The izakaya consistently eludes description in English: Is it a bar? A tavern? Some sort of gastropub affair? Though it’s impossible to agree on a definition, it’s now possible to recreate all the classic izakaya dishes at home with Wataru Yokota’s “The Real Japanese Izakaya Cookbook.”
TUTTLE PUBLISHING, Cooking.
With 120 recipes, divided into sections based on course (“Snacks and Starters”) and method (such as “Grilled, Roasted, Baked, Sauteed” or “Deep-fried”), it’s not only easy to find a dish to suit your mood — or what you’ve got in the pantry — but also determine how much time and effort go into preparation.
Yokota, a chef and restaurant consultant, has included industry standards such as “Crispy Fried Chicken Nuggets,” aka karaage, and “Dashi Steeped Tomato” but also more unusual offerings like “Spicy Stuffed Sardines Au Gratin” and “Soy and Sake Honey-Glazed Ribs.” For burgeoning chefs looking for more of a challenge, there’s also an intriguing section on how to smoke your own meat and seafood at home, even without specialized equipment.
Translator (and regular contributor to The Japan Times) Makiko Itoh has rendered Yokota’s instructions in an approachable — albeit occasionally brief — way. Fortunately there’s several useful primers at the beginning about some of the less-familiar Japanese ingredients, how to make dashi and even on drink pairings. However, as Yokota emphasizes in his introduction: When the izakaya is your own home, “you don’t need to feel constrained by any rules.”