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The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider

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The New York Times "Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019" Bon Appetit's "Fall Cookbooks We've Been Waiting All Summer For" Epicurious' "Fall 2019 Cookbooks We Can't Wait to Cook From" Amazon's Picks for "Best Fall Cookbooks 2019" Ivan Orkin is a self-described gaijin (guy-jin), a Japanese term that means "outsider." He has been hopelessly in love with the food of Japan since he was The New York Times "Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019" Bon Appetit's "Fall Cookbooks We've Been Waiting All Summer For" Epicurious' "Fall 2019 Cookbooks We Can't Wait to Cook From" Amazon's Picks for "Best Fall Cookbooks 2019" Ivan Orkin is a self-described gaijin (guy-jin), a Japanese term that means "outsider." He has been hopelessly in love with the food of Japan since he was a teenager on Long Island. Even after living in Tokyo for decades and running two ramen shops that earned him international renown, he remained a gaijin. Fortunately, being a lifelong outsider has made Orkin a more curious, open, and studious chef. In The Gaijin Cookbook, he condenses his experiences into approachable recipes for every occasion, including weeknights with picky kids, boozy weekends, and celebrations. Everyday dishes like Pork and Miso-Ginger Stew, Stir-Fried Udon, and Japanese Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce are what keep the Orkin family connected to Japan. For more festive dinners, he suggests a Temaki Party, where guests assemble their own sushi from cooked and fresh fillings. And recipes for Bagels with Shiso Gravlax and Tofu Coney Island (fried tofu with mushroom chili) reveal the eclectic spirit of Ivan's cooking.


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The New York Times "Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019" Bon Appetit's "Fall Cookbooks We've Been Waiting All Summer For" Epicurious' "Fall 2019 Cookbooks We Can't Wait to Cook From" Amazon's Picks for "Best Fall Cookbooks 2019" Ivan Orkin is a self-described gaijin (guy-jin), a Japanese term that means "outsider." He has been hopelessly in love with the food of Japan since he was The New York Times "Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019" Bon Appetit's "Fall Cookbooks We've Been Waiting All Summer For" Epicurious' "Fall 2019 Cookbooks We Can't Wait to Cook From" Amazon's Picks for "Best Fall Cookbooks 2019" Ivan Orkin is a self-described gaijin (guy-jin), a Japanese term that means "outsider." He has been hopelessly in love with the food of Japan since he was a teenager on Long Island. Even after living in Tokyo for decades and running two ramen shops that earned him international renown, he remained a gaijin. Fortunately, being a lifelong outsider has made Orkin a more curious, open, and studious chef. In The Gaijin Cookbook, he condenses his experiences into approachable recipes for every occasion, including weeknights with picky kids, boozy weekends, and celebrations. Everyday dishes like Pork and Miso-Ginger Stew, Stir-Fried Udon, and Japanese Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce are what keep the Orkin family connected to Japan. For more festive dinners, he suggests a Temaki Party, where guests assemble their own sushi from cooked and fresh fillings. And recipes for Bagels with Shiso Gravlax and Tofu Coney Island (fried tofu with mushroom chili) reveal the eclectic spirit of Ivan's cooking.

30 review for The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider

  1. 4 out of 5

    Casey Davidson

    Ugh I will be cooking everything in here for dinner for the foreseeable future. Have already made 3 things and they were delicious as expected. This is a pretty accessible Japanese food cookbook! He tells you what the ingredients are and how to get them, but also has suggestions for substitutions that maybe easier to find. The intro made me tear up though. I've already gushed about his perspective in the review of his other cookbook and it hasn't changed in this one. Ugh I will be cooking everything in here for dinner for the foreseeable future. Have already made 3 things and they were delicious as expected. This is a pretty accessible Japanese food cookbook! He tells you what the ingredients are and how to get them, but also has suggestions for substitutions that maybe easier to find. The intro made me tear up though. I've already gushed about his perspective in the review of his other cookbook and it hasn't changed in this one.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vladimir Semenov

    Nicely written cookbook for home. Give it a read if you wanna have an insight into how Japanese eat and maybe change your routine a bit.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katja

