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Book review: Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson

30 April 2020 by
Book review: Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson, the Wisconsin-born food writer, MasterChef winner and chef-owner of Japanese ‘soul food' restaurant Nanban in London's Brixton, has followed up his JapanEasy cookbook with a vegan version aimed at the home cook.

Anderson acknowledges that many Japanese dishes can be focused on fish, meat and eggs, but he says a simple substitution or two is usually enough to make classic and modern recipes vegan-friendly. More importantly, he focuses on the Japanese recipes that are already fully or nearly vegan, avoiding "sad" meat alternatives.

Japanese dishes are, in fact, often plant-based, he says, meat and dairy having been used sparingly throughout much of the country's history, and many seasonings are based on fermented soybeans or rice. The more potentially problematic dashi, widely used and often made using fish products, has been replaced with mushroom and seaweed versions.

Having immersed myself in the delights of Japanese cuisine on holiday this time last year, daily Facebook ‘memories' are a painful reminder of both the delicious food I tried there and the lockdown of the UK restaurant scene, with limited or no access to London's Japanese offerings such as Nanban, Tonkotsu or Bone Daddies. As a result, this book was a welcome addition to my shelf.

Vegan JapanEasy is separated into basic seasonings and sauces; snacks, small dishes and sides; big dishes; big rice and noodle dishes; and desserts and drinks; as well as noteworthy chapters on achieving that elusive ‘umami' flavour without meat, and how to cook Japanese rice.

Recipes range from the classic (yakisoba, sushi, gyoza, tempura and katsu) to the less recognisable as well as Anderson's creations, such as ‘rough night rice' and French onion ramen.

Vegan JapanEasy is an approachable guidebook for chefs currently at home who are perhaps looking to explore Japanese cuisine in more depth, experiment with alternatives or create vegan alternatives to classic recipes. Or to just indulge in some simple, tasty ramen – a comforting dish we could all use right now, vegan or otherwise.

Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson, Hardie Grant, £22

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