English Izakaya Cookbooks

At one time this was the only Izakaya cookbook available for English-speaking clientele. Fortunately some other "Izakaya" cookbooks in English have appeared (see below) but this one is still the best. This is not just a cookbook with recipes (It does have detailed recipes and the explanation of Japanese ingredients) but it introduces the reader to the world of Izakaya culture. This is a very interesting read if you are not familiar with Izakaya or if you are already a big fan of Izakaya. Besides classic small Izakaya, the author also covers more sophisticated drinking places which are best categorized as "Koryori-ya" 小料理屋 as well as fusion style new wave Izakaya best categorized as "Izakaya Bistro" in Tokyo.

This book is one of the reasons I re-started this blog--to share our love of Izakaya and Izakaya food. Many recipes in this book are not difficult to follow and produce very good results. Conversely some recipes may be unnecessarily complex or the ingredients may be difficult to get depending on where you are.

I have made and posted quite a few dishes based on the recipes in this wonderful book and many of them became our home Izakaya "teiban" 定番 or regular dishes including the dish in the cover of this book.

2. Izakaya. Japanese bar food

This is another cookbook specifically for Izakaya food. The recipes and cooking appear not to have been done by Japanese. Although they have many classic Izakaya dishes, the recipes are written in a way that is accessible for a Western cook who may not be very familiar with Japanese cooking in general and Izakaya food in particular. The recipes are rather simple and in some instances not quite authentic in the details. Since I already make many these type of dishes myself with slightly different and probably more authentic variations, nothing jumps out as something I would like to try. The editor may have not completely understood some Japanese culinary terminology such as  difference between "Tonkatsu" and "Tonkatsu sauce". The pictures and presentation were mostly nicely done. In general it is a perfect book for a beginning Izakaya cook and it is good to have it appear on the scene.

3. Izakaya Hawaii Tokkuri Tei Cooking by Hideaki "Santa" Miyoshi.

This is not a quite an Izakaya cookbook but the cookbook of Tokkuritei in Hawaii (We have never been to this restaurant--or Hawaii for that matter). This place, judging from the description and the pictures, appears to be a mix of sushi bar, Japanese-Hawaii fusion  restaurant, and drinking place rather than an izakaya. (Probably it can be categorized as a Hawaiian Izakaya). Like "Nobu: The cook book", there is a section on sauces; some are authentic Japanese (albeit a bit simplified versions) and others are Hawaiian fusion. Obviously, the book had the advantage of a food designer who must have worked on it extensively. The presentations are rather elaborate. In many instances, however, the presentation in the picture and the instruction in the text do not match up. The style of presentation often shows a confetti of colorful peppers and edible and non-edible flowers. The only dish that really inspired me and which I made is on page72, "Hawaii Kai Daikon Meshi. Although there is no instruction on how the presentation in the picture is made, I sort of improvised. It also appears that the recipes are not well tested--the instructions, presentations and ingredient lists do not coincide or portions of seasonings appear not to be correct.  Also the proof reading and editing of the text are not really carefully done (although, I have to admit, this is an area where I myself have to be careful about criticizing). I found most of the dishes not quite Izakaya style and not particularly inspiring and in some cases otherwise unnecessarily difficult to make.

4. Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers by Machio Chiba

Since we often drink wine, especially reds, even when eating Japanese dishes, The title of this book really appealed to me. After browsing through this book, however, only a few dishes were somewhat interesting. Many of the wines paired with these Japanese-style dishes are either white or sparkling wines including champagne. For meat dishes the suggestions were red wines (That, to me, is a bit of a punt, sparkling wines can be easily paired with any Japanese dish or any dish that goes well with sake). Many Japanese Izakaya-style places started serving wines and they are more adventuresome.  One such example is a pairing we observed in Tokyo of miso-flavored offal stew or "nikomi" with Rhone reds.

I cannot recommend this book wholeheartedly. 
Nonetheless there are many Japanese style dishes with wine pairing suggestions which are helpful and may be worthwhile for someone who likes to drink wine with Japanese-style food.

It has been my experience that many time we unintentionally end up trying seemingly strange pairings because of circumstances and wine availability, but with just a few exceptions, wine generally does go reasonably well with Japanese food.

5. Izakaya by Hideo Dekura

This is a relatively new Izakaya cookbook (released on August 3, 2015). It belongs to the similar category as #2 above but it is much better. The author is a Japanese chef who moved to Australia 30 years ago and runs the Culinary Consultancy in Sydney. He is considered an authority on Japanese cuisine in Australia.

This book covers most of the basic Izakaya dishes and some more. It covers everything from drinks to desert. This is a perfect book for anyone interested in making Izakaya dishes for the first time. Most of the dishes are easy to make (especially the small appetizers or "Tsumami") and the instructions appear easy to follow. It also includes instructions on how to prepare sushi and sashimi which could be challenging.  Since I have been cooking these type of dishes for quite some time, I did not find anything novel in the book to inspire me but it is excellent in showing how to prepare basic Izakaya food.

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