    I bought it when it first came out and it's amazing! A lot of these dishes, I've had at Japanese restaurants and I never imagined I could make it at home like Pork Katsudon. It's been one of my favorite dishes for ten years! And stir fry-! I don't think I'll ever buy stir fry from a restaurant ever again because now I make it better. The homemade Teriyaki Sauce is DIVINE! However, I use less oyster sauce because it's too salty, and as a preference I add grated ginger. One MINOR complaint: The boo I bought it when it first came out and it's amazing! A lot of these dishes, I've had at Japanese restaurants and I never imagined I could make it at home like Pork Katsudon. It's been one of my favorite dishes for ten years! And stir fry-! I don't think I'll ever buy stir fry from a restaurant ever again because now I make it better. The homemade Teriyaki Sauce is DIVINE! However, I use less oyster sauce because it's too salty, and as a preference I add grated ginger. One MINOR complaint: The book is so beautiful it draws you in with the bright pictures and makes me want to go to Japan! It has a happy, elegant, family/friendship vibe, but it diminishes because the author at some parts is trying too hard to be cool. When reading about his time in Japan or about a recipe he'll drop a random F-bomb. I'm not judging his personal use of language because I'm no saint myself, but what I am judging is the PRESENTATION of the book and the WRITING itself. It's jarring because you're in a peaceful (at least I am) mindset and you're reading about all these wonderful things until suddenly his writing shifts in a different direction. It's not consistent and doesn't match with the overall theme of his book. When he swears it just feels random and not natural, which is why I'm accusing him of trying too hard to be cool. Second example page 202 Seasoned Omelet Tamagoyaki: "Now roll the omelet up in the new layer of egg like you're a mob enforcer wrapping a snitch in a rug." Come on, dude, this ain't the Thug Life Cookbook! If Ivan talks this way IRL, fine, but it didn't translate well to the written word. Other than that buy this book if you LOVE good food!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ira

    I have too many discombobulated feelings about authenticity and appropriation in cookbook writing and how different people approach them, which I don’t think I can fit in this review. I felt uneasy even checking out this book from the library, and am still not sure what I think about it. To Orkin’s credit, he does try to tackle some of these issues face-on in his writing, highlights native Japanese writers’ work, and emphasizes that this cookbook is more about what his Japanese-American family e I have too many discombobulated feelings about authenticity and appropriation in cookbook writing and how different people approach them, which I don’t think I can fit in this review. I felt uneasy even checking out this book from the library, and am still not sure what I think about it. To Orkin’s credit, he does try to tackle some of these issues face-on in his writing, highlights native Japanese writers’ work, and emphasizes that this cookbook is more about what his Japanese-American family eats than a compendium of all of Japanese food. I’ve already returned the book to the library, but there were some passages where I thought he addressed this better than others. The recipes looked good, though I haven’t had time to try any, and I think for what it is it did a relatively good job. That said, I’m not sure that it deserves the critical reception that it has received.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ion

    “Don’t brutalize the meat—ten to twelve moderately firm whacks ought to do it.” ...I’m 12

