I had the great pleasure of interviewing Harumi Kurihara (via e-mail through her staff) after the release of her English cookbook, Everyday Harumi. Here is the interview from JQ magazine, the JET Alumni Association magazine for NYC. Find out her three favorite kitchen tools and her suggestions for Americans wanting to make bento to take to lunch to work.
Scroll down to page seven to see the interview:
A doyenne of domesticity, the tireless Harumi Kurihara is often called the Japanese Martha Stewart. A media maven, she is omnipresent from magazines to TV in Japan, guiding followers not only with recipes, but also tips on entertaining at home. A popular author of washoku cookbooks, Kurihara recently released her third cookbook in English, Everyday Harumi.
What makes this book unique is the research that Kurihara did to find out what ingredients are most prominent in Western kitchens and crafting suitable recipes ranging from traditional Japanese to innovative and creative fare. The resulting book empowers home cooks unfamiliar with Japanese recipes to quickly become fluent. While visiting New York City last fall to promote her book at Japan Society and Mitsuwa, among other places, Kurihara-san answered questions for JQ.
Congratulations on a beautiful cookbook. The chapter on kitchen cupboard essentials is packed with good information, and we love your healthy and delicious recipes. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you decided to make cookbooks in English?
I started working as a cooking assistant on TV, behind the scenes. Conran Octopus asked me to publish Everyday Harumi. This was made with a British-only crew. American people can cook all the recipes in this book.
What are your three favorite Japanese kitchen tools?
The first one is a suribachi, or a mortar, to grind sesame and other ingredients. The second one is an akutori, or a scum remover. The third is called daikon oroshi, or a grater. You can grate a radish, ginger, or wasabi with it.
Help us create a menu for a picnic in Central Park.
Deep-fried chicken, sweet egg rolls, and quick pickled cucumber.
Can you suggest bento ideas for Americans who want to bring lunch to the workplace?
Green pea rice, ginger pork, and spinach with peanut dressing.
In your cookbook, most of the ingredients are things we can find in American supermarkets, notably the seafood. How did you conduct your research for the book?
I went to supermarkets in London and checked everything myself. I wanted to know what was easily available.
How do you stay so skinny when testing all of these recipes?
I don’t do anything special. I taste all the ingredients, and I eat small portions regularly.
President Obama and his wife Michelle are encouraging Americans to eat healthful diets. Can you make any suggestions?
From the book, I recommend pork and vegetable miso soup, and tsukune [ground meat patties].
Did you find any new favorite restaurants in New York from your visit here, and do you have any favorite restaurants in Tokyo if we come for a visit there?
Sorry, I have no idea. There are so many great restaurants, but what is more important is enjoying the people you are dining with.
You are indefatigable. How do you manage all of your projects like cookbooks, magazines, TV, etc.?
Out of love for my family and all my friends.
Any ideas on what we can look forward to in your next cookbook in English?
The basic seasoning, soy sauce. I saw a lot of ingredients at the supermarket, and everyone gets confused which one to choose. I recommend you use soy sauce in addition to your own seasonings.
Your English is getting better and better. Have you been studying?
Yes, I’m studying English on the phone, every morning.
At your Japan Society lecture, you gave brilliant advice on entertaining at home. You said that when you have guests coming over, the fi rst thing you do is check to see what’s in your fridge and freezer and create your menu based on what you can build from what’s in your home, going to the supermarket only to purchase additional ingredients. Do you have any other tips for entertaining at home?
Two tips for you. The first one is to prepare some dishes in advance. The second is that I cook some dishes in front of my guests. I can save time this way, and my guests enjoy watching my cooking.
Any final tips or advice?
You should not only go to Japanese restaurants but also cook Japanese dishes at home. Japanese cooking looks difficult, but it can be done easily. I recommend that you try to cook someJapanese dishes.
Learn more about Everyday Harumi atwww.conranusa.com/ProductDetails.aspx?pid=9103997&cid=Books&language=en-US.