Q1: Aya, congratulations on your cookbook - it’s beautiful! Japanese food is so often shied away from because people think it’s hard to make, but your cookbook is so accessible. What was your inspiration for writing the book?
Thank you! Yes, some of the Japanese restaurant chefs have exquisite skills that need years of training. However, Japanese home cooking is really easy and simple! My inspiration for this book stems from my mum, grandma and dad’s cooking from home (Japan). I have adapted the recipes to make these dishes more accessible to prepare, so you can eat Japanese food wherever you are in the world.
Q2: What recipe would you recommend for the absolute beginner?
Teriyaki chicken on rice is everyone’s favourite - it's so easy and always satisfying. If you want to try something new, my recipe for chilled udon noodles with sesame miso sauce is our family lunch staple and it's also really easy to make. It's perfect for summer.
Q3: What staple ingredients do you always have in the fridge?
I find is useful to always have homemade, ready to use condiments and dressings in my fridge, such as Mentsuyu (an instant base for noodle soups), miso dressing and a Japanese-style onion dressing. With these seasonings, you can make an instant warm udon noodle soup, and turn an ordinary chicken salad into something really special and delicious, with a Japanese twist. Having homemade condiments to hand is the easiest way to incorporate Japanese flavour into everyday cooking.
Q4: What is the best place to find Japanese ingredients?
Most of the ingredients from my book can be found in large supermarkets, online supermarkets or online shops. Japanese food shops such as the Japan centre also do online delivery, too.
Q5: If people were to cook one recipe from your cookbook during lockdown, what would you recommend?
Nanbanzuke (fried salmon marinated in a citrus/ soy sauce with shredded onions and peppers) - it’s delicious to eat fresh, but its flavour also develops over time, so it's a great dish to eat the next day if you have leftovers.
Q6: You’re a food stylist by profession. What is your top tip for getting that perfect Instagram food shot?
Using natural light to take pictures always makes food look beautiful and yummy. You should also always try to photograph food whilst it’s fresh - but outside of work, I’m often too hungry to spend too much time taking photos!
Japanese Food Made Easy by Aya Nishimura is now available to buy.