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    I bought this book for one recipe in particular, but I am interested in trying most of them...which is rare for a cookbook for me. I like the perspective of recipes from a foreigner who has immersed himself in Japanese culture, though it does mean that more authentic versions of some of these recipes that I already have I'll continue to fall back on. I bought this book for one recipe in particular, but I am interested in trying most of them...which is rare for a cookbook for me. I like the perspective of recipes from a foreigner who has immersed himself in Japanese culture, though it does mean that more authentic versions of some of these recipes that I already have I'll continue to fall back on.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    The title kind of turned me off at first, but this great collection of Japanese home cooking and bistro basics (and riffs thereupon) is not to be missed. Pretty much all the recipes and perspectives put down here leave me longing for the everyday simple foods and culinary delights I enjoyed heartily while living in Japan. Now that I'm back in the states for the foreseeable future, I really appreciate the many ingredient substitute suggestions and other hacks Orkin includes with almost every reci The title kind of turned me off at first, but this great collection of Japanese home cooking and bistro basics (and riffs thereupon) is not to be missed. Pretty much all the recipes and perspectives put down here leave me longing for the everyday simple foods and culinary delights I enjoyed heartily while living in Japan. Now that I'm back in the states for the foreseeable future, I really appreciate the many ingredient substitute suggestions and other hacks Orkin includes with almost every recipe, making dishes that I had thought unaccessible or too fussy to source seem stupid-easily doable. So far, I've attempted a few side dishes, and made some instant favorites a few times already (like roasted peppers w/ shiotare). One major revelation: I never thought I'd ever say I look forward to challenging myself to make osechi at home for New Year's, but I look forward to challenging myself to make osechi at home for New Year's! I've only ever pre-ordered osechi, and thought the task too daunting to be done otherwise (like Thanksgiving-from-scratch level difficulty), but reading his chapter gave me the a-ha confidence and gumption to give it a go. That said, I don't know if I'll ever make Japanese curry from scratch, but I absolutely respect its inclusion. The photos are fab too; as a proud once and future Tokyo area bar fly, seeing the photo of Orkin and his wife soaking up Denki Bran at legendary Kamiya bar warmed my heart :)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Most of the recipes are simple enough and if you live in an urban area, the ingredients shouldn’t be a problem. However, I don’t see many cooks utilizing this cookbook for everyday cooking. Outside of a few recipes, I’ll pass on making most of them.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Maria Cloos

    I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely written for people not living in Japan that want to eat Japanese food. It was also the sweariest cookbook I’ve ever read, which was surprisingly refreshing. I’m looking forward to making the Okonomiyaki with the cabbage I just picked up in my CSA!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ekeim

    A fun open romp of a book with hints of curmudgeon with a lot of seemingly easy recipes that I'm pretty sure I'll try at least a handful of (this is more related to owning too many cookbooks rather than the quality of this particular tome). A fun open romp of a book with hints of curmudgeon with a lot of seemingly easy recipes that I'm pretty sure I'll try at least a handful of (this is more related to owning too many cookbooks rather than the quality of this particular tome).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ashani

    Love it !!! Most approachable Japanese cook book for home cooks and also funny and witty version of Ivan himself :D !!! Glad I read to now !!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emile

    The go to book I recommend for anyone looking to pick up Japanese cooking.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Juli Anna

    An interesting perspective, but a little bro-y to me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susie

    a great read . . . wish I liked tofu more

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stacy Li

    I heard about this book on one of the Bon Appetit Foodcasts a while back, and just got around to actually making an account to write a review. Background: I'm a self-taught home cook in grad school for a STEM PhD. I learned how to cook Japanese food by watching Youtube videos. One of my hobbies is collecting and cooking from Japanese cookbooks/food media, and I've traveled to Japan a couple of times in partial pursuit of this hobby. I cook almost every day, ranging from simple 30 minute meals to I heard about this book on one of the Bon Appetit Foodcasts a while back, and just got around to actually making an account to write a review. Background: I'm a self-taught home cook in grad school for a STEM PhD. I learned how to cook Japanese food by watching Youtube videos. One of my hobbies is collecting and cooking from Japanese cookbooks/food media, and I've traveled to Japan a couple of times in partial pursuit of this hobby. I cook almost every day, ranging from simple 30 minute meals to multi-day projects. I'm probably a 8.5 or 9 on "how far will you go for a cooking project" scale, which probably correlates with the whole "in school for a PhD" thing. First of all, for people who are new to Japanese cooking, the book is totally approachable: if you're not scared to go to the international section of your local Safeway/Meijer/Whole Foods, you can do most of these recipes. There's nothing in this book that requires you to source esoteric ingredients -- and honestly, that's what I love about it. Given my background, I have a need for simple and delicious meals that I can make with pantry-ready ingredients. This cookbook gives me exactly that, along with a comforting dose of Orkin's narration about his family and time living in Japan. I cook several dishes from the book on a regular basis: oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl ), shogayaki (pan fried ginger pork cutlets ), and ishikari nabe (sort of like a salmon chowder, sort of like this emoji 🍲) being my favorites. The recipes have clear quantities and instructions, and the taste is authentic to dishes I've had in Japan. I find myself reaching for this book more often than not on weekdays when I want a solid recipe to use. That being said, if you're someone who's looking for more advanced dishes, I might recommend a different book. Orkin does have a section for more complex dishes (named "otaku", which dragged me...), but it's more about foods that are a little heavier on the investment for preparation/cooking (tempura, gyoza) than things like "slice this fish in a delicate manner, simmer at this temperature for exactly 20 minutes while you julienne matchsticks of 2-month aged ginger". For that, I would recommend something like Nancy Singleton Hachisu's "Japan", which is an absolutely visually gorgeous book that I use for my project meals. All in all, solid 5/5 book, great for anyone who wants to cook practical and comforting Japanese food. I recommend gifting it to your favorite home cook who wants a new cookbook, your friends who pick Japanese restaurants when you hang out (extra points if they order things that aren't sushi rolls), and anyone who's ever told you that they want to go to Japan. 🇯🇵✈️

