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The latest book from a well-known restaurateur-chef offers Japanese-inspired vegetarian dishes to home cooks.
Nobu's Vegetarian Cookbook comes from chef Nobu Matsuhisa, a Japanese native whose restaurants have culled influences from his experiences in his homeland as well as in Peru, Argentina, Alaska and Los Angeles.
The photos of his sophisticated dishes also make a visual feast, but these ones have detailed recipes to back them up. The book includes sixty vegetable-focused recipes, with a few for sweets and cocktails, and a range of techniques including marinating, pickling and steaming.
Nobu emphasizes umami, the fifth savoury taste, throughout the book. "Umami is found not only in animal protein but also in kombu kelp, shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, and many other plant sources," he writes, "so that by carefully combining them you don't even need meat or fat for flavor."
While some recipes are straightforward, such as a watercress salad with watercress dressing, many are quite involved. These include nigiri sushi topped with a variety of kombu-cured vegetables like lotus root and purple daikon instead of fish, as well as multicoloured soba in which cilantro, red bell pepper, or black sesame tints the noodles. There are also some intriguing recipes using yuba, a delicious protein-rich "skin" that is skimmed off of soymilk.
While the edibles look fantastic, they don't appear easy to execute. Many require multiple complex steps but yield just one or two servings. The recipe for dashi-marinated eggplant yields just "one bite-size portion" after deep-frying and marinating; it hardly seems worth the trouble.
Nobu's first vegetarian book and I have to say it isn't great. Some interesting points about umami and creating vegetarian dashi but the dishes aren't all great. There are some interesting salsas, dressings and combinations but a lot of the ingredients will be difficult for most people to obtain. I think there are probably better Asian themed vegetable cookbooks than this.
Many health freaks and vegetarians only care about if the right ingredients are in their meal and not how it tastes - in fact they don't taste it but read it, in the sense that if the ingredients on the labels on what the buy is what they consider the right ones, they buy it and eat it regardless of the taste. I know from experience cause I've had a very big vegetarian restaurant for ten years, where I wanted to serve tasty vegetarian food - and also had 'normal' ones btw. What I wanna say by this is that this book is probably not for the kinda health freaks I described above. This book is about taste and everything in there tastes really good. I love it and would highly recommend it as I think a big part of being healthy is to enjoy what you doing - and eating what's in this book is really enjoyable!