Cookbook Project

My adventure into Japanese cooking began in April 2007, in a cooking forum called CooksTalk. The forum is hosted by Taunton Press, publisher of Fine Cooking magazine.As you can imagine, many of the forum members buy a good number of cookbooks. While some of these books are good reading, many of them languish in collections and are never actually cooked from. One of the members came up with the idea of The CooksTalk Project: participants would choose a book and over a year they would cook all the recipes in that book.Some of the books chosen include: KAF Whole Grain Baking, Artisan Baking Across America, Chez Jacques, Many Hands Cooking (cooking with children), Secrets of Succes, A Twist of the Wrist, Rose’s Christmas Cookies, The Flavours of Canada, Marcella Says… and Barefoot Contessa.I am cooking from The Japanese Kitchen, by Hiroko Shimbo. For the project, we are supposed to cook the recipes as written with no substitutions. It’s been interesting to learn about Japanese home cooking, and I’ve discovered that Japanese food is not at all what I thought it would be. The book includes about 250 recipes, and I don’t expect to finish in one year, but I’m pleased that the food offers so much variety in flavors and cooking techniques.


36 thoughts on “Cookbook Project

  1. The photos are gorgeous and appetizing. I hope the testing and tasting continues for all 250 recipes.

  2. Hi Tess, this is Amy from Blue Lotus.

    I’m so glad you’ve started this blog! I think your project is amazing, but I didn’t keep track of it as well as I could because I found the format at Cook’s Talk a little hard to follow.

    Best of luck!

  3. Hi Amy,

    I’ve been following your blog for almost a year. When I’m wondering how something is supposed to look (my book does not have photos), I find inspiration from your pictures. I like that you show a whole meal setting with descriptions of what all the dishes are.

    I have a lot to learn about blogging, but so far, so good. When I get this freelance job done (on Sunday), I’ll get back to my Japanese cooking. Enough of Trader Joe’s and “throw it toward the stove and cook what lands in the pot.” I miss miso soup and rice!

  4. Hello Tess

    What an interesting project! I love Japanese food, and am blessed with a Japanese stepmother-in-law. Good luck and I look forward to reading your recipes.

    Helen Yuet Ling

  5. Hello! I came from your friend’s blog.
    How cool you all!
    I am amazed by your Japanese cooking!!!
    Just wanted to comment this!
    I will read more when I have time.

  6. Hello Tess – Do you know “karashi renkon” ? Would love to be able to prepare it (in New York) Looking for recipe – please advise if possible. Sincerely, “tortillapress”

  7. Sorry I don’t know karashi renkon, but I googled it and it looks good! I’ve seen various stuffed renkon recipes but never tried any of them.

    It looks as if you can get this book: (菊乃井英文版: Kaiseki; The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto’s Kikunoi Restaurant – Google Books Result
    by Yoshihiro Murata – 2006 – Cooking – 192 pages) then you would find a recipe for “Fried Lotus Root with Japanese Mustard.” The type is very small and difficult to read on screen but it looks like it has ground fish, Saikyo miso, Japanese mustard, dijon mustard, and bonnito powder for the stuffing. The precise amounts are too blurry to read. Let me know if you make it!

    • I have been searching for months, and was finally able to read this recipe on Amazon…

      1/2 lotus root
      2/3 oz (20 g) ground fish fillet
      2/3 oz Saikyo Miso paste
      1 tsp Japanese mustard
      1 tsp Dijon Mustard
      A little dried bonito powder (dashi)
      Vegetable oil for deep frying

      1. Peel the lotus root. Soak in water, and steam.
      2. Combine ground fish and stuffing in a food processor.
      3. Powder the holes of lotus roots from step 1 with flour and fill with stuffing from step 2
      4. Coat the stuffed lotus root with flour and bonito powder. Deep fry at about 320º F (160ºC)
      5. Slice the fried lotus roots from step 4 into rounds.

      • Hi hi Amy Muramatsu!!

        Thank you!

        I don’t know if you are the same person as tortillapress above or not, but this is a question I’ve remembered since her post above.

        But I did not remember that I had found that book though. Memory is odd sometimes.

        After all this time cooking, I think it could be made with the lotus root I can easily find: it’s not fresh, but it is whole and ready to be stuffed. And it’s a recipe I have wondered about for a long time as well.

        What do you think? could I use the lotus root that is peeled, boiled, and sealed in plastic? ?

        Thank you again for reminding me!

  8. I have eaten karashi renkon and my mother used to make it often. She doesn’t cook as much now but if I remember correctly it was very easy to make. It’s the fresh lotus root that is hard to find.

    Karashi is just a combination of red peppers and sesame seeds, Fry the renkon in oil, add the karashi and saute until tender. Add slivered green onion and serve on hot rice. You can also use burdock root instead of renkon.

    And Tess-thanks for sharing your cooking and pictures. Your site is AWESOME!

  9. Another Tess,
    Interesting. Your version is so very much different. I did get a copy of the book mentioned in my above comment and the recipe is pretty much as described. I am keeping a look-out for fresh lotus root and when I find one, I’ll post about it. I can usually find them peeled, boiled, and sealed with water in plastic. Those are more reliable in these parts than the fresh ones—but I have found a couple that were still “fresh.” Thank you for the compliment.

  10. Hello Tess,
    Thanks to come and comment on my blog.
    I really appreciate!

    Anyway, you did very good job both on your blog and cooking!
    There’re many food you did but I’ve never do even though I’m Japanese.
    I wish you have good time with Japanese goods!

  11. What a great project! Love your results. Particularly impressive are the pickles and the deep frying – two things I rarely do due to the space and the oil, respectively!

  12. Hi Tess-
    Fun project! Seeing you into the fall as well…

    Have you tried Oden yet?

    I lived in Japan and have loved okonomiyaki since way back when. You are spot on with the yama-imo. It is a must EVEN if many Japanese don’t use it!
    My recipe is similar to yours but my add-ins different. I love octopus. Squid and Octopus [sashimi] are popular in Japan. I often add chikuwa as well. Sometimes these little fried bits found in the frozen section are used. I forget their name.

    I did something similar to you but it was an independent undertaking that began in 1991. I used what is still considered the “bible” of Japanese cooking: Shizuo Tsuji’s “Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art” with a forward by M.F.K.Fisher. This tome can not be surpassed for essential information, original Japanese recipes and it’s fluency in guiding the Nippon lover through the native cuisine.

    All the best!

  13. Hi Miki,
    Oden is still on my “must do” list. for the winter. This project is obviously taking me much longer than a year. LOL
    I have Shizio Tsuji’s book, the eighth printing with the forward by M.F.K. Fisher, too! In fact, an acquaintance who gave me her book, same edition, so now I should find a good home for it. It’s an excellent book.
    The crispy bits are tenkasu. I’ve only ever used them as add-ins for miso soup.

  14. Hello again, Tess.

    The answer was really easy to find after all. This is such a great project! You are inspiring, really.

  15. Hi,

    Im trying to figure out wich is the easiest way to make Japanese style Sushi. ‘Why, sushi?’, you ask. Well im going to ask some people to try it, and since theyre all american they might not know about any other Japanese cuisine, so, some of the people might be picky if its a foreign food that they’ve never heard of, so I picked the most simple; sushi. So, could you give me the easiest way on how to make it?


    the project your trying to fullfill is awesome

  16. I think it’s a wonderful thing you are doing here by going into a book in so much detail – it’s a rare thing these days for anymore to go deeply into a subject. As a result your site is a real repository – a treasury of information and inspiration. I love seeing the photographs of what you have made and the steps involved in making a recipe too. It’s really bringing the book alive for me. Many thanks.

  17. Pingback: Stuffed Lotus Root « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

  18. Oh wow thank you very much for starting this when I left japan I thought I would never taste good Japanese food again But thanks to you I can make this stuff at home!. Thank you!!

    P.S. I know you’ve probably heard the joke before but any chance when you write your memoir about this experience you’ll call it Tess and Tamago?

  19. Aikune,
    Hope you enjoy my blog—
    Of late, I’ve been wondering off from Ms. Shimbo’s book to explore other Japanese home recipes. The good news is that she will be publishing an new cookbook:

    But there is another side of Japanese cooking that my first books did not directly address. That is the continually evolving and adapting nature of Japanese cuisine and its ready adoption of materials, techniques and recipes for other cuisines.

    Tess and Tamago—that sounds good!

  20. Haha like Mr Tess’ comment :D

    Do you have more pics of Mikey somewhere here? Looks like my Mala who I (The Mr) rescued from the (semi-) wild when she was dying in a cold winter and I guessed her species but don’t have that confirmed… wonder what your Mikey is?

  21. Mikey is a mutt, or maybe that only applies to dogs, that word “mutt.”

    Perhaps better to say he is a big sweetie, a big bully to other cats, but a big loyal-loving-feline of his human family.

    I’ll make a post about him in the next few days and you will see what I mean. You could send me a link to a picture of your Mala in the comments.


    Mr. Tess is a big sweetie too. Just not a cat…

    • Yes well that’s officially what Mala is too but after googling and reading a lot I’ve decided that she’s a Siberian forestcat. The description of this species is so her (The man says I’m nuts, she’s just a mutt)! (Dog-like devotion and personality, love for water,They like high places and are powerful leapers….sometimes I feel like I have a dog when she fetches the ball :p ) Don’t have any pics online of her yet but I’ll await your post first.

    • Thank you for your comments. I checked out your blog and must take some time to look through it. Your photos are wonderful. The details in your posts show a lot of Japanese life that I would never have thought of: the rice on a campfire? Wow!

  22. I am very happy to have found your website. I’ve spent years looking for information on delicious and interesting Japanese Home cooking. My visit to Japan, which was one of the happiest accomplishments of my life, made me realize how little we here in the US understand, experience and appreciate Japanese cuisine especially the food that people cook at home. I love Sushi and Sashimi, but I’m tired of those restaurants the way I’m tired of Chinese take-out and what poses as Indian food here in the states. I haunt stores like Mitsuwa in Edgewater, NJ so I can sample new things; it’s a little frustrating because 75% of what they sell is a mystery to me. I was drawn here by the Ramen recipes and will stay for all the rest. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

  23. You’ve been very quiet, I haven’t received any posts from you in a long time. Is everything okay?

    • Hi then!

      I hope you like Japanese home cooking. My site has not been updated for quite a long time due to work commitments.

      I also hope that you take my comments to heart, the ones we were discussing on the forums? It’s difficult to turn down comments, but okay, you read those posts already. I appreciate your interest. And I wish you well.

      If you do really like Japanese home cooking, then please know that my plan is to add more posts soon. ≥^!^≤

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