to buy any of them yourself. I’ve listed them in the order
of how often I cook from them, rather than alphabetically.




  • Japanese
    Home-Style Cooking

    edited by Mihoko Hoshino, Heian International, Inc., 1996.
    The first Japanese cookbook I ever bought, and still one of my favorites.
    Shizuo Tsuji’s book is the ultimate English-language Japanese cookbook
    of gourmet and traditional foods; this one is about what people actually eat in their homes. The one problem recipe I’ve encountered in this
    book is the sekihan recipe – I use Tsuji’s steaming method instead of
    this one’s rice cooker method, because when you cook glutinous rice
    in a rice cooker it turns out a sticky greasy mess, much like his description.
    His process is more intensive but in that case it’s worth it. The rest
    of the recipes in this book have been just fine for me, though. I’m
    impressed by both the simplicity of the directions and the breadth of
    coverage in less than 100 pages.

  • Japanese
    Cooking: A Simple Art

    Shizuo Tsuji, Kodansha International, 1980.
    People call this the Bible of Japanese cooking. They’re mostly not kidding.
    This is hands down the most comprehensive and detailed Japanese cookbook
    in English. It’s The Joy of Cooking Mark II, only for Japanese
    food. If there’s anything you want to know how to cook and it’s not
    in here, you’re going to have to find a Japanese language cookbook that
    contains it. There might be an obscure web page in fascinatingly worded
    English painstakingly put together by a native Japanese speaker who’s
    practicing English for a class project, but otherwise, this is the book
    to look in for the broadest range and the greatest depth. It’s a gourmet’s
    cookbook. Some of the recipes are intimidatingly complex. But a large
    percentage of them aren’t intimidating at all. …what can I say? It’s
    a fabulous book. Ask for it for a birthday present or something.

The two books above stand
out head-and-shoulders for me, the first because it’s got everyday cooking
of the type I saw people actually doing on a daily basis, and the second
because it’s comprehensive and magnificent.

The next four are fairly
evenly matched in terms of how often I reach for them, to the point where
it was tricky deciding which to recommend first. I finally decided the
ranks based on "how hard you’d have to pull to get the book out of
my hands if it was the last copy I could find"… which is pretty
hard for all of them, really, since I cook from at least one or more of
these books at least once a fortnight.

  • Bento
    Boxes: Japanese meals on the go

    Naomi Kijima, Graph-sha Publications, 2001.
    I don’t think Bill Gates could pay me enough to give up this book. A
    lot of cookbooks give you single recipes without an idea of how to make
    them turn into a meal. Every page of this book contains all the recipes
    for the pictured meal — in some cases, more than one full meal per
    page. It’s a cookbook for people who’ve read cookbooks and appreciate
    information efficiency — rather than taking the time and page space
    to spell out "cut the carrot into matchstick-sized pieces, approximately
    one-eighth-inch square by two inches long, also known as julienning,"
    it says "julienne the carrots." So it assumes you know some
    basic terminology, but it’s never made an assumption I haven’t been
    familiar with. And for most recipes, the quantities are given in single-serving
    amounts – ideal for me as a single person and easily scalable to a party
    by multiplying by the number of people. I love this book.

  • Japanese
    Cooking: the traditions, techniques, ingredients, and recipes

    Emi Kazuko and Yasuko Fukuoka, Hermes House, 2003
    I found this book on the remainder table at a local bookstore. There’s
    no excuse for that! Seriously, this book is far better than it has any
    right to be at that price. The first half is the most detailed and helpful
    explanation I’ve ever seen of how to select, store, and prepare a wide
    assortment of Japanese ingredients that can be unfamiliar to Western
    cooks. The second half is full of good-looking, tasty, unintimidating
    recipes. When I went through marking the pages with recipes I wanted
    to discuss in either of the two classes, this book ended up with far
    and away the most stickies. The author is wonderful too – Emi Kazuko
    is referenced in the acknowledgements of several of my other
    English-language Japanese and Asian cookbooks, and she was on the editorial
    staff behind some of the Japanese-language cookbooks too. I don’t know
    whether she’s bilingual or has a translator, but either way, it doesn’t
    get any more authentic these days. She’s written a lot of other cookbooks
    in both languages that I’d love to find somewhere that I can browse
    through them…

  • A
    First Book of Japanese Cooking

    Masako Yamaoka, Kodansha International, 1996
    This one is somewhere between home cooking and party cooking, with some
    recipes for each type. It also includes a section with menus in the
    back, describing which recipes to cook together for a yakitori party,
    several different scales of sushi party, a tempura party, a teppan/mixed
    grill party, and so forth. If you’re looking for a book that hits both
    everyday home cooking and fancier home entertaining, this is a good
    book for it.

  • Rice
    Bowl Recipes

    Mineko Asada, Graph-sha, 2000
    An entire book of donburi. Over 100 of them. I love this book. Very
    nearly everything looks gorgeous and delicious, and I can chuckle at
    some of the "Western-style" things that don’t (the hamburger
    donburi is just hilarious, and the only objective problem with the eggplant
    and bacon donburi is that I can’t stand most eggplant). The only reason
    I don’t cook from this book more often is that I can’t. Not that the
    recipes are complex — they’re clearly explained and straightforward.
    The problem is this is central Illinois. We’re just too darn far inland
    for things like sushi-grade abalone or tai or tarako — and we just
    don’t get some of the more distinctively Japanese ingredients like yamaimo
    or raw katsuo or fresh shiso leaves. So this book is both inspirational
    and heartbreaking for me — you just know they wrote it with people
    from New York or Los Angeles and their coastal big-city markets in mind…
    still, I try my best with the ingredients I can find, and I love donburi
    so I try pretty often, but I just have to stop and sigh some days.

