On any regular Thursday evening in Tokyo, you’d probably find me in a restaurant or bar, soaking up the crowds, cramped conditions and conversation (the “three Cs"), but most of all, enjoying the food. Ranked by the number of Michelin-starred restaurants, Tokyo is the greatest culinary city in the world, and not being able to dine out has been one of the more minor tragedies of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, even though the state of emergency has run its course, you’re more likely to find me hunched over a gas burner, waiting for mirin- and shoyu-laden sauces to thicken as I do my best to recreate the dishes I miss the most. The efforts aren’t unguided and, when off the stove, my nose is pressed to the pages of a cookbook, taking inspiration from those who have taken great care to demystify the cuisine and write recipes that are both easy to follow and delicious.

One of my favorites has been "The Real Japanese Izakaya Cookbook.” Published last November, it is a cookbook for those missing the esteemed Japanese establishments known as izakaya. The book has recipes for 120 izakaya-style snacks, from karaage (fried chicken) and gyōza (dumplings) to more ambitious dishes such as glazed pork belly with seasonal greens. The instructions are all easy to follow, and there’s a comprehensive section on the cooking techniques that underpin the recipes. (Tip: If you’re looking for pork belly or any of the basics of Japanese cuisine in bulk, Hanamasa is your best bet in Tokyo)