I am only what I am. I hope it's enough.


My niece Rena at age 6, enjoying teuchi udon (handmade udon noodles).

I am occasionally asked via email or Twitter or even in person, to post a recipe that is Asian but not Japanese. In most cases, I have to say that I have no idea how to make it. Well that wouldn't be exactly true: I could look it up online or in cookbooks and replicate a recipe here. But then, so could you. So could anyone.

Just because I am of Asian descent, does not mean I know anything about most Asian cuisines other than Japanese, and the Asian cuisines that have established themselves in Japanese culinary culture. For instance, certain types of Chinese cooking have been made popular by the resident Chinese communities in Japan (the city where my mother lives, Yokohama, has a vibrant Chinatown for instance, as does Kobe). Because of the long and complicated history between Korea and Japan, not to mention attempts in recent years for the two countries to establish a closer cultural relationship, Korean cuisine is also well known and loved in Japan. So, I can tell you how to cook some dishes from those cuisines.

Then again they are versions of those cuisines that are popular in Japan, and probably differ in varying degrees from the way they are in their countries of origin. The longer their history in Japan, the more they've been adapted to Japanese tastes. For example, Japanese gyoza dumplings differ quite a bit from the ones you get at Hong Kong style dim sum palaces. Japanese style steamed buns are also rather different from the originals. That doesn't make them less tasty, but they are adaptations for sure, that have developed over decades. (See the chuuka category for Chinese-style Japanese dishes)

I've never been to any country in Asia other than Japan - a situation I hope to be able to rectify eventually. But the point is, my familiarity with most other Asian cuisines is far less than my familiarity with some European or North American cuisines. I grew up in Japan, England and the U.S., and have lived for most of my adult life either in the U.S. or Europe. I know more about Marmite or how to make a home-style Swiss fondue, than pad thai or pho. I love those dishes, but I don't feel confident writing down how to make 'authentic' versions.

On the other hand, if you want a strong opinion about what makes for good himono (half-dried fish), or how handmade soba or udon should taste, or why nukazuke pickles are so tricky to get right...well you're in the right place. And don't even get me started on the whole subject of sushi or wagashi, or what makes a good Japanese style curry or tonkatsu. (And now that I live in southern France, I'm fairly confident that my version of soupe pistou is as good as any.)


My mother enjoying some mitarashi dango

I do of course like to experiment and try out new things as much as anyone. I'm fine with posting deviations of classic recipes, or something that is 'of the style of'. But when it comes to writing down the directions for real classic dishes, I tend to stick to what I know, the dishes that I grew up with, or the ones transmitted to me by better, wiser cooks than I.

So, that's why you don't see much not-Japanese, general Asian cooking here. You'll see some results of experiments in that area - Maki's versions as it were. On the other hand, I have all the weight of the experience of the women (and some men) of my family behind the classic Japanese dishes I post here. They are hovering over what I write, for real (my mother and one of my aunts check out my site all the time and give me feedback, especially if I get something wrong) as well as in spirit.

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