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Design: Saiko Miyasato

Essential Japanese cookbooks for every home chef

Learn Japanese home recipes and sushi techniques and discover the secrets to Tokyo's world-famous cuisine with these cookbooks

By Jessica Thompson
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Re-creating quality Japanese cuisine at home can seem a little daunting, but thankfully, there are some excellent cookbooks out there to give guidance, whether you’re after an easy introduction to Japanese cuisine, or want to dive a little deeper. As well as a range of tasty and accessible recipes, these books offer insight into the rich culinary landscape of Japan. The recipes range from traditional to modern, equipping you with the building blocks to cook – and eat – Japanese cuisine with confidence.

Here are some Japanese cookbooks that every home kaiseki chef should read.

RECOMMENDED: Check out these sensational documentaries about Japanese food

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Sushi Master Cookbook
Sushi Master Cookbook
Photo: Sushi Master

Sushi Master by Nick Sakagami

Sushi may have simple ingredients – just rice and fish – but that means quality and technique make all the difference. Seafood importer and consultant Tetsuya ‘Nick’ Sakagami demysties sushi with this thorough, down-to-earth masterclass of a cookbook. Follow step-by-step visual instructions to make sushi like hamachi (amberjack) and scallion roll, sea urchin nigiri and salmon rice balls, plus sashimi, soups and side dishes. Sakagami is the only officially certified osakana meister (fish master) outside Japan, as recognised by the Japan Fish Meister Association, and his expertise and charisma jump right off the page. His advice on choosing the best quality fish, honing your knife skills, making sushi rice, and even tips on fishing and sustainability make this essential reading for any aspiring sushi chef. 

Tokyo New Wave cookbook
Tokyo New Wave cookbook
Photo: Tokyo New Wave

Tokyo New Wave: 31 Chefs Defining Japan's Next Generation by Andrea Fazzari

In this award-winning cookbook, writer-photographer Andrea Fazzari profiles 31 chefs redefining modern Japanese cuisine. There are plenty of photos along with in-depth interviews with each chef, plus a recipe for one of their signature dishes. What defines this group of young chefs is an approach to cooking that’s less strict and more cosmopolitan than their predecessors. Zaiyu Hasegawa of Tokyo restaurant Den, known for his quirky take on kaiseki cuisine, shares his recipe for sea urchin roe in soy bechamel, while Hiroyasu Kawate from Harajuku French-Japanese restaurant Florilege, shares wagyu carpaccio with potato puree and beet consomme. Many of the restaurants featured have Michelin stars, but the recipes are readily accessible for the home cook – there’s a straightforward recipe for gyukatsu (beef cutlet), and the pumpkin lasagne with gorgonzola mousse is a delicious challenge. 

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Tokyo Cult Recipes cookbook
Tokyo Cult Recipes cookbook
Photo: Tokyo Cult Recipes

Tokyo Cult Recipes by Maori Murota

This bright, modern book by culinary teacher and recipe developer Maori Murota is a tribute to the food of her hometown, Tokyo. The third in a series on classic city dishes, Tokyo Cult Recipes covers fundamental Japanese cooking techniques, but the bulk of the book is split into chapters based on meals: breakfast, bento, lunch, snacks, izakaya-style small plates, and dessert. Dishes like curry udon, Japanese-style crepes, tempura donburi (rice bowl), and other favourite Tokyo foods are presented with clear, concise instructions. Plus, Tokyo Cult Recipes provides a photographic tour of the city, with shots of beautiful streetscapes, kitchen interiors, vendors and cooks alongside the recipes. 

Gyoza, The Ultimate Dumpling Cookbook
Gyoza, The Ultimate Dumpling Cookbook
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Gyoza: The Ultimate Dumpling Cookbook by Paradise Yamamoto

This colourful compendium of gyoza recipes is perfect for dumpling novices and connoisseurs alike, filled with quirky concoctions by industrial designer, musician and chef Paradise Yamamoto. The author runs popup dinners in Tokyo and is not afraid to add unconventional ingredients to his gyoza – think cherry blossoms, squid ink, and natto just for starters.  While the book does include more conventional recipes, its appeal is in the unorthodox options, like gyoza bolognese with fresh tomato, carbonara gyoza, even cheeseburger gyoza. Don’t worry if you’re only dabbling in dumplings, the first chapters cover the fundamentals, including key ingredients, wrapping techniques and different cooking methods. 

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The Japanese Larder cookbook
The Japanese Larder cookbook
Photo: The Japanese Larder

The Japanese Larder by Luis Hara

Japanese ingredients are becoming more common in kitchens around the world, but so many still have an air of mystery about them. This handy resource, written by Japanese-Peruvian chef Luis Hara, demystifies Japanese seasonings and pantry staples. Hara splits them into categories like dried and fermented; spices and condiments; rice, noodles and tofu; and fruit and vegetables. Each section includes recipes for you to put your new knowledge into practice. Particularly tantalising are Hara’s modern twists on classic Japanese flavours: mackerel with a soy and balsamic glaze, brown butter and miso linguine, slow braised pork belly in barley miso – excuse us, we’ve got some cooking to do.  

Japanese Home Cooking cookbook
Japanese Home Cooking cookbook
Photo: Japanese Home Cooking

Japanese Home Cooking by Sonoko Sakai

This beautifully presented, soulful introduction to Japanese cooking and culture is by California-based Japanese-American culinary teacher and food writer, Sonoko Sakai. During her childhood in America in the 1970s, Sakai’s family received regular care packages of ingredients like green tea, miso, wakame (seaweed) and kombu (kelp) from her grandmother in Japan. Her mother would make dishes from these and local Californian ingredients, and this fusion of Japanese and western flavours runs throughout Sakai’s own dishes. Sakai shares her passion for Japanese cuisine and seasonal ingredients through over 100 approachable recipes, along with guides to the underlying principles of Japanese cooking, kitchen equipment, and even tableware. 

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Food Artisans of Japan
Food Artisans of Japan
Photo: Food Artisans of Japan

Food Artisans of Japan by Nancy Hachisu

Award-winning author and cook Nancy Hachisu has lived in the countryside of Japan for over 40 years, acquiring a deep understanding of the food industry, and authoring several cookbooks. In Food Artisans of Japan, Hachisu shares the stories of seven chefs and 24 artisans, accompanied by stunning imagery and 120 authentic recipes. Meet everyone from a shottsuru (Japanese fish sauce) maker to a craft whisky distiller and blacksmith. Learn about Japan’s olive oil island and pasture-raised dairy farms, plus many more fascinating characters and places. The recipes run the gamut from simple to challenging and woven into one is Hachisu’s wealth of cultural and local knowledge, giving a full picture of the food ecosystem in Japan. 

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