Wine selection can leave you at something of a loss when it comes to Japanese food. When your choices are sickly sweet plum wine or electrically charged sake, it's a lot easier to just say, "I'll have a Kirin." Machiko Chiba was clearly aware of this, and with this book, she's managed to find a way to help Western oenophiles bring their favorite bottles to the chabudai.
Working with J.K. Whelehan, who provides most of the wine-oriented insight, Chiba sets forth the notion that, due to its relative simplicity, Japanese food "is extremely well-suited to accompaniment by wine and, furthermore, not just the white wines one typically associates with such fish-oriented cuisine." She more than proves her point, with 60 recipes and wine pairings to back her up.
Although a number of the recipes like an avocado tofu salad or jellied vegetables and seafood aren't found on many Japanese menus in America, the ingredients and preparation methods Chiba employs should be manageable enough to Western readership. There are some dishes in the book that should be familiar to even casual sushi-bar-sitters, making it a well-rounded collection. Some of the recipes might be daunting to those who don't typically prepare Japanese food at home, but in reality, dishes like "sweet steamed eel onigiri" and "pork and oyster roll" have amazingly simple directions and, yes, highly complementary wine pairings.
Oh, and what wine do you drink with sushi? Champagne, of course! Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers by Machiko Chiba (Kodansha, 120 pages)
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