It’s no secret that we love Japanese food, and own an ever-growing collection of Japanese cookbooks. The latest addition to our bookshelf is “The Ultimate Japanese Noodles Cookbook: Amazing Soba, Ramen, Udon, Hotpots and Japanese Pasta Recipes!” by Masahiro Kasahara, published in English by Tuttle.
Masahiro Kasahara is the chef-owner of exclusive Tokyo restaurant Sanpi-Ryoron, where he serves kaiseki style cuisine at izakaya prices, providing an multi-course omakase (chef’s choice) set meal at an affordable price. Kasahara grew up in his father’s izakaya, and learned a lot about running a restaurant business. He then embarked on nine years of formal training, focusing on kaiseki fine-dining rather than typical izakaya fare. When his father passed away, Kasahara took over the izakaya for five years, gradually modifying the offering as he experimented with combining the two very different cooking styles. That became the basis of Sanpi-Ryoron, which he opened in 2004. The small simply-designed restaurant offers a new seasonal menu every fortnight (or every month, for the Hong Kong outpost).
Kasahara, who has appeared on a number of Japanese TV shows about cooking and ingredients, is also the author of several cookbooks (most of which are only available in Japanese) including The Best Side Dishes Taught by Popular Chefs, Golden Flavoring Rules: Simple and Classic Japanese Food, Golden Flavoring Rules: Simple and Classic Japanese Food, Best Tasting Fall Recipes, My Favorite Japanese Foods, Recipe Flavors from Sugar, Salt, Vinegar, Soy Sauce and Miso, Foods That Go Well With White Rice, Chicken Breasts and Chicken Thighs, and Japanese Dishes You Want to Eat Daily.
His latest title aims to introduce a wider range of noodle dishes into your cooking repertoire, including soba, ramen, udon, somen, and pasta. I like the small and slim hardcover format – coming in at just 96 pages, Kasahura packs a lot into the space. As well as the noodles and pasta dishes, you’ll find a range of bonus recipes for appetisers and sides that go well with noodles, and ideas to make good use of leftover noodles. Recipes range from quick and simple ideas that are perfect for quick meals and snacks, to dishes such as hot pots that are great for gatherings with friends.
At the start of the book, a word from the author about his deep and abiding love for noodles is followed by (very brief) instructions on how to make dashi (stock), notes on how to use the book and how to interpret the bowl symbols used to indicate temperature of the recipes, and a detailed recipe for mentsuyu, the savoury soup base that features in many of the recipes to follow.
The sixty-odd recipes are divided into chapters called My Favourite Udon Recipes, Soba Is So Good, Somen Is Not Just For Summer, Ramen and Rice Noodles, When Only Pasta Will Do (which also contains a sub-chapter for Appetizers that Go Well with Noodles), and Hot Pots and Noodles for a Crowd (which also contains a sub-chapter for Snacks and Sides to Make with Leftover Noodles).
I’m disappointed by the lack of Index at the back of the book, but that’s partially mitigated by the Contents page showing a full list of recipes against each chapter.
Note that this English translation is aimed at American readers, so aubergines are listed as eggplants, double cream as heavy cream, peppers as bell peppers, spring onions as scallions, minced beef or pork as ground, and chicken fillets as chicken tenders. Measurements are listed first in cups and ounces but with metric amounts then provided.
There are lots of recipes in this book to tempt. Some that I’ve bookmarked include Udon Smothered in Meat Sauce, Creamy Egg Sauce Udon, Pork and Leek Soba, Addictive Natto and Tofu Soba, Soy Sauce Ramen with Chicken, Chinese Noodles with Daikon Sauce, Sukiyaki Udon, Tempura Feast Soba, Deep-Fried Soba, and Somen Galettes.
Every recipe has an accompanying photograph, simply styled and helpful in understanding how the finished dish should look.
There are informative sidebars within each chapter providing extra knowledge and guidance about the different types of noodles and their role in Japanese cuisine. I really like the page suggesting Yakumi (garnishes or condiments to mix into noodles) and the double-page spread about dipping sauces Kasahara-style that promise to turn plain noodles into something special.
White Miso, Tomato and Mushroom Penne is a great way of bringing Japanese flavours and ingredients to ingredients that are familiar and readily found in Europe.
Quick Pan-Fried Gyoza Disks offer a quick way of enjoying homemade gyoza without the fiddly and time-consuming shaping. Just spread the filling between two round wrappers, and shallow fry! Our gyoza wrappers had been in the freezer a few too many years and were a touch brittle but the recipe still worked well.
Garlic Chive Carbonara will horrify Italian purists, since it makes use of cream, but it’s not purporting to be anything but a riff on the original and it’s a delicious one. We used garlic scapes in place of chives (which are a little thicker and heavier).
This is a great cookbook for any cook who seeks Japanese flavours but is short on time to make complicated recipes. All the recipes shared here are satisfying simple, pared down to a manageable list of ingredients and concise but clear instructions.
Recipes from The Ultimate Japanese Noodles Cookbook
We have permission from Tuttle Publishing to share some recipes with you from the book [coming soon]:
Kavey Eats received a review copy of The Ultimate Japanese Noodles Cookbook by Masahiro Kasahara from Tuttle Publishing.