The rest of these find use
as reference books, but I don’t refer to them quite as often as the others.
Each of them have unique recipes, and some of them have unique philosophies
(such as the vegetarian sushi book which sounds like a contradiction in
terms but doesn’t have to be), but when it comes right down to it I read
the books below for ideas and inspiration rather than actively cooking
from them on a weekly basis. If they answer a particular dilemma you’re
considering, though, go for it. They’re all good books. I’ve used all
of them at one time or another (particularly the vegetarian books, since
I once cooked for 15 hours to serve bento lunch to my office-mates, including
a vegan.)

  • Vegetarian

    Brigid Treloar
    I use this one more as visual inspiration than as a cookbook; it’s got
    gorgeous presentation ideas, but I’m just not that fond of (for example)
    red and yellow peppers. I’d much rather have a piece of nice fresh tuna
    or salmon than a strip of red pepper on top of a piece of rice. On the
    other hand, I’m not a vegetarian, though I like tofu and almost never
    eat red meat — I just love sashimi too much! It also has interesting
    ideas for some nontraditional but tasty-looking dessert sushi made with

  • Japanese
    Vegetarian Cooking from Simple Soups to Sushi

    Patricia Richfield
    Good for ideas but chock-full of unforgivable typos in the Japanese
    terms – the typesetter or proofreader should be shot. From one section
    to the next, the same term will be spelled several different ways, and
    as often as not some of the ways won’t be structurally possible in Japanese
    ("inska" vs inaka (country-style) miso jumped out at me, spelled
    two different ways on two successive pages, when what you’ll actually
    find in the market will simply be called aka (red) miso; and every other
    page has an example like that). If you don’t already know a term, don’t rely on seeing it in this book, because if it’s not familiar from elsewhere
    it’s probably wrong. That said, the recipes are useful for reference
    when trying to adapt regular Japanese cooking (which relies heavily
    on eggs and fish) for vegetarian or vegan cooking.

  • Practical
    Japanese Cooking: Easy and Elegant

    Shizuo Tsuji (posthumous), Koichiro Hata, et al, Kodansha International,
    Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking is both monumental and seminal. This
    one, taken from his notes and finished by an assistant after his death,
    is just average. The other book doesn’t have many pictures, though,
    and this one is full of them. If you really like pictures, pick it up,
    but there really are other cookbooks that do the same things better.
    I bought it on the strength of his name, and have been vaguely disappointed
    ever since, though I do page through it for serving ideas because a
    lot of the pictures are gorgeous.

  • Not
    a Japanese cookbook per se, but invaluable if you have a rice cooker:
    Rice Cooker Cookbook

    Beth Hensperger, Julie Kaufmann
    This book covers both the push-button kind of rice cooker and the microcomputer
    kind of rice cooker. I’m glad I own both, and this book gives you great
    ideas to do with both. There are some things you can cook in the simple
    rice cooker that you can’t cook in the complicated one, and vice versa.
    So I steam salmon and vegetables in the push-button cooker, and I make
    rice pudding for breakfast in the microcomputer cooker. If you’ve got
    a rice cooker, this book is full of fast dishes you can cook entirely
    in the rice cooker — and the authors hit on not only Japanese-influenced
    one-pot dishes, but also versions of Spanish paella and Indian-inspired
    spiced and saffron-tinted rice and more.


I’m going to romanize the kanji
in the Japanese-language cookbooks I brought to class, because a lot of
American computers don’t have the Japanese IME installed, so the kanji
would just look like squiggles…

  • O-shougatsu Ryouri 161

    Butikku-sha (Boutique-sha), ISBN 4-8347-2101-9
    This one is full of New Year’s recipes — with collections presented
    of Japanese concepts of New Year’s celebrations around the world. (This
    is the one with the hilarious concepts of American New Years food, including
    the garlic bread with octopus…) The recipes that are actually Japanese
    are gorgeous, and everything’s presented with an eye towards party hors
    d’oeuvres presentations. It’s not everyday food, but it’s fun to drool

  • Home Recipe
    Graph-sha, ISBN
    (Yes, it really is called "Home Recipe" in English…) For
    some reason I haven’t puzzled out, both of these books open and flip
    in the Western order rather than the Japanese order like the other Japanese
    language books I own. Anyway, this one does live up to its name — the
    recipes are definitely home-style, family-friendly, and not fiddly-hors-d’oeuvres.
    And just like you’d probably find stir-fry recipes in your average American
    cookbook, there are recipes like paella and rigatoni with cheese as
    international home-cooking designates in here too. Most of the recipes
    are Japanese, though, and the paella and rigatoni recipes don’t seem
    to suffer from the "what were they smoking?" phenomenon of
    the "Western" New Year’s recipes; the paella in particular
    looks really tasty…