Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking
by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton
Ten Speed Press
2015, 328 pages, 9.4 x 9.4 x 1.1 inches
Donabe (doh-nah-bei) is Japanese for clay pot. It is traditional Japanese earthen cookware and its popularity has waxed and waned with the centuries. Today donabe cooking is a family (and friends) activity, bringing people closer together with communal dining. The book features traditional as well as modern donabe recipes created by the authors and takes readers through the history, manufacture and culture of the donabe.
The authors Takei-Moore and Connaughton create an intimate communal experience with the narrative and sharing of stories. Each recipe begins with a bit of an anecdote, such as "I've been making this dish for years, and it's also one of the most popular rice dishes in my cooking class." Then the instructions follow with tips and reminders, and include serving suggestions. We can almost hear Ms. Takei-Moore gently instructing her students, "Using a paring knife, score the skin of the duck breast … Be careful not to penetrate the meat."
Aspiring donabe chefs need not think they have to acquire many different donabe (although that might be fun!). The authors encourage experimentation and provide instructions for using a classic donabe or even a dutch oven if you do not have the type of donabe specified. The book itself is a delightfully sumptuous eyeful with beautiful photographs of different donabe, ingredients and finished dishes. Sturdily constructed with heavy glossy pages that are sewn in, the book falls open flat just like you'd want a cook book to.
Donabe is delightful reading and the recipes are authentic, delicious and most are not complicated or difficult for the beginner to make. I loved reading and leafing through the book, trying out the recipes and extending my knowledge of "hot pot" cooking with a Japanese flavor. Interestingly enough, until I read the book, I had not heard of shime – a recipe that uses the remaining broth of the donabe recipe if it is a soup or stew to create an end-of-the-meal dish. Don't just drink up the broth, create yet another course!
– Carolyn Koh