Friday, January 21, 2011

Yoshoku - Its BAAAAAAAAaaaaaaack..... ようしょく

My first born has been on sabbatical but has now returned with a colourful new frock! 
You can meet her from 01 February in Australia then she'll be flitting about in the UK from 01 March so keep an eye out will you? If you see her leaning on a shelf in a bookstore somewhere please carry her home and make sure she puts herself to good use in the kitchen??  

If you are new to Japanese cuisine and find it all a bit daunting this is a friendly way to jump on in.  The book shows you how to utilise traditional, often healthy, Japanese ingredients in more familiar "western" style recipes, using simple techniques.

The origins of Yoshoku cuisine stem from the opening of trading ports within Japan and consequently an  influx in available international foods in the 70's. The clever Japanese adapted these strange foreign foods to suit their own tastes, shaking it all up with ingredients and flavours both familiar and comforting to them - and doozo! a newly blended cuisine was born.  The cooking style went out of fashion for a while but is now making a comeback - becoming "cool" again with the young folk. 

Popular and old fashioned Yoshoku recipes include Omu-raisu (a thin omelette wrapped around seasoned rice), Katsu-Kare (pork cutlet curry) and Hambaagaa (hamburger) and while you will find a nod to this standard Yoshoku fare within the pages of the book  -it is really more about contemporary ideas and flavour combinations  - all easy to prepare and 'totemo oishii!!' (if I do say so myself...). If you missed out last time around - please look out for the re-release of 'Yoshoku' on February 01 2011. 

For those of you who already own a copy and have cooked from it I would love to hear your feedback.
My next book, on sale next year, will delve a little deeper into traditional cuisine and food culture - but more on that later. 

Yoshoku by Jane Lawson
Published by Murdoch Books 
Photography by Mikkel Vang
Styling by (the rather gorgeous and talented) Christine Rudolph

Chilled tofu and tomato salad
Pork with Nashi
Umeshu (plum wine) granita
and yes! sake cocktails! of course...



  1. I only allow myself to buy one cookbook a month now (okay make that two!). This will be one of them for sure. I can't wait to buy it!

  2. You rock Trissa!! thanks. By the way - I had lunch yesterday with Marc from No Recipes whom I think you know??

  3. Hi Jane - yes he is a blogger... didn't realize he was in Japan now... I think he has some Australia roots as well if I'm not mistaken. WOw - lunch you and Marc - some serious food eating must have gone on!

  4. He does have Sydney connections as it happens. I didn't know of him though - met him through a mutual friend, a Kyoto based food blogger. His excellent "Kyoto Foodie" site is on my blog list - check it out for everything Kyoto-food related - a very handy blog for those travelling (and living) in Kyoto. He may even be more obsessed with Kyoto than I am - and that's saying something!

  5. This is brilliant! I haven't seen the book yet but then again, I haven't been out much lately (blame the sweltering Aussie weather!). Anyhow, I'd imagine it would be in Borders and the likes by now? Definitely going to get myself a copy. I've always been fascinated by Japanese interpretation of other cuisines so this is right up my alley (btw, rather funny, but it seems you have a knack of writing cookbooks concerning concepts/cuisines I'm unable to find elsewhere but have a burning desire to own, so much thanks).
    While in NYC, I went to a Japanese-Italian restaurant and had a sea urchin pasta dish. Really fascinating and with that peculiar, lighter Japanese touch.

    Btw, reading that your next book will focus on traditional Japanese food, will there be a recipe for ramen? I hear the homestyle version in Japan is really quite different to what we have here in Sydney.

  6. Oh and just thought I'd throw it out there, do you happen to know of (or indeed are planning to write) any English-language cookbooks focused on Okinawan (southern regional) and Ainu (aboriginal) cuisine? I'm deeply intrigued by lesser known cuisines and have been searching far and wide for awhile now...doesn't seem to be any out there unfortunately. I think there's a real niche in food writing that still needs to be filled.

  7. Hey Jenny, yes you should easily be able to find Yoshoku in most bookstores at the moment. And thank you in advance for buying it!!
    I had an amazing uni (sea urchin) dish the other night which I will post soon - loads of them topping a silken carrot puree over a layer of beetroot jelly - truly sensational.
    As Kyoto was/is my base for the new book there won't be a traditional ramen recipe (as it is not a very kyoto style dish) - but I have written one for another book - just need to remember which - maybe 'a little taste of japan' if you can find a copy of that - or cooking japanese. Remind me when I get back to oz in March and I will look it up for you.

