Book Review: Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking, by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton, photos by Eric Wolfinger

DonabeI could live in a donabe (Japanese for “clay pot”), the vessel from which I’ve had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. When I discovered Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking was soon to be released, it took me back to my favorite noodle joint: Menkui Tei (NYC). Sure, virtually anything cooked in a donabe can be just as easily done so in another vessel, but there’s something special about these clay pots that brings flavor and comfort together in a way nothing else can—and they’re just so beautiful, even in their simplest form!

In this book, chefs Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton bring together years of love and passion for traditional Japanese cuisine using varied styles of donabe with the inclusion of modern touches (apparent even in the front cover, where dishes surround a donabe sitting on top of a single, butane burner). Naoko begins by introducing the reader to the traditional clay pot and a specific family of artisans in Iga, Japan, from whom she imports pots and sells them globally. Photographer Eric Wolfinger provides an appetizing aesthetic for both Japanese culture and cuisine, documenting the making of a donabe and the finished product of every recipe in the book, among many other stills.

For those interested in Japanese clay pot cooking, Donabe provides styles, methods, and recipes for classics, rice, soups and stews, steaming, tangine-style (similar to a ceramic Moroccan pot), smoking, and all the necessary extras (dashi, sauces, and condiments). For those not so interested, the introduction to the history and culture thereof may pique that interest. And, of course, there are loads of recipes that can be used and adapted for one’s own kitchen, as well as a full glossary for those unfamiliar with terms used in Japanese cooking.

Until I live in a place with a gas stove, investing in a couple artisanal pots will have to remain a daydream. But until then, I’ll continue to work with what I have…and maybe get a portable butane burner…and maybe one donabe…and maybe some more earthenware… Oh, who am I kidding? I just need to move to Japan!


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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