Born in Brazil to Japanese and Italian parents and educated in the UK, Luiz Hara is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, food writer and supper club host, and has already authored a Japanese cookbook: Nikkei Cuisine.
Rather than a recipe book, his second publication, The Japanese Larder, is an in-depth exploration of Japanese ingredients and how to use them, both traditionally in Japanese cuisine and how they can be experimented with – for example, using mentaiko (pollack roe) in mac and cheese or in creamy fish sauces – as well as an analysis of the fifth flavour profile, umami, and its importance in Japanese cooking.
Chapters include: seasonings; dried, fermented and preserved ingredients; spices, condiments and garnishes; sauces, marinades and garnishes; fruit and vegetables; and rice, noodles and tofu, with a dozen or so recipes to illustrate their various uses and small profiles on Japan-based suppliers and producers.
The dishes range from simple (such as brown butter and miso linguine) to the more challenging, as well as offering interesting combinations, such as deep-fried prawns in a wasabi cream, made with Japanese mayonnaise and condensed milk, as well as step-by-step guides for chefs wishing to make their own ramen, dashi (a soup or stock), tempura or shio koji (a basic seasoning).
The photography is enticing and colourful (particularly recipes such as the lamb cutlets with a spicy green miso made from white miso, green jalapeño chillies and coriander) and great thought has clearly gone into dish presentation and appearance, and wouldn’t look out of place on a restaurant table. Underneath each recipe the main, flavour-imparting components are listed.
The Japanese Larder is an inspiring guide to incorporating Japanese ingredients, whether for purists looking to expand their Japanese cuisine repertoire or those chefs looking to experiment, and it left me excited to raid my local Japanese supermarket for curry tablets and yuzu marmalade (for which there is, helpfully, a small supplier listing in the back).
The Japanese Larder, by Luiz Hara (Jacqui Small, £26)