Interview with Harumi Kurihara for JQ Magazine

Harumi Kurihara

Harumi Kurihara

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

Setouchi Shunsaikan Antenna Shop

Setouchi Shunsaikan Antenna Shop

Setouchi Shunsaikan Antenna Shop

Setouchi Shunsaikan せとうち旬彩館

Minato-ku, Shinbashi 2-19-10 港区新橋2-19-10

Tel. 03-3574-7792

10:00 – 20:00, no holidays (Japanese)

This shop is a collaboration of both Ehime and Kagawa prefectures in the rich Setouchi inland sea on the island of Shikoku. Naturally this shop has a wide variety of seafood. Ehime is also famous for its production of mikan, a tangerine like fruit that makes a refreshing juice. There is a restaurant on the second floor, Kaorihime, specializes in udon noodles.

Murakara Machikara Antenna Shop in Yurakucho

Murakara Machikara Antenna Shop

Murakara Machikara Antenna Shop

While antenna shops typically represent a prefecture, this shop carries a mishmash of items from all over Japan. The shop is not that organized, so you have to know what you are looking for. There are several antenna shops in the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, like Hokkaido, Akita, and many more, so definitely worth spending some time here. There are a wide variety of items including miso, natto, sake, wagashi, sembei, pickles, and more. Perhaps the most interesting is the selection of miso in the refrigerator section. Customers can taste through a variety of miso before purchasing.

Mura Kara Machi Kara Kan むらからまちから館

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 千代田区有楽町2−10−1東京交通会館

Tel. 03-5208-1521

10:00 – 19:30 (10:00 – 19:00 on weekends and holidays) (Japanese)

Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza – Antenna Shop

Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza

Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza

Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza 北海道どさんこプラザ

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 千代田区有楽町2−10−1東京交通会館

Tel. 03-5224-3800

10:00 – 19:00, no holidays (Japanese)

The large northern island of Hokkaido is famous for many agricultural products including kombu, potatoes, dairy products and its rich seafood including salmon and crab. Potatoes are represented here with croquettes, dairy with soft cream cones and the trendy salted caramels and the seafood selection changes seasonally. Here you will find some Japanese wine made in Hokkaido. Hokkaido’s climate is ideal for growing grapes as it stays much drier than the rest of Japan. Also, the cool evenings allow the grapes to ripen slowly giving the wines a nice, natural acidity. German varietals, especially a steely Kerner, does well in Hokkaido. And, it is also known for its unique fruit wines, look for strawberry, sweet melon (think cantaloupe), or pear. I’ve been drinking the strawberry Hokkaido wine for over twenty years. One of my Japanese aunt’s does not drink a lot, and she likes these as they are light in alcohol, sweet, and fruity.

The Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza is conveniently located in the same building with a few antenna shops so worth a visit if you have time and are curious about regional foods.

Kagoshima Yurakukan Antenna Shop in Yurakucho

Japan is a small country, about the size of California, yet each prefecture and region has its own local food and the Japanese treasure these regional products. There is no better expression of the diverse terroir of Japan than its local commodities. Kombu harvested from the rich mineral waters of Hokkaido. The southern prefecture of Kagoshima is famous for its sweet potatoes, which are the base for its heady imo jochu (sweet potato shochu).

Antenna shops act as both stores offering items that are often hard to find outside of the region as well as public relations office offering brochures about the local area. From local beverages like sake or shochu, pickles, sweets and meats, these antenna shops offer great finds and are worth carefully perusing. If you are looking for pottery from a certain region, for example the pastel glazed Hagiyaki from Yamaguchi, then these regional antenna shops are a good place to start.

Some shops will have restaurants featuring local foods, kyodo ryori (郷土料理) and these too are a great way to try food you normally would not have the chance to.

