CARYN AND BRENDAN LIEW, SMITH STREET BOOKS, H/B, $45
Though I love Japanese food I rarely cook it at home. A disastrous attempt at okonomiyaki deflated my confidence and since then it’s been a restaurant treat. But this might the book that tempts me into having another go. For one year Caryn and Brendan Liew brought ryokan-style traditional breakfasts to Melbourne at their cafe, Chotto, and now they are sharing their favourite recipes. Grouped into Early, Mid, Late and Basics, Caryn and Brendan guide us through the day, teaching us not only how to make delicious Japanese breakfast dishes, lunch fare and dinners but also what goes with what. Scattered through the book are quirky little cartoons and tales of the authors’ travels, which really give a sense of Tokyo: they take you right into the noodle shop, until you picture the salarymen hastily grabbing lunch, hear the dainty lady loudly slurping ramen and smell the deeply savoury broth. While some of the dishes are unusual (such as pickles that require bacteria from human skin) most of the recipes seem achievable, though I think I’ll leave the 24-step Tokyo-style shōyu ramen recipe until I’ve mastered some of the simpler dishes.