UPDATE: Hiroko Shimbo's American Kitchen -- Plus a Giveaway!

March 12, 2013

We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today: We sit down with Hiroko Shimbo, the ever-enthusiastic author of Hiroko's American Kitchen, who is making accessible, exciting Japanese food a reality in our country -- one kitchen at a time. Read on, and enter to win one of five copies of Hiroko's book!


Shop the Story

A passionate cook, writer, and all-around food-enthusiast, Hiroko Shimbo is working to make Japanese food accessible to -- and beloved by -- American cooks. With her new book, Hiroko's American Kitchen, she has certainly succeeded. In it, she gives us four basic recipes for her favorite staples -- two broths and two sauces -- that serve as the foundation for a variety of recipes, from the familiar to the intriguing. 

We were lucky to have Hiroko stop by the office last week to chat about her new book and have an in-depth conversation about miso (these things happen at Food52 HQ!). Read our interview below, pick up some Japanese pantry essentials in our shop, and get cooking!

Your latest book, Hiroko's American Kitchen, shows American cooks how to prepare new Japanese dishes without exhausting themselves in search of impossible-to-find ingredients or tools. What is the easiest way for those of us unfamiliar with Japanese-style cooking to integrate it into our kitchens?
The best way is to prepare simple Japanese stocks or sauces -- like the kelp stock, dashi stock, and miso sauces found in my book. These are easy to make, and the stocks freeze well.  You can incorporate them into a variety of dishes -- with the recipes in my book, you will discover how these simple ingredients can take familiar foods to a new level. And once you have become familiar with some of these recipes, you can strike out on your own!

What are your first memories of food? When did you first become passionate about food?
When I was in second grade, my teacher taught us to make very simple, humble and quick eggplant pickles. I reproduced them at home on that very night for our dinner. My mother, who is an excellent cook and had been cooking meals not only for the family, but also for the patients in my father’s small hospital, tried the pickles and gave me a big thumbs up, exclaimimg, “delicious!”. It gave me the confidence to think that someday I might be as good a cook as she is. At the age of 86, my mother is still one of the finest cooks I know, and I am always gratified when she gives me that same thumbs up.

When you travel to Japan, what -- or where -- do you eat first?
Sushi! Sushi in Japan can still beat the sushi anywhere outside of Japan because of its quality, variety, creativity, and even price. And sushi dining in Japan is great fun; chatting with the chef and all the other diners at the counter is an essential part of the meal that seems to be missing outside the country. It’s a wonderful, social dining experience.

In your opinion, what are the biggest differences between cooking styles in Japan and America?
In American and Western cooking, oil and dairy are very prominent, and red meat is often the primary food on the plate. Also, an American meal tends to consist of only a few preparations, each served in a rather large portion – the typical dinner plate often features a meat, a starch, and one vegetable.

Japanese cooking, on the other hand, uses little or no cooking oil in the preparations. Oil-free but nutritionally rich dashi stock (kelp stock infused with dried skipjack fish flakes) serves as the foundation of many dishes. We use a variety of seasonal seafood and vegetables, along with very modest quantities of meat. A Japanese meal consists of 5 to 6 varieties of prepared foods, each served in a small portion, with a balance of flavors, aromas, textures, and colors to form a nutritionally balanced meal.

What is your all-time favorite meal?
This is a difficult question to answer! I love any meal that is simply prepared using fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients so that the results highlight and celebrate the natural flavor of each ingredient.

Want to win a copy of Hiroko's American Kitchen? Tell us in the comments: 

What is your favorite Japanese dish? (Creativity is encouraged!)

Answer by Friday, March 15 at 4 PM EST -- we'll pick five winners at random and contact them by email.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mr mike
    mr mike
  • edibleobsessions
  • Sdelman
  • Lizziebird
  • Monica C
    Monica C
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



mr M. June 12, 2013
ton catsu-(forgot how to spell it properly) keri-san
edibleobsessions March 20, 2013
Sdelman March 17, 2013
Lizziebird March 17, 2013
Sushi!! Any type. . .
Monica C. March 15, 2013
grilled eel is my favorite Japanese dish
lisabu March 15, 2013
Hot, freshly cooked koshakiri (new) rice with shoyu and a raw egg on top.
wgfoodie March 14, 2013
anything that falls under the washoku category is fascinating and enticing to me!
alywit March 14, 2013
Tamago Nigiri is one of my favorites.
Brenzo March 14, 2013
Can't pick one favorite, as my true answer would be 'anything that my Momma makes'. I was truly blessed growing up to have a mother who was an amazing cook and incorporating Japanese twists into our Western meals.

But, for the sake of the contest, I will choose one. The doughy treat my Mom made me when we had tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlets). After the cutlets were thru the egg wash and flour and bread crumbs, and after they were fried, there was always a bit of leftover egg wash and flour. My Mom would mix the egg and flour Together, then fry it. When finished, while still warm, it would be dusted with powdered sugar.
This treat was so fun for me. And delicious. I looked forward to it whenever we had tonkatsu. And looking back, it's also very resourceful. The egg and flour was contaminated from the pork, and would have otherwise been thrown out. Instead, nothing was wasted, and my day was made. I love these treats, but even more I love the memory, and my Mom, for always giving me the nourishment I needed.
mikansan March 14, 2013
Nabe! <3
alcie March 14, 2013
Sushi, miso soup and real ramen!!
MsMora March 14, 2013
I love all the textural qualities of Japanese food, especially natto and shiokara. Some of the rather strong smelling products, such as kusaya (fermented fish), are favorites as well. My Japanese friends tell me I'm more Japanese than they are.
k.woody March 14, 2013
Absolutely love toro, but I also fall hard for ramen in a spicy miso broth with pork and a nice runny egg on top. Yum!
247foodlover March 14, 2013
My favorite is: Miso Ramen with cha-shu (pork), bamboo shoots, and jelly-ear with a side of a boiled egg that's been simmered in soy sauce. So yummy! Chicken Heart Yakitori (all yakitori in general)and Soboro Rice are definitely a close second. So hard to choose the best dish since I love Japanese food! :)
kimcam March 14, 2013
My absolute favorite as of last December is miso tsukemen - wish I could find it in the states!
Amy W. March 14, 2013
sushi or sashimi! I like sashimi more though.
krisk67 March 14, 2013
Soups: miso, noodles, whatever.
taikobaker March 14, 2013
Scalding hot miso soup with rice and an egg poached in it with crisp, buttered sourdough toast on the side. Best breakfast!
bethihearyoucalling March 13, 2013
Oyako donburi. So comforting.
Katiedidit March 13, 2013
Almost anything--I am not a fan of natto but I might be able to learn. Grilled mackerel might be my most favorite. Yum!