Kagoshima Yurakukan

Kagoshima Yurakukan

Kagoshima Yurakukan かごしま遊楽館

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 1-6-4, Chiyoda Building 千代田区有楽町1−6−4千代田ビル

Tel. 03-3580-8821

10:00 – 20:00 (10:00 – 19:00 weekends and holidays) (English)

Kagoshima also on Kyushu is famous for its shochu, in particular imo jochu from sweet potatoes, of which the shop has an unusually large selection. The cuisine is rich with kurobuta (Berkshire pork) products, Satsuma age fish cakes and more. The restaurant on the second floor, Ichi nii san, serves up a kurobuta based menu in a variety of presentations including tonkatsu or shabu-shabu.

Tokyo Bargain Dining

Elaine Louie, who is a fellow author at The Little Bookroom, has penned this great article for the New York Times on cheap eats in Tokyo.

Here is her book on Cheap Eats in London:

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Kanda Yabu Soba

Yabu Soba

Yabu Soba

UPDATE: Kanda Yabu Soba caught on fire on February 19, 2013. 40 customers and employees were in the restaurant during dinner service when the fire was noticed. Everyone was safely evacuated. A spokesperson for Kanda Yabu Soba has said on NHK news the following day that the restaurant hopes to reopen in six months.

If you are to visit only one soba shop in Tokyo, then it should be Yabu Soba in Kanda. Soba aficionados from around the country trek to this fifth generation shop that opened in 1880. Enter through a compact garden and step back in time in this old building. The room is traditional Japanese with dark colored wood and paper-covered lights. Listen carefully and you can hear the girl behind the cash register sing out each order to the kitchen. This is the only place in Japan that I have seen this done. The elderly kimono clad waitresses efficiently manage the busy dining room. If you are hungry the diverse menu allows you to order a few dishes prior to closing the meal with noodles, like sashimi yuba, tempura, and grilled nori. There is also a full menu of soba, both hot and cold.

Seiro Soba

Seiro Soba

Kanda Yabu Soba かんだやぶそば

Chiyoda-ku, Awajicho 2-10 千代田区淡路町2-10

Tel. 03-3251-0287

11:30 – 19:30

some holidays in January and August (Japanese) (English)

Tokyo Bargain Dining – Maisen Tonkatsu in Omotesando まい泉とんかつ

Maisen's Tonkatsu

Maisen's Tonkatsu

If you have not had tonkatsu in Japan you probably have not experienced the juicy pork cutlet with the crispy panko breaded. This served up with a hot bowl of rice and a large haystack of julienned cabbage does not disappoint. Season the cabbage and pork with some tonkatsu dressing, a dark, sweet, thick sauce (think ketchup and Worcestershire sauce) and dig in.

There are many shops in Tokyo, but one of the perennial favorite on any round up of tonkatsu shops consistently has Maisen at the top. There are many shops, including in depachika for take-out, throughout the city. The main shop, in Aoyama, is a few blocks behind Omotesando Hills, and a short walk from the funky shopping street Takeshita Dori in Harajuku.

Maisen Interior

Maisen Interior

There are several rooms on the two story shop in Aoyama. This is the main dining room. It used to be a bathhouse. I don’t sense it when I am there, and I don’t know why anyone who writes about it seems to feel like they need to mention it. I am including it in this blog so that you can know that yes, this is the tonkatsu shop that used to be a bathhouse.

Maisen Counter

Maisen Counter

There is usually a line, don’t worry, it moves quickly as it is a large restaurant. This here is the counter and guests are usually lined up on the right hand side along the window. There is also a take-out cart in front of the shop.

The tonkatsu sandwich is also popular, fried cutlets with sauce between white bread. I prefer my tonkatsu hot so have not come to understand the popularity of these sandwiches. My recommendation is any small farmed pork on the menu. I have had a great Okinawan pork in the past. Also, be sure to upgrade the soup to a tonjiru, thin slices of pork with vegetables in a miso soup.

Maisen まい泉

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5 渋谷区神宮前4-8-5

Phone: 03-3470-0071