Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why Japanese food comes in tiny little dishes

Welcome to my VeganMoFo 2009 Japanese edition! For the month of October, as a personal MoFo challenge, I will be cooking, eating, and blogging exclusively Japanese food.

Today's menu is brought to you courtesy of Kimiko Barber, from her extremely beautiful The Japanese Kitchen. This is not a vegan book, but the author does know the word, and will make "vegan-directed" comments from time to time.

It is also excellent as to acquainting the Western reader/diner with basic ingredients of Japanese food, and the history of Japanese cuisine. So, thanks, Kimiko! The first recipes I made from your book were all fantastic, and also comforting, because I've been a little afraid that I wouldn't find enough to eat this month to keep myself alive, that Japanese cuisine would consist largely of seaweed and soy sauce, etc.

So, I'm not going to breach Kimiko's copyright by posting her recipes online, but I encourage you to buy her book as I did, read it through—even the meat and fish sections, because they're pretty fascinating, and fascinatingly pretty too—and this is what I had for supper on my first VeganMoFo 2009 night:

Komatsuna no kuro goma ae (Mustard spinach with black sesame dressing)
Maitake ni (Simmered maitaki mushrooms)
Yakitori—or rather—Yakidoufu (Tofu and leek kabobs), since I subbed tofu for the original chicken
White (medium grain) rice

I'm aware that this is the first picture on my blog so far to feature a full meal as it were "organized" and not just a closeup of the inside of a plate or bowl. The reason that Japanese meals are served like this, in little bowls or plates, immediately becomes obvious once you start cooking this way and eating with chopsticks.

First, some of the dishes, like the mushrooms here, have their own little sauce that you might not want bleeding into everything else. Second, it's polite according to Japanese etiquette to lift the bowls (of rice, say) up close to your mouth so that you can eat with less chance of dropping items of food into your lap, and this is easier and more elegant to do if the bowl is small. Third, it really looks beautiful, doesn't it? This meal isn't something you want to eat sitting at the computer—and in fact you can't do it; it demands, and deserves, one's full attention.

You can look up versions of these recipes on the Internet and you'll probably come close to what Kimiko Barber has published and I made today. Good luck! It's worth it!


  1. Oh wow! I love Japanese food but it isn't something that I eat a lot. I love the way it looks, the way it is presented and most of all the way it tasted. I can't wait to see more.

  2. That all looks great! well presented. I look forward to more Japanese goodies.