One of the things I love about Asian cooking is that no matter how many recipes, ingredients, and cooking techniques there are, there is still always something new to learn. When I chose to receive my new Japanese cookbook, I had no idea what Donabe was; in fact, I thought it was a Japanese cuisine I had never heard of, until co-authors Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton taught me otherwise.
Donabe is a Japanese traditional clay pot cookware that is used for just about every cooking method there is. The donabe can be used in both homes and restaurants, and it is similar to the crockpot in America. One of the things I found fascinating about the history of the donabe is that its main purpose is to bring family together through the sharing of a one pot meal. I thought it was interesting how ingrained the donabe is in the Japanese family structure, and that it isn’t necessarily holiday driven as an excuse to get family together. Moore and Connaughton do an amazing job of illustrating how the donabe is created through the use of their beautiful photography. The only thing that would make me hesitant to use a donabe myself is the fact that it must be used on a gas stove top. I do not like gas stove tops because I am accident prone and that is a 911 emergency waiting to happen. However, I could see myself using a donabe on a grill.
The theme of Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clap Pot Cooking is about tradition, Japanese tradition to be exact, and I was glad to see the book was loaded with traditional Japanese recipes. I had a hard time pronouncing some of the Japanese ingredients and comprehending them on my own, but the co-authors did a wonderful job putting notes at the top of the recipes for how to pronounce the word, what the ingredient is and what it is used for. Although most grocery stores are good about maintaining an ethnic aisle, I discovered in order to get the traditional Japanese ingredients needed for some of the recipes I would have to visit a few Asian markets and thank goodness my city has quite a few.
My favorite recipes were the drunken steam-fried drummettes in shochu sauce, salmon chowder with miso soy-milk broth, and all of the shrimp recipes. I really liked the green tea shrimp because I never knew you could use tea leaves in dishes and have it come out so well. I am so traditional with my tea meaning I drink it, but now I think I will experiment with tea leaves in other dishes and see how they turn out.
Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking is definitely a cookbook that couples rich Japanese history with traditional Japanese recipes.