I love reading cookbooks and recently took this one away as holiday reading – Shoku-Iku: Japanese Conscious Eating for a Long and Healthy Life by Makiko Sano.
This book is a recent and lovely addition to the many books on Japanese cooking. Japanese inspired cooking can be delicious and good for you, as evidenced by the statistics on the longevity of people eating traditional Japanese food. A case in point – the author’s grandfather was apparently still playing tennis at 97 years old. So, if it is easy, yummy and good for you, why not eat more Japanese food?
Shoku-iku! is mainly a recipe book, with a good collection of simple and tasty recipes categorised by cooking method. There is a substantial sushi section which includes some inventive options and useful tips. The early section on basic sauces is good. All the recipes are quite easy and are set out well with clear photographs.
Makiko Sano grew up in Japan but now lives in London, so the recipes are built around ingredients that aren’t too difficult to find outside of Japan. However, there are still a few ingredients mentioned which you won’t find easily in suburban Canberra, such as mooli and yuzu.
The shoku-iku way
The big difference between this and just another Japanese cookbook is the short introductory section where the author outlines the shoku-iku way of eating. It is interesting to read a bit about the philosophy of “acquiring knowledge about what we eat, how we prepare it and how we put different foods together”. Some of the common sense guidelines Makiko Sano outlines include:
– eat a variety of foods every day;
– choose locally grown and seasonal foods;
– choose to sit down, consciously enjoy and focus on your meals; and
– combine vegetables, fruits, milk, fish and beans in your daily diet. Avoid too much salt, sugar or fat.
She also suggests that, if you have a family, “treat meal time as something sacred that you all do together”. This is something we try and prioritise in our household.
The shoku-iku philosophy also uses “the power of five” colours, tastes, senses, food groups and cooking methods to ensure a healthy variety in our daily diets.
Most of it is, as the author says, common sense and things we have heard before, but it is always useful to be reminded. The advantage here is that she then follows with a series of recipes which follow those guidelines.
Testing the recipes from this Japanese cookbook
We tried a few of the recipes on our return from holidays. We made “Maki’s Miso Pork” (page 82) using pork leg steak rather than fillet, and pan fried quickly after marinating – see picture above. It was delicious!
I was also intrigued by the idea in some of the recipes of steaming fish in the microwave, which I hadn’t tried before. I came up with my own version of one of her fish recipes, which also worked well. I was also inspired by her turkey mince burger recipe and came up with a variation using chicken to make oven baked meatballs.
Fortunately my family was happy to wait for me to photograph their dinner of things I tried from the book:
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