No Sushi by Andrew Kojima

No Sushi

What’s the USP? Japanese food that goes beyond raw fish and rice, inspired by authentic recipes and experiences in Japan as interpreted by a UK chef and restaurateur. There are recipes for bao buns, udon noodles and karaage, but none of course for sushi.

Who is the author? Andrew Kojima is the chef and owner of Koj restaurant in Cheltenham. He was a finalist in the 2012 series of Masterchef and runs cookery classes. No Sushi is his first outing in print.

Is it good bedtime reading? It’s a genuinely entertaining and informative read. The first half of the book is dedicated to Kojima’s own story, from childhood to opening the restaurant, as well as some general background on Japanese cuisine and the chef’s own cooking style and culinary philosophy.  Recipe introductions are substantial and contain a lot of additional information and personal anecdotes. 

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? You might need to go online or a specialist shop for a few things such as karashi (Japanese mustard), yuzu juice and bonito flakes but many supermarkets stock a decent range of the Japanese ingredients used in the book such as miso, mirin, bao buns and panko breadcrumbs.

What’s the faff factor? There is some fine slicing and shredding required but for the most part the recipes are short and enticingly simple.

How often will I cook from the book? Although this is a restaurant cookbook, the recipes are very achieveable and many of the recipe would be ideal for a mid-week meal or weekend snacks and treats.

Killer recipes:  Tamari almonds; panko cauliflower, yuzu pickled red onion, curry mayo; Koj Fried Chicken; miso marinated cod, bok choi, radish; chicken curry udon; ox heart meat balls, crispy leeks.

What will I love? Let’s face it, there are more than enough cookbooks on the planet already so if you’re going to write one, the only way to make it stand out from the crowd is to inject your personality into it. No Sushi has that in spades. From the utterly charming picture of the author as a baby with his late father to the anecdote about the day he proposed to his wife, Kojima lets the reader into his world. Once you learn that his mission to dispel the myth that there’s nothing more to Japanese food than sushi was inspired by his final conversation with his father, you are with him all the way, eager to try out the recipes and spread the word. The book looks great with plenty of images of the restaurant as well as some snapshots from Kojima’s family album. Very simply shot, the food is allowed to speak for itself, and it says, ‘I am delicious, eat me.’

What won’t I like so much? The book contains just 34 recipes (including 5 variations on bao buns although no full recipe for the actual bun is included) plus 9 cocktail recipes which is a fair few short of enough, especially for the £30 price tag. It’s frustrating, as the recipes that are included are terrific and another 50 or 60 of them would have been very welcome indeed. As a former Masterchef semi-finalist myself, I would have loved to have learned more about Kojima’s experiences on the show which is dealt with in a couple of paragraphs. 

Should I buy it? If you’re a regular at the restaurant, you’ll want to own a copy. If you’ve ever dreamed of opening your own restaurant, Kojima’s story will be inspiring. If you’re new to Japanese food, this is a great introduction. It’s just a shame there’s not more of it. 

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Beginners/Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four Stars

Buy the book
No Sushi by Andrew Kojima
awaywithmedia, £30

Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes by Tim Anderson

09.30.19TimVegan_CroquettesPrep_007(Kare¯ Korokke)

Makes 16 croquettes, which is a lot
(enough for 4 servings as a main, 8 as a side), but they freeze well

In Japan, they have something called curry pan, or curry bread, which is essentially an oblong doughnut filled with Japanese curry, so you can have curry in a convenient hand-held format. That recipe is nice, but it’s a bit tricky for a book calledVegan JapanEasy (maybe my next book will be called Vegan Japanslightlymoredifficult), so here’s an alternative: curry croquettes, which are perhaps even better because they’re more crunchy on the outside. Win-win!