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Mays

    This is currently my favorite cookbook. I decided to check it out because I watched this video of Orkin making Japanese curry the way he would at home. While he discusses using homemade and high-quality ingredients throughout the video, I found it super refreshing that he'd also recommend and encourages perfectly valid shortcuts, like using premade curry bricks, or some bouillon and veggies in place of homemade stock. When informed that the kitchen he's in doesn't have a microwave, his response This is currently my favorite cookbook. I decided to check it out because I watched this video of Orkin making Japanese curry the way he would at home. While he discusses using homemade and high-quality ingredients throughout the video, I found it super refreshing that he'd also recommend and encourages perfectly valid shortcuts, like using premade curry bricks, or some bouillon and veggies in place of homemade stock. When informed that the kitchen he's in doesn't have a microwave, his response is "Oh my fucking god! Seriously? That's my huge hack!". He follows up with a diatribe, which I adored, about how using microwaves and shortcuts doesn't make your homemade any less real. He quickly leaves the set with his carrots in order to find a microwave. That same unpretentious approach to home cooking permeates this book, both in the recipes and in Orkin's voice. The dishes are ordered both by the type of the dish (like "things you eat over rice", "broths/soups/stews", etc.) and thematic categories: "It’s structured around the facets of Japanese life that I’ve come to identify with most strongly". The recipes are almost all based on what he cooks at home, with a few from his restaurants. The instructions are written simply and clearly, with no unnecessary distractions. Elsewhere, his love of Japanese culture and its food are clearly evident. I've got to be honest, I never thought a cookbook would draw me in like this one has.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Since I watched Ivan on Chef's Table, I have been a fan of his and have been following him on social media for a while now. I just found out about his cookbook and I just had to have it. I have been cooking through this book amd so far, everything has just been great. This is actually my first cookbook and I really like how there's a section of japanese ingredients and possible substitutes for them. A big help for when you'd want to cook something but ingredients arent really available. Love ever Since I watched Ivan on Chef's Table, I have been a fan of his and have been following him on social media for a while now. I just found out about his cookbook and I just had to have it. I have been cooking through this book amd so far, everything has just been great. This is actually my first cookbook and I really like how there's a section of japanese ingredients and possible substitutes for them. A big help for when you'd want to cook something but ingredients arent really available. Love everything about it and it has really nice photos of him going around Japan and some with his wife and family.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Noritaka Hara

    Excellent introduction of Japanese home cooking from the view point of extraordinary outsider. Ivan outlined the most of our comfort Japanese foods but might be less known than sushi or ramen. His recipes are concise and easy to follow yet have several his original touches. Each recipe is accompanied with his brief cultural introduction of its position in Japanese table, which I really enjoyed reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pramodh

    Orkin breaks down the japanese cooking. What we think is traditional is not so as there is influence from other parts of world in japanese cooking. The photographs are amazing

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  22. 4 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

  25. 4 out of 5

    Schlomo Rabinowitz

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ilana Lee

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patti

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rich

  29. 5 out of 5

    the reading community?!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

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