  8. There isn't much English language info on Okinawan or Ainu cuisine I am afraid but I am very interested in spending some time in Okinawa if I get the chance - the food is quite different to the rest of Japan. I have some other book ideas that may just touch on Okinawa so stay tuned. The ainu thing is a lot more difficult - I am not sure if there is much evidence left of their cuisine culture at all - there are some museums and relics etc in Hokkaido but I haven't spent enough time there to see any real influence on the local cuisine. But as an aside sapporo seems to have a growing and interesting food scene and I had one of the best meals in Japan there - albeit French/Japanese.... not very ainu like. A place called Le Musee - fantastic. Next time I get up there - again a matter of time and money - I plan to do some more research on the topic. Unfortunately there are gaps in the market everywhere you look but if the market isn't big enough they will never get filled - that's sadly, how it works. No publishing house will print a book on a subject that they believe wont' sell enough copies to cover their costs! which is fair enough but a shame as it means some titles will only see the light of day if one self publishes or has financial support from someone who won't notice if a stray mill falls out of their pockets! or money falls out of the sky - which I am still waiting for....

  9. Hi again Jane, just wanted to say I've ordered Yoshoku and really can't wait for its arrival (and yes, I'll let you know my thoughts). Am going to check out Grubs and Cocina Nueva as well; perhaps reserved for purchase next month though (trying to save here!).
    Just wondering with your upcoming Japanese book, will you be providing a little backstory/history for each recipe? That's something I have a real affection for when flipping through cookbooks; not just for the glorious photography and reliable recipes, but also for its readability. Understanding the relevance of specific recipes triggers a sense of wonder and strong desire to cook it, hopeful that I'm eating like the locals.

    About the situation with niche subject matters, I entirely understand. It really is upsetting but can't be helped if there's no profit (we all have to make a living at the end of the day *sigh*). In such cases, I think food blogs are a great arena to explore such things we can't otherwise do in print.

  10. Also, about Hokkaido cuisine, I've read the region has quite a few specialties with a focus on meat, such as mutton. I do wonder if this is an Ainu influence that has somehow passed on. I say this because the Ainu traditionally ate bear and other warming, rustic sort of of protein-filled foods. Very interesting.

    With Okinawan, pork is apparently rather popular there, which is divergent from mainland Japan. I know this is due to its ancient relationship with China. Strangely, the Okinawans have the longest lifespan (even amongst the Japanese!), which is odd if we were to consider how often people harp on about the health reasons behind eating entirely plant-based or low-meat (particularly pork) diets. They've lost me.

  11. Hi Jenny, the mutton/lamb dishes are often referred to as Ghengis Khan style.... so that should give you a good hint on the influence. Hokkaido is very close to Russia/Mongolia. So lots of lamb and ramen... and a curiously popular dish called soup curry!
    Hokkaido, with its wide open spaces, is dairy farming country so lots of cheese, ice cream, chocolate, butter etc -used much more freely than in other parts of Japan.

    Yes, the okinawan pork dish of chinese influence - known as kakuni or rafute is rather delish. However the okinawans, living on a small island, clearly have access to plenty of seafood plus it is a great climate for growing vegetables ( and fruit) so - while they do great pork - it is in small quantities compared with the veggie dishes. Which is also one of the reasons why the Japanese, generally, can get away with eating fried food with many meals - it is all about balance, smaller portions of the "naughty" stuff and plenty of filling veggies and rice and ingredients originating from the sea. Pork is enjoyed throughout Japan - in fact it is very good quality and eaten fairly regularly.

  12. ps - thanks re yoshoku. that's wonderful. Yep, there will be plenty of narrative in the new book...

  13. omg this cookbook looks amazing!

  14. ps - nice blog by the way - beautiful images clever girl.

  15. I'm gonna have to get this book, thanks.

    I already have "A little Taste of Japan" and just love it!

    Now a follower of your site too.

  16. Oh nice to hear Debs! your support is much appreciated. Lucky you living in Spain!

  17. Hi Jane! I have both Yoshoku and A Little Taste of Japan. I also want to get Cocina Nueva because I loved both of your books. As soon as I saw your name on it I knew it would be the next purchase. I would love for another follow up Yoshoku book to come out! What is the book you are currently working on?

    I am a student of architecture and have completed a degree in gender sexuality and culture if you are wondering what your demographic is. What feedback are you after?

  18. Architecture fan - thank you so very much for your lovely words about the Japanese books - I think you will like Cocina nueva if you are a fan of Yoshoku. I can't give too much away on the book I am currently working on but it will certainly involve Japanese food and culture.
    If there's enough of a market for it I would love to do a follow up to Yoshoku also on day soon... Great to hear a little background on the people who are enjoying my books so thanks for the info. j