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) chunks
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 hot red chilli, finely diced
150 g (5 oz) sweetcorn (from a tin is fine)
2 heaped tablespoons curry powder
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
salt, to taste
vegan egg replacer, equivalent to 8 eggs, prepared according to the manufacturers’ instructions, or 2 x recipe quantity of Batter for Breadcrumbing (page 46)
about 80 g (3 oz/scant ⅔ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, for dredging
about 150 g (5 oz/3½ cups) panko breadcrumbs
about 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) oil, for deep-frying (or less for shallow-frying)

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender, 10–15 minutes, then drain and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, saute the onions and chilli in the oil over a medium-high heat until they soften, then add the corn and continue to cook for several minutes until everything starts to brown a bit. Add the spices and cook for another few minutes to make a thick paste, then remove from the heat. Mash the potatoes and stir in the onion-cornspice mixture, and add a generous amount of salt.

When the mash is cool enough to handle, divide itinto 16 equal balls and then squash each ball into a kind of oblong patty shape. Lay the potato patties out on baking sheets lined with foil and transfer to the freezer to firm up for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the egg replacer or batter. Dredge the patties in the flour, then dip in the eggreplacer or batter, and then the panko, ensuring they are all well-coated. At this point the croquettes can be frozen on the baking sheets, or cooked straight away. (The cooking process is the same from frozen or chilled.)

Preheat your oven to 100C (210F/Gas .). Heat the oil in a wide, deep saucepan to 180C (350F). Carefully lower the croquettes into the hot oil, in batches of 4–6, and fry until deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a wire rack and keep hot in the oven with the oven door slightly open, until ready to serve.

ALTERNATIVE METHOD
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F/Gas 7). Pour enough oil into a non-stick, flat-bottomed frying pan (skillet) to come up to a depth of 5 mm (. in) and place over a medium-high heat. Carefully lower in the croquettes and fry on each side for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the par-fried croquettes to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until a thin knife inserted into the middle of a croquette comes out feeling hot to the touch.

Read the review

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
French Onion Ramen

Japanese mushroom parcels with garlic and soy sauce by Tim Anderson

05.13.19_VeganJapaneasy_D4_MushParcels_024

SERVES 2 AS A SIDE OR 1 AS A MAIN

I always associate this preparation, or simple variations thereof, with izakaya – the wonderful Japanese drinkeries-cum-eateries where the food is highly varied but always conducive to drinking loads of good sake or beer – typically salty, snacky, shareable, crowd-pleasing dishes with bold but not over-the-top flavours. This is exactly that kind of dish, mushrooms simply steamed in a foil parcel with plenty of garlic and soy sauce – tearing open the foil is like opening a present on a particularly garlicky Christmas morning. It’s lovely on its own but I would strongly recommend enjoying this with sake – nothing too fancy, as the earthier flavours of cheaper sake are perfect for this mushroomy garlic umami funkbomb.

200 g (7 oz) Japanese mushrooms (such as enoki, shimeji (beech), shiitake and eringi (king oyster)– often supermarkets sell an ‘exotic’ mushroom pack containing a few of each of these, which are perfect)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ teaspoons sake
1½ teaspoons olive oil
3–4 garlic cloves, crushed and thinly sliced
a few grinds of black pepper
a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
You will also need some sturdy kitchen foil

Preheat the oven to 220ºC (430°F/Gas 9). Prepare the mushrooms: for enoki or shimeji, cut off their bottoms and break up any large clusters; for shiitake, simply remove the stems; for eringi, cut them into roughly bite-size pieces.

Stir together the soy sauce, sake, olive oil, sliced garlic, black pepper and parsley. Toss the prepared mushrooms with the soy sauce mixture.

Set a wide piece of kitchen foil (about 40 cm/ 16 in long) into a shallow bowl or dish, and place the mushrooms and the sauce into the middle of the foil. Gather up the sides of the foil to cover the mushrooms, crimping them together to form a tight seal. Place the parcel on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Transfer the parcel to a plate, taking care not to tear the foil. Serve with the parcel closed and open it at the table.

