Book Review – The Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carving

Kodansha - The Decorative Art of Japanese Food CarvingThe Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carving by Hiroshi Nagashima, Kodansha International, 2009, 112 pp.

The Japanese eat with their eyes as evident with food carving that decorates dishes at kaiseki restaurants. No other book has captured this dying art to such detail. The book is filled with instructions and photos that give you the tools to recreate these at home. Simple recipes are included as well as a guide to the carving tools. What is most impressive is the delicate and thin slices that chef Hiroshi Nagashima, of Honganji temple restaurant Shisui in Tsukiji, uses to transform fruit and vegetables into edible art.

We tested a few of these at home and were tickled with our successful results. Complicated as some of these look, it is easy to make the curls and knots. The chapter on cucumber carvings in particular was a snap to recreate at home, and satisfying on the palate.

Book Review – Japanese Kitchen Knives

Japanese Kitchen Knives

Japanese Kitchen Knives by Hiromitsu Nozaki with Kate Klippensteen, Kodansha International, 2009, 160 pp.

Revered chef Hiromitsu Nozaki’s cookbooks in Japanese are rich with classic recipes and techniques. Finally, his first book in English and it does not disappoint. Japanese knives are revered around the world and chef Nozaki clearly defines why in this handsome book. He starts off not with knives, but with cutting posture, the proper stance and even at what angle to face the cutting board. We tried this at home and realized quickly what a revelation this small change made in the kitchen.

While there are many Japanese knives Nozaki focuses on the main three that most chefs work with daily, usuba, deba, and yanagiba. Photos and clear directions guide readers through each step on working with these knives. Classic cutting techniques covered include katsuramuki for paper thin rolls of daikon, sasagaki for thin vegetable slivers, and sanmai oroshi for filleting fish. The tutorials on cutting sashimi are worth the price of the book alone. Easy and delicious recipes are included so that you can put to practice these newly acquired skills.

Finally, essential information on caring and sharpening your knives round out this book which will become a reference book that you will go back to many times.