Cookbook review: Donabe

Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Claypot Cooking by Naoko Takei Moore is a beautifully illustrated cookbook, but it one that is for serious Japanese cooks only.  First, the recipes calls for owning a donabe (pretty obvious with the title).  That isn’t the issue.  The issue is that you’ll need more than one donabe … you’ll need several different types of donabe.  The smaller donabe that serve one person go for about $30.  The larger ones that serve at least 4 go for about $75+.  For cooking great rice, you should get a double lidded donabe.  At the very least, you’ll need 2 donabe – one for rice, and one for a dish.  The donabe bottoms have to be completely dry before you put them on the range (otherwise it will crack) so you can’t cook the rice, move the rice to a different container and re-use the donabe for dinner.  If you do, the rice will be cold and will have to be reheated, thereby defeating the purpose of making donable-cooked rice in the first place.  Also, donabe can only be used on open flame so you can use it with a gas range, but you won’t be able to use it with an electric or induction range.  If you don’t have a gas range, you could get a butane burner.  Donabe is totally different from slow cooker pots so you can’t substitute the cooking vessel.  Basically, unless you have lots of storage space and money to spend on different types of donabe, this is more of a living room photobook than a cookbook.

There are also some hard-to-find ingredients, which is to be expected from a book that touts “classic” Japanese claypot cooking.  Here’s a sample of the hard-to-find ingredients: koya tofu (freeze dried tofu), kurozu (Japanese vinegar), koji (a special type of mold), and tororo kombu (a type of seasoned seaweed).

One of the things I learned from this book was that a rice cup =  3/4 an imperial (standard) cup.

If you want to try some of these recipes, there are a few donabe on sale on Amazon.  Another place I found was Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen.  The author said that they were resellers for a Japanese company that made donabe, but I didn’t see the information about ordering it from them in the cookbook.  I may have missed it, but I did look for it.

If you don’t own a donabe and have never cooked with claypots before, I would advise you to read the chapter on caring for your donabe very carefully before cooking.  You cannot heat it up without some sort of liquid inside, you need to be careful about fast temperature changes, etc.

Once again, I would only recommend this book to a serious Japanese food enthusiast.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.