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
French Onion Ramen
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes

French Onion Ramen by Tim Anderson

05.13.19_VeganJapaneasy_D4_FrenchRamen_022 3

FRENCH ONION RAMEN
SERVES 4

I can never figure out why French onion soup ever went out of style. It’s just so good. I had some that my great aunt Jean made a few years back at a family get-together in Wisconsin and it made me think, ‘I should eat French onion soup every day!’
Suddenly fixated on French onion soup, my thoughts quickly turned to ramen. The molten onions mingle beautifully with the noodles so you get a lovely sweetness and silky texture in every bite, all bathed in a rich, beefy broth that just happens to contain no beef. The onions do take a while to caramelise properly, but for comfort food I think it’s worth the wait.

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 brown onions, halved and thinly sliced
pinch of salt, or more, to taste
1 teaspoon caster (superfine) or granulated (raw) sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons ruby port or red wine
1.2 litres (40 fl oz/4¾ cups) Mushroom or Triple Seaweed Dashi
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
a few grinds of black pepper, or more, to taste
4 tablespoons soy sauce, or more, to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin, or more, to taste
1 tablespoon Marmite (yeast extract)
1½ teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
200 g (7 oz) fresh spinach, washed
¼ Savoy cabbage, cut into thin strips
4 portions of uncooked ramen noodles
4 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
80 g (3 oz) bamboo shoots (if you can, use Japanese menma – pickled bamboo shoots)
a few drops of sesame oil and/or truffle oil
60–80 g (2–3 oz) vegan cheese (‘Cheddar’ or ‘Italian-style’), grated (shredded)
4 slices of good-quality bread, toasted

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or casserole (Dutch oven) and add the onions and the salt. Cook over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until they soften, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 45–50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. After about 15 minutes, the onions will start to caramelise, so make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan when you stir to prevent them from catching and burning prematurely. When the onions are just starting to brown, stir in the sugar and add the garlic. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, you will have to stir and scrape often to ensure the onions don’t burn. (If it’s proving difficult to scrape up the stuck bits, add a splash of water, which should help them release nicely.)

Add the sake and the port or wine. Add the dashi, bay leaves, thyme and black pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, then stir in the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, mirin and Marmite. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like it – it should be fairly salty and slightly sweet. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems and discard. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the broth into a small dish and leave to cool. Stir the cornflour into the cooled broth to make a thin slurry, then stir it back into the soup and bring to the boil to thicken the broth slightly.

Bring a large saucepan full of water to the boil and blanch the spinach for 15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water. Drain well, pressing out any excess water. In the same pan, boil the cabbage for 3–4 minutes until just tender, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Let the water return to a rolling boil, then cook the ramen until al dente, according to the packet instructions. Drain well.

Divide the ramen among 4 deep bowls and ladle over the soup. Gently stir the noodles through the soup to ensure they aren’t sticking together. Top each ramen with the spinach, cabbage, spring onions, bamboo shoots, sesame or truffle oil and vegan cheese. Serve with the toast on the side to soak up the broth once the noodles have all been slurped away.

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes

Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson


Vegan Japaneasy

What’s the USP? Full Ronseal vibes here – Vegan JapanEasy is a cookbook filled with easy vegan Japanese recipes. I’m really not sure you need me to tell you that, actually.

Eesh. Sorry I asked. Alright then, who’s the author? Tim Anderson was the youngest winner of Masterchef when he and his Japanese-influenced dishes came out top back in 2011. Since then he’s opened his own restaurant – Nanban – and three vibrant Japanese cookbooks, including 2017’s JapanEasy. This, its vegan spinoff, is his fourth.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s definitely plenty to read in here. Of note are the usual pages detailing Japanese ingredients you’ll want to familiarise yourself with, punched up with useful ideas on each ingredient’s uses outside of Japanese cuisine.

Anderson writes lovingly and respectfully about Japanese culture and cuisine, and his occasional treatises on dashi or Japanese curry roux are always entertaining – as are his recipe introductions, which are occasionally longer than the recipes themselves.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Anderson’s whole thing is ease, and sourcing the ingredients is no different. Most ingredients are widely available but at worst will warrant a trip to an Asian supermarket. The recipes generally avoid any mock-meat and non-dairy cheeses as well, opting instead for light, delicious looking vegetable numbers.

What’s the faff factor? Do you really need to ask? Nothing in Vegan JapanEasy should throw the average home cook. That said, some dishes do require a little time or, in the case of the ramen recipes, a glut of ingredients – so not every dish is going to cut it for a weeknight dinner.

