What’s the USP? A Japanese cookbook inspired specifically by the cosy izakaya bars of Japan. More casual than restaurants, izakayas are often compared to Spain’s tapas bars and, occasionally, to English pubs. The latter feels a little like a stretch, though – the delicious snacks izakayas offer are a big part of their appeal, and whilst I’m a big fan of Smith’s Scampi Fries, it’s pretty hard to romanticise their role in pub culture.
Who wrote it? Tim Anderson, the former Masterchef winner who went on to found Nanban. He left the restaurant last year to focus on, amongst other things, his cookbooks. Nanban’s loss is our gain. Your Home Izakaya is Anderson’s fifth book, and an interesting take on the increasingly crowded Japanese cookbook market. Focusing on the casual dishes most likely to be found in izakayas, Anderson’s book continues his refreshingly unprecious look at the cuisine. Fusion dishes abound here, the result being an engaging and very approachable collection.
Is it good bedtime reading? Whilst not exactly a lot of reading, there’s more than you’ll find in a lot of cookbooks – and those few lengthier chunks of prose are very enjoyable. Opening and closing with the pandemic reflections that you suspect will be commonplace on our shelves for the next year or two, and supplemented with the standard explanations of cuisine-specific ingredients, Anderson also finds room for touching tributes to individuals and practical explanations of technique. Occasionally a recipe will start a page later than you’d expect thanks to a particularly effusive introduction.
How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Ingredients are listed with clear and precise measurements for Brits and Americans alike, but it’s fair to say that Anderson’s prose-heavy instructions can be a little hard to follow – at least in a literal sense. Recipes are written in chunky paragraphs that often contain a dozen or so steps. It looks nice, but makes it easy to lose your place as you switch between stove top and cookbook.
Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Anderson lives and works out of London, and with one or two optional exceptions the city should be able to offer everything you need. That said, those shopping in small cities and towns will want to find out where their nearest Asian supermarket is and stock up – from dashi powder to daikon radishes, there are plenty of ingredients here that won’t be popping up in your local Asda.
What’s the faff factor? Two of Anderson’s biggest books to date have been his Japaneasy titles, which specialised in simple dishes. If you’re looking for really quick and easy recipes then these will remain your best bet – but much of the ethos present in those books has been carried over to Your Home Izakaya too. Yes, dishes like Braised Pig’s Trotter with a Crispy Crust require a bit of waiting, but anyone willing to eat pig’s trotter is usually willing to wait for it too.
How often will I cook from the book? Eager home cooks may find themselves pulling this from their shelf on a very regular basis – there’s plenty to love here, and dishes like Cheese Dakgalbi, Chicken Katsu Curry Spaghetti and Fluffy-Creamy Omurice lend themselves to a rich and filling weeknight dinner.
What will I love? Another hangover from his last book, Vegan Japaneasy, is the wealth of vegan and vegetarian friendly recipes here. Whilst the tail end of the book tends to weigh a little heavier with meaty recipes, the opening chapters are overwhelmingly veggie, and readers will find it easy to put together tasty menus that suit their own needs.
What won’t I love? It’s actually pretty hard to find a flaw in Your Home Izakaya – the photos are vivid and tempting, each recipe comes complete with suggestions both for other dishes that might share a table and the best drink to serve alongside your meal. The biggest issue is those hefty paragraphs in the recipes, but it feels like a petty sticking point.
Killer recipes: The Pepper Steak with Garlic Soy Sauce Butter was a brilliant success when cooked on a quiet weekday evening, and served (as per the book’s suggestion) over rice with an egg yolk on top. Elsewhere, there’s Furikake Potatoes, Japanese Fish and Chips, a fantastic section on yakitori including some delicious Chicken Thighs with Yuzu-Kosho. Tucked away between the desserts (Sake Glass Jelly with Seasonal Fruit!) and some useful essentials like Dashi are a smattering of cocktails – a Salted Grapefruit Shochu Highball being a particular highlight.
Should I buy it? Fans of informal Japanese cooking will be well served by this thoughtful (and fun!) new cookbook by Tim Anderson. Those looking to replicate high-end dishes or create perfectly formed sushi will be better off looking elsewhere. But if you want to explore the cuisine whilst having a little fun, I’d suggest turning directly to page 161 – Prosciutto-wrapped Crab and Avocado Sushi Rolls.
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
Your Home Izakaya: Fun and Simple Recipes Inspired by the Drinking-and-Dining Dens of Japan
£25, Hardie Grant Books
Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas