This is Part 1 of my review series on The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables, which covers a basic read-through, difficulty level of recipes, familiarity of ingredients, and overall production quality.
I will start cooking from the book in Part 2. If I don’t do a Part 2, that means I don’t really use the book, which should give you an idea on its functionality. Eventually, I’ll post the verdict, letting you know my overall opinion of things.
Length: 192 pages
Size: 9.5″ x 9″
Release Date: April 2011
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Full Retail Price: $25.00
Amazon Pre-Order Price: $13.11 (as of March 2011)
The book is written by two men, Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, and this is their second cookbook together. Their first book, Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals, was published in 2009. Tadashi Ono is the executive chef at Matsuri in New York City, while Harris Salat is the author of the blog The Japanese Food Report.
The introduction of the book talks briefly about their first cookbook and explains how their second book was born. They then delve into the history of Japanese grilling with some background on meat-eating trends in Japan. Three key marinades are introduced and their simple approach to grilling is reviewed as well.
After that, they have a chapter explaining various ingredients that they use throughout the book and then go over the basics of grilling, such as types of grills, tools, and some interesting information about a special Japanese charcoal called binchotan.
The book has several different types of “Master” subjects such as Recipes, Techniques, and Marinades. The Master Technique for classic yakitori comes with step-by-step photos of how to skewer chicken for yakitori. Split into seven different sections including: Classic Yakitori, Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Meat, Vegetables, Yaki Onigiri, and Perfect Side Dishes, The Japanese Grill is packed with recipes. To be exact, there are a whopping 115 recipes provided in this book.
An important factor in my review is simplicity of ingredients. There were actually quite a few ingredients that I had never heard of in the book, but I’m pretty sure I can get it at Marukai, provided I bring a specific list of ingredients to search out. It might be more difficult for people who don’t have a good Asian market nearby to find some of these ingredients. Thankfully, you can find most of them on Amazon. The list of stuff I haven’t heard of before:
- Yuzu kosho (red, green)
- Shichimi Togarashi
- Bronzini (a type of fish, apparently)
- Sake kasu
- Karashi mustard
- Sansho Pepper
A lot of these seem to be hot stuff, so I’m not sure I’d buy them and use them.
Tools that they recommend:
The downside to any cookbook filled with so many recipes is that you know there won’t be photographs for everything. For example, the Classic Yakitori section features 20 recipes, but only two recipes actually feature photographs of the food. It sucks because each recipe page has a blank area that a photo could have gone into. From what I could surmise, they had a bunch of recipe testers to help them, and these are likely the recipes that don’t have photos. Either that, or the book’s production cost needed to be kept low by avoiding too many color photos.
Still, their food photography is great, and I really would have loved to see more of it. Overview:
- Classic Yakitori – 20 recipes, two recipe photos, two “group photos” but no references to photo on recipe page. Photo tutorial on skewering.
- Poultry – 13 recipes, two recipe photos, one unnamed photo. Photo tutorials on how to cut whole chickens and how to bone chicken legs.
- Fish & Seafood – 23 recipes, eight photos, one unnamed photo of fish that I’m assuming is the Cedar Plank-Grilled Arctic Char recipe on page 94, but there’s no reference to the page the photo is on and no reference to the recipe on the photo.
- Meat – 25 recipes, five recipe photos.
- Vegetables – 14 recipes, two recipe photos.
- Yaki-Onigiri – 6 recipes, no recipe photos. Photo tutorial on how to make onigiri and how to grill them.
- Side Dishes – 14 recipes, one recipe photo.
There are a couple of errors and mistakes in the book. In one photo, the picture did not match up with their written instructions, such as with the Whole Grilled Japanese Eggplant recipe on page 139. The instructions say to score the whole eggplant with a circular cut, while the photo of eggplant on the page is an eggplant chopped in half and then in pieces, then scored in a criss-cross pattern. The actual photo of the recipe is found at the start of the chapter, on page 136.
On page 149, the Foil-Baked Green Beans recipe states that you must “make sure not to overcook the beans”, yet the photo of the beans on the opposite page are clearly overcooked, having an almost brown color to them and looking like they would be “mushy like hospital food”, which is how they say you don’t want your beans. Marukai is missing the ‘i’ in the sources section in the back.
I do not currently own a grill, but have been shopping around a lot trying to find the right fit for me. Until then, I won’t be able to try anything without simply broiling instead of grilling. I’ve already bought charcoal on sale at Costco, so now it’s just a matter of finding the right grill and the right sale.
Although there seems to be a lot of spicy foods in the book, everything does sound delicious. While I am terribly disappointed in the lack of photos, there are quite a few recipes that I am eager to try, such as the Salmon with Shiso Pesto, Japanese Burgers with Wasabi Ketchup, and Zucchini with Shiso and Olive oil.
The layout of the book and the font used make for easy reading, though some of the ingredient lists have rather wordy instructions in them. For example: 2 pounds short ribs, cut into 4 pieces (each about 3 inches long and 2 inches thick; ask your butcher to do this). Their meat section seems like it could have benefited from a little separated section on the page in regards to the cut of meat.
Instructions are in paragraph form, which isn’t my preference since I feel like it can be easy to miss something that way.
Full price of the book is $25.00, but the Amazon pre-order price is a very reasonable $13.11 and had I purchased this book myself, I would have been quite happy with the book for that price, even with my little gripes above. Thirteen bucks for over a hundred recipes is a definite bargain in my book.
Check back later for the next part of my review series on this book!
Disclosure: This book was sent to be for review by Ten Speed Press. I was not paid to write this review.