Making authentic Japanese food – even if you don’t have all the ingredients

When I travel, I want the local experience: visiting local sites, seeing and doing local things, and eating local food. This is especially true when I move to a new country. I want to not only eat the local food, I also want to learn to make that food. Now that I live in Japan, I want to learn to make authentic Japanese food.

There are actually two reasons that I want to learn to make authentic Japanese food. The first is that the ingredients are abundant here. You can walk into any market or supermarket and find the ingredients you need to make almost any dish. The second reason is that it can be very difficult to find non-native/local ingredients in some places. And if you can find them, they are often very expensive.

There are many ways you can learn to cook local foods. You could sign up for cooking classes. You could make friends and have them teach you. I went a bit extreme and went for the host family option. Why not live with someone for the first three months you are in Japan learning Japanese and have them teach you as much as they can in that time?

If you don’t have any of those options, there is another option that I would like to suggest: Just One Cookbook. Just One Cookbook is a website run by Namiko Hirasawa Chen (or Nami for short). Nami is a chef from Yokohama, Japan who now lives in California with her family. She learned to cook from her mother growing up and now she is passing on that passion to the world.

Just One Cookbook features recipes from across Japan. What I really like about her website is a combination of the tips, tricks and possible substitutes that you can use. I also like that you can convert the recipes back and forth between metric and US imperial measurements. It’s the little things!

My Experiences making authentic Japanese food with Just One Cookbook

But Jamie, if you are staying with a host family, why do you need to use Just One Cookbook? Well, that is a bit of a complex answer. I have a bit of an arrangement with the host family: I make one international dinner for them per week. It is a good arrangement but it can be very expensive (and very difficult to find the right ingredients if they aren#t used much here in Japan). However, there are some times when I also need to make Japanese food:

  1. I will be in Japan for at least 18 months. I am only with the host family for 3, so I need to learn as much as possible so I can cook for myself when I move out.
  2. The host mother (お母さん、okaasan) has been in and out of hospital for operations, so I cook for myself and the host father. Rather than spending tonnes of money on ingredients to make food I know, why not do some experimenting.

Just One Cookbook has been very helpful in these situations! Here is what I have made so far:

So far all of it has been delicious! Read more about them at the links above.


Do you like what you see? Want to see more food? Let’s explore international cuisine on my interactive map: Travelling the World.

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