Killer recipes Teriyaki-roasted carrots; jackfruit karaage; kimchi miso hotpot; cauliflower katsu curry;  Japanese style celeriac steak; fridge drawer fried rice.

What will I love? Anderson’s non-pretentious approach to cooking means that not only does everything look delicious, it’s also tantalisingly do-able. Dishes like Pesto Udon are so simple, and yet so tempting, that there’s a good chance you won’t eat anything else ever again.

What won’t I love? The only slightly grating factor is Anderson’s fondness for ranking the ease of each dish at the bottom of the recipe. Given that ease is the premise of the entire book, it’s entirely unnecessary and instead ends up as a destination for some fairly poor dad jokes that wear thin pretty quickly: “the only cult I’d join is the Not Diffi Cult, and this recipe would be our Kool-Aid”

Should I buy it? In short, yes. Anderson’s book is as practical and imaginative as any other Japanese cookbook on the market. In fact, even as a meat-eater, Vegan JapanEasy has a more appealing range of recipes than the original carnivore-friendly JapanEasy title.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Brighton-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas.

Buy this book
Vegan JapanEasy: Classic & modern vegan Japanese recipes to cook at home

Cook from this book
Japanese Mushroom Parcels with Garlic and Soy Sauce
Sweetcorn Curry Croquettes
French Onion Ramen

Chicken and Charcoal by Matt Abergel

Chicken and Charcoal

What’s the USP? Everything you every wanted to know about yakitori (Japanese-style skewered and grilled chicken) plus a whole lot more you didn’t even know you wanted to know.

Who’s the author? Matt Abergel is the skateboarding chef and owner of cult Hong Kong restaurant Yardbird that has helped put yakitori on the global culinary map. This is his first cookbook.

What does it look like? A crazy, but beautifully designed, mash-up of an art catalogue, lifestyle magazine and instruction manual. There’s artworks by Yardbird logo designer Evan Hecox; articles on the restaurant’s designer chairs and branded products that include Yardbird Vans skateboarding sneakers and a line of sake and a profile of Yardbird co-owner Lindsay Jang.

But the ‘meat’ (pun intended) of the book is a series of detailed step by step instructions and recipes for butchering a chicken ready for skewering (and that means really butchering the thing down to its last tiny constituent parts including the thyroid and gizzard) and every type of yakitori you can imagine from fillet and thigh to ventricle and soft knee bone.

Is it good bedtime reading? Settle in with a Horlicks and the 40-odd page introductory section with profiles, interviews and articles.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? How good is your butcher? If you want to cook some of the more recherché recipes in the book like Thyroid skewers you’ll need to find one that will supply you whole chickens with head and organs intact. Good luck with that. You will also need to find a very good Asian grocer or specialist Japanese store for items such as Okinawan black sugar and Chinkiang black rice vinegar.

What’s the faff factor? Correctly butchering your whole chicken, should you be able to get hold of one, will take some practice and there’s a lot of fiddly skewering to be done. Some of the ‘smaller’ and ‘bigger’ dishes require a large number of ingredients and a fair amount of preparation.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Measurements are precise – no pinch of this or glug of that – and the methods are detailed and clear. The recipe for Chicken Katsu that is meant to appear on page 174 is however so vague that it has actually completely disappeared from the book.

How often will I cook from the book? Much of the food will be time-consuming to prepare so this is one for the weekend.

Killer recipes? Aside from the yakitori recipes, the chapter on ‘smaller’ snacking dishes includes mushroom salad with mizuna, watercress and wasabi and the ‘Yardbird Caesar’ that’s made with Chinese cabbage, mizuna and nori and a dressing that includes miso, roasted garlic and rice vinegar, while ‘bigger’ dishes include KFC (Korean fried cauliflower) and scotch egg with cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayo.

What will I love? The sheer attention to detail, the elegant look and all the little extras like the cocktail and highball recipes and a staff Q&A profiling the people behind the restaurant. A lot of love, time and effort has obviously gone into the book making it a rewarding experience both to read and use in the kitchen.

