Cookbook Review: Kansha

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.

Nama-fu with dengaku
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.

Tofu Tofu 'burgers'

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.

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One thought on “Cookbook Review: Kansha

  1. Katharine in Brussels says:

    How cool! Thanks for your detailed review and especially for your delectable finished recipe photos. I have this book and was trolling the internet for a quicker way to make the nama-fu dengaku. Thanks to you, I will skip the seperate seasonings for the gluten and season like I like it. I made some oven-baked gluten last week from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s sweet and sour seitan but toppied it with a spicy Korean sauce. I think I’ll do the same and make dengaku sauce, make the seitan and bake it like FFVK’s recipe shows just to see how it goes. Anyway, sending that along in case you’re looking for inspiration :) Thanks from over here in Belgium!

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