Undoubtedly, one of the most important staples in Japanese cooking is the noodle. Whether it is a trying a simple ramen dish, making handmade soba noodles, or just understanding the great cultural divides within regions of Japan, noodles are an important part of both Japanese culture and cuisine.Chef Takashi Yagihashi is a top Japanese chef in America and his book, Takashi’s Noodles, is definitely a book you will want on your culinary reference shelf. Harris Salat, a food and culture writer for renowned publications like Gourmet, the New York Times, and Saveur, contributed to Takashi’s Noodles as well.
Introduction to Japanese Noodles — Buying and Cooking Noodles
Yagihashi starts off with an introduction to his experience growing up in Japan and how his humble kitchen beginnings propelled him to the culinary success he shares today. His simple approach to explaining the various types of noodles, and how they vary in different parts of Japan, make this not only a source for recipes, but a true educational read on Japanese food culture.
Integral pats of the Introduction include an explanation on how to buy and cook noodles. The key element in much of Japanese cooking is the source of ingredients and preparation of the base ingredients. Since Yagihashi is a Japanese American restaurateur, the sourcing of ingredients is well-suited for a U.S. based audience that may not be familiar with what options ethnic aisles or Asian grocery stores offer.
Other components of the Introduction include an explanation on the proper way to blanch vegetables and what dashi is, one of the most widely used ingredients in Japanese cooking.
Recipes in Takashi’s Noodles
Takashi’s Noodles contains six chapters devoted to all things noodles, and a seventh that is a welcome surprise containing popular Japanese style appetizers. Chapters include:
- Asian Noodles
Yagahashi’s recipes are very straight forward and easy to follow — even for a less experienced cook. All soup bases and sauce accompaniments have recipes included as well. And, of course, there is the signature recipe for the dashi. Dashi is actually a type of stock that is added to numerous noodle dishes and other Japanese dishes. It had its beginnings in early times when butter and animal fats were not found in Japanese cuisine. The dashi provided the flavor and is often regarded as the “umami” element in many Japanese recipes. While its derivation of dried kelp and shaved bonito flakes may sound less than appetizing, trust in its ability to elevate your noodle dish to the level of those found in Japan’s most popular noodle stalls.A few recipes of note in Takashi’s Noodles include the Cold Soba Noodles (page 43), Curry Udon (page 68), Beef Short Ribs with Saifun Bean Threads (page 96), Rice Noodle Pho (page 106) and the Gyoza (pages 148-150).
About the Author — Takashi Yagihashi
Chef Yagihashi grew up 100 miles northeast of Tokyo in a small city called Mito. He grew up near neighborhood noodle shops that cultivated his love for noodles at an early age. Attending school with a kid from one of these noodle shops gave him an inside look at the world of noodles — one that he likened to a Japanese noodle version of the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.
Yagihashi had an earnest start in local mom and pop kitchens that eventually launched an international culinary career that sent him to Tokyo, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Detroit. He has received countless accolades for his cuisine, including a prestigious James Beard award.
He opened his restaurant Tribute in Detroit in 1996 to rave reviews, and he went on to create Okada in 2005 for the Wynn Las Vegas. He became a member of the Macy’s Culinary Council and opened Noodles by Takashi at Macy’s in Chicago and then opened his namesake restaurant Takashi in 2007. Takashi received one Michelin star in both 2010 and 2011. In late 2011, Chef Yagihashi opened Slurping Turtle in downtown Chicago, focusing on what else but Ramen, along with items from the bincho grill and sashimi.
Our Tasty Travels Experience with Takashi’s Noodles
This is an ideal book for both inexperienced and experienced home cooks looking to learn more about Japanese noodles. The recipes are very straightforward and I’ve made a number of the dishes already. If you are in an area with Asian markets, some of the ingredients you can purchase (dashi for example), but it is more fun to take on the challenge to make your own. If you are unfamiliar with ingredients and Japanese terms, there is a great glossary included explaining some of the most common ones. Even Brett, who is a wee bit challenged in the kitchen, could create a traditional Japanese noodle dish (if he actually tried! Ha!)
- Title:Takashi’s Noodles
- Author: Takashi Yagihashi with Harris Salat
- Publisher: Ten Speed Press (2009)
- List Price: $24.95 US, 168 pages
- ISBN: 9781580089654