A Day in Tokyo: A Japanese Cookbook

Image of A Day in Tokyo: A Japanese Cookbook
Release Date: 
March 12, 2024
Smith Street Books
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Serious foodies have always raved about Tokyo’s fabulous food finds in a city where no matter the time of the place, there’s always a treat ready to be had.

Now, Brendan Liew and Caryn Ng, who established chotto, a pop-up Japanese café in Melbourne, Australia, where they introduced the art of traditional ryokan-style breakfasts, have written a cookbook highlighting the best of Tokyo’s round-the-clock cuisine and culture.

Lew has worked at the three-Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin in Roppongi, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, and also studied the art of ramen-making in Japan before delving into kappo and modern kaiseki cuisine. In Melbourne, he worked at Kappo, Supernormal, Golden Fields and Bistro Vue. Together, Brendan and Caryn have traveled extensively through Japan’s countryside and major cities to explore, learn, and live the country’s culture and gastronomy.

As its name implies, the book is divided into chapters by the time of day starting with Early when the streets are silent. Recipes in this section include Kitsune Udon, a noodle dish made with deep-fried tofu, sea mustard, and sake and Funwari Hottokeki or Souffle Hotcakes.

Mid is a time when people head to their favorite ramen shops, curry houses, and depechika, department store basements filled with grocers, fishmongers, specialty pickle sellers, furikake or places to buy rice seasonings, wines, patisseries, umeboshi or stores selling pickled plums, and food stalls where one can buy rice balls, tempera, bento box meals, and other lunch items.

Late, when the sunsets behind Mt. Fuji and the neon lights of Tokyo flicker to life, is when Tokyo's boisterous and lively night scene comes to life. Recipes include Chawanmushi, a savory egg custard and Kanikorokke or Crab Croquettes.

The last chapter, Basics, shows how to cook rice, milk bread, and hot spring eggs as well as tempura flour and different types of dashi. This is followed by a glossary of common ingredients in Japanese cooking found in Asian and Japanese supermarkets or greengrocers.

“It would be impossible to dine at every restaurant in Tokyo in a single lifetime. Layer upon layer of dining establishments exist here, stacked on top of each other in high-rise buildings, hidden down long narrow alleyways, and crammed tightly together in warrens. Their only signposts are noren, small-calligraphed signs accompanied by delicately arranged sprigs of flowers or traditional Japanese lanterns hung outside the door,” write the authors in the book’s introduction. “Tokyo is a city where centuries-old restaurants can be found in between modern ones, where third, fourth, and fifth generations of chefs’ neatly pressed white jackets live the life of shokunin, (a word commonly translated as artisan, but which encapsulates so much more) going through the processes their forefathers went through before them.”

The 96 recipes are not necessarily difficult, indeed some are very easy. But for those unfamiliar with Japanese cooking, it may seem daunting. The best approach is to start with recipes like Bifu Shichu Hotto Sando (Beef Stew Jaffles) or Yakitori (skewers of marinated chicken) which don’t require a long list of unusual ingredients or a lot of steps. And then continue from there.