I was looking around in the online catalog for my local public library to see what vegan cookbooks they had. I came across this title, which I had never heard of before. Intrigued, I reserved the book and rushed over the next day to pick it up. This book is beautiful, you really could use it as a coffee table book. One of my favourite things about it is all of the detail about the history of different dishes and ingredients that is included. It really is a cookbook that you could just sit down and read.
One thing to note – Elizabeth Andoh calls for a lot of traditional Japanese ingredients that may be difficult to find if you don’t have a Japanese or a well-stocked Asian grocer available to you. I suppose you could always get some things from the internet. Once I had my list of dishes to try I made my way down to the local Japantown to pick up what I needed.
One of the first things I made was nama-fu with dengaku sauce. I had never heard of nama-fu before, but turns out it is basically just a steamed seitan sausage (a la Julie Hasson, Vegan Brunch, etc.). The author has a paragraph or two explaining why nama-fu is not the same as seitan, but her main reason seems to be that the flavourings are different, not the actual main ingredients.
Anyway, the nama-fu takes awhile to make, so I prepared the little ‘sausages’ (for lack of a better word) a couple of days in advance. I did go through the step of coloring half of the dough yellow (with turmeric) and adding seaweed to the other half, but I don’t know if I would do that again in the future. It looked neat, sure, but it didn’t really affect the taste (or at least not to me).
So once you have your nama-fu made, you slice it and broil it with dengaku sauce. I didn’t really care for the dengaku sauce on it’s own, but once it was broiled and on the nama-fu it was really tasty. It was a tiny bit too sweet for my tastes, so I would probably cut back on the sugar next time.
Another recipe that caught my eye was the tofu tofu burgers. I was worried these would be too bland but I actually dug the subtle flavor. I made a few changes based on what I had on hand. These ‘burgers’ are supposed to be made with a combination of two types of tofu. I didn’t have koya-dofu (freeze-dried tofu), so I just added more firm tofu. Second, I didn’t have any osembei (rice crackers) so I used panko. My third change is that I didn’t make the soy glaze for the burgers. Rather, I had dengaku sauce leftover from the nama-fu, and just topped the burgers with that instead. Instead of frying these in oil, I just cooked them in a non-stick pan.
They aren’t really burger sized, and Andoh isn’t joking when she says they are fragile so making them bigger probably wouldn’t work out too well. I had my mini-burgers on a bed of sesame kale – super yummy!
Another Kansha dish: tofu scramble with greens (I used some chard I had in my fridge). Nothing too exciting here, it is essentially a Japanese-flavored tofu scramble with greens. Once again, I thought this was going to be too bland for my liking, but it actually really hit the spot. I should mention that I didn’t use silken tofu, I used regular firm tofu.I topped with sesame seeds and sriracha.
To go with my tofu scramble, I made braised daikon. The original recipe calls for yuzu, but I omitted that.
Yet another tofu dish: mixed vegetables with thick-fried tofu. I wanted to use up some veggies that I had lingering in my fridge, which included broccoli, bell pepper, and carrot. Instead of the pre-fried tofu, I just used some dry fried tofu. This was okay. I didn’t wait for it to cool down all the way like she suggests, so maybe it would have been better if I had. While I certainly didn’t mind eating it, it’s probably not something I would rush to make again.
Here we have broth-steeped kale rolls (except I used collards). My filling had shredded dry fried tofu, carrot, the sliced up kombu, and the collard stems. I ended up dipping this in a soy-teriyaki sauce, which isn’t what she suggests at all. I found them a bit bland on their own without the sauce, they weren’t really my thing to be perfectly honest.
I also made a few things that I didn’t manage to take a nice photo of: creamy kabocha soup (I found this a bit flavorless, but I think that was due to a dud, flavorless squash) and greens with a nutty tofu sauce (was not a fan of the tofu sauce…the taste was okay, but the texture reminded me of baby food which was a definite turn-off).
All in all I enjoyed the book. I ended up renewing it a few times from the library and was able to borrow it for 9 whole weeks. I really enjoyed reading through it multiple times and gazing at all of the beautiful photos. It’s definitely a book I would consider buying to add to my collection, as it is a pretty good reference book for vegan Japanese cuisine.
One more thing to check out – Elizabeth Andoh has a Kansha Workshop series on her site, that supposedly has different recipes and tutorials. I haven’t checked it out yet, but it sounds pretty interesting: KanshaCooking.com.