What won’t I like? The full-page, black and white close-up photo of raw chicken skin on page 90 is both gnarly and vaguely obscene.

Should I buy it? If you are interested in Japanese cooking and want the definitive last word on yakitori or are just interested in what’s happening in the modern Hong Kong restaurant scene or just love a well put together cookbook then Chicken and Charcoal is well worth owning.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Professional chefs/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 Stars

Buy this book
Chicken and Charcoal: Yakitori, Yardbird, Hong Kong
£24.95, Phaidon

Cook from this book
KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower)
Eggplant Salad with Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu

Eggplant Salad with Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu by Matt Abergel

139 eggplant salad

 

Ingredients:

Japanese eggplant (aubergine) ……………………………….  1 piece
Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu (see below) …………  25g
Cucumber ……………………………………………………………….  50g
Myoga, sliced ………………………………………………………….  12g
Vietnamese crispy shallots………………………………………  14g
Olive oil …………………………………………………………….…….  4g. plus extra to dress
Salt ………………………………………………………………………….  1g

For the Pickled Garlic and Ginger

Tosazu Tosazu (page 186) ……………………………………….  1 quantity
Bonito pickled garlic ………………………………………………..  300g
Ginger …………………………………………………………….……….  75g

 

Yield: 2 servings

Method:

  1. First, make the Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. This is a lot more than you need, but will keep well chilled for 1 month.
  2. Using a cook’s blowtorch, evenly sear the skin of the Japanese eggplants (aubergines). Only move from each spot that is burning when the skin glows like the end of a lit cigarette.
  3. As you burn each eggplant, place in a metal bowl covered in plastic wrap so that they steam gently.
  4. When ready to peel, place the eggplant on a paper towel and gently scrape away the skin.
  5. Place the eggplant flesh into a vacuum bag or an airtight container, cover with the Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu, then seal and leave to marinate until ready to use (a minimum of 2 hours.)
  6. To cut the cucumber refer to page 127. Lightly salt the cucumber, then leave to sit in the refrigerator for 10–15 minutes until water is released. Gently squeeze any excess water out of the cucumber batons and return to the refrigerator until ready to use.
  7. Combine 65 g of the marinated eggplant with the cucumber, half of the sliced myoga, 11 g of the fried shallots, the olive oil, and salt.
  8. To serve, put the salad in a chilled bowl, layering everything neatly. Garnish with the reserved shallots and myoga, then dress with olive oil.

Recipe extracted from Chicken and Charcoal by Matt Abergel, published by Phaidon

Cook more from this book

KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) by Matt Abergel

 

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Japan the cookbook

What’s the USP? This weighty 464-page volume is the latest in Phaidon’s series of ‘international cookbook bibles’ that have previously covered Mexico, Peru and China among other countries.

Who is the author? Californian Nancy Singleton Hachisu, a recognised authority on Japanese cooking both in America and Japan where she has lived for over thirty years

What does it look like? Three years in the making, the book contains over 400 recipes (many illustrated with clear and simple overhead photographs), organised into 15 categories including pickles, stir-fries and one pots, to create what Singleton Hachisu calls ‘a curated experience of Japan’s culinary framework from a specific moment in time’, researched during travels across the country and discussions with ‘chefs, local grandmothers and artisanal makers of traditional food’.

Is it good bedtime reading? As long as you’ve got strong arms, and be careful not to nod off reading about Jomon period of Japanese food history, if the 1.7kg book falls out of your hands it could do some serious damage.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You may struggle to track down some things such as konnyaku but between your local Asian supermarket and online specialists such as Sous Chef you should be able to source the majority of stuff you need.

What’s the faff factor? All the dishes are listed with a preparation time and cooking time so you know what you’re letting yourself in for, but many can be completed in under half an hour.

How often will I cook from the book? There is a huge range of recipes included in this veritable encyclopedia of Japanese food so you could easily find yourself dipping into it on a regular basis.

