By Scott Hallsworth
Absolute Press, £26
Former Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth drops more f-bombs than a character from a Martin Scorsese movie. The four-page introduction piles on the profanity with more than two dozen swear words; there’s a chapter entitled Sushi’s F**ked-Up Friends; and the recipe introductions are littered with bad language.
Hallsworth’s two Kurobuta restaurants in London are billed on their website as ‘Rock’n’Roll Izakaya’ (the Japanese version of a gastropub) and the Australian-born chef makes no secret of his unfulfilled musical ambitions. But this comes across on the page as more Kevin the Teenager than Nick Cave and it falls short of the effortless cool of The Meatliquor Chronicles by Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins.
But tune out the four-letter white noise and plenty of exciting, modern and iconoclastic east-meets-west ideas emerge. Hallsworth explains that the term ‘Junk Food Japan’ began as a menu category that included tuna sashimi pizza (the recipe is in the book) and then became a ‘no-nonsense, almost playful way of creating dishes’.
Although the book contains dishes that resemble fast food, including fried chicken and hot wings, they’re refined versions: the chicken is poached in master stock before being fried with a shichimi coating, and the hot wings are barbecued in a sauce made with gochujang, saké and white miso.
The traditions of Japanese cuisine that can appear daunting are, for the most part, swept aside, making this an approachable introduction to a complex subject. Nigiri, for example, are here finished with slices of dashi-poached veal and anchovy mayonnaise, and pickled cucumber sushi is topped with a Wagyu slider, a chicken liver parfait and a yuzu marmalade sauce to create a Japanese version of tournedos Rossini.
Dishes range from one-pot wonders, such as marbou dofu to technically challenging sushi, offering chefs of all levels something to get their teeth into. While I could have done without the potty-mouthed posturing, Junk Food Japan is lively, informative and full of enticing recipes. It’s a great book, I swear.
By Andy Lynes
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