Killer recipes? The broad selection of dishes from across the country covers everything from walnut dressed chrysanthemum petals to steamed mountain yam with nori and grilled eggplant miso soup to chicken yakitori.

What will I love? A history of Japanese food, a glossary of ingredients, a list of Japanese kitchen equipment and descriptions of Japanese cutting styles (zakugiri are ‘greens cut crosswise into 4cm pieces’). The 11-strong international line-up featured in the ‘shefu’ (chefs) chapter include Shinobu Namae of two Michelin-starred L’Effervescenvce in Tokyo, whose recipes include bonito sashimi with butterbur miso and shiso, and Shuko Oda of Koya Bar in London who contributes three recipes including clams, fava beans and capers steamed in dashi butter.

What won’t I like? If you’re looking for an encyclopedia of sushi, sashimi and ramen, then Japan The cookbook will disappoint, with just seven sushi, three sashimi and one ramen recipe (although there is a whole chapter on noodles).

Should I buy it?  Japanese food has become an everyday part of the British diet. From udon at Wagamama to ramen at Bone Daddies, from robata grilled lamb chops at Roka to the omakase tasting menu at the three Michelin-starred The Araki, Japanese cuisine has become so prevalent that there are now even sushi counters in supermarkets. Japanese ingredients and techniques have also become part of many progressive British kitchens with dashi becoming almost as common as chicken stock.

But even the most ardent Japanophile chef will probably only have scratched the surface of a food culture with a recorded history dating back to the third century. That’s where Japan The Cookbook comes in. This is the perfect primer for anyone wanting to deepen their knowledge of an endlessly fascinating subject.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 5 stars

Buy this book

Japan: The Cookbook
£29.95 Phaidon

Junk Food Japan: Addictive Food from Kurobuta by Scott Hallsworth

Junk food japan

Former Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth drops more f-bombs than a Martin Scorsese movie character.  The four-page biographical introduction piles on the profanity with more than two dozen swear words; there’s a chapter entitled ‘Sushi’s F**ked-Up Friends’ and recipe introductions are littered with bad language.

Hallworth’s two Kurobuta restaurants in London are billed on their website as ‘Rock’n’Roll Izakaya’ (the Japanese version of a gastropub) and the Western Australia-born chef makes no secret of his unfulfilled musical ambitions. But his indie-rock swagger comes across on the page as more Kevin the Teenager than Nick Cave and falls short of the effortless cool of The Meatliquor Chronicles by Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins, a book (and restaurant) that Junk Food Japan owes a spiritual debt to.

But tune out the four-letter white noise and plenty of exciting, modern and iconoclastic east-meets-west ideas emerge. Hallsworth explains that the term Junk Food Japan began as a menu category that included tuna sashimi pizza (the recipe is included in the book) and then developed into the ‘no-nonsense, almost playful way of creating dishes’.

Although the book contains dishes that resemble fast food including fried chicken and hot wings, they’re refined versions that belie the ‘junk food’ tag, so the chicken is poached in master stock before being fried in a shichimi (Japanese seven spice power) coating and the hot wings are barbecued in a spicy  sauce made with gochujang, sake and white (the list of specialist suppliers at the back of the book is useful for tracking down the more obscure Japanese ingredients Hallsworth uses).

The traditions of Japanese cuisine that can appear daunting and limiting to neophytes are for the most part swept aside making Junk Food Japan an approachable introduction to a complex subject. Nigiri, the oval sushi rice pillows that are usually topped with raw fish are here finished with thin slices of dashi-poached veal and anchovy mayonnaise and pickled cucumber sushi rolls are topped with a Wagyu slider, chicken liver parfait and yuzu marmalade sauce to create a sort of Japanese version of Tournedos Rossini.

Dishes range from straightforward one pot wonders like marbou dofu (spicy minced pork and tofu) to the more technically challenging sushi creations, offering chefs of all levels something to get their teeth into. While I could have done without the potty mouthed posturing, Junk Food Japan is lively, informative and full of enticing recipes. It’s a great book, I swear.

(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars

Buy this book
Junk Food Japan: Addictive Food from Kurobuta
Scott Hallsworth
£26 Absolute Press