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Soei Yoneda - Good Food from a Japanese Temple (Kodansha International Ltd)

ISBN 0-87011-527-8 (4-7700-1024-9 in Japan).

First edition published 1982. It's now been re-issued as Zen Vegetarian Cooking (ISBN 4-7700-2309-X), and is available from www.amazon.co.uk/. Simon bought it for me for Christmas. He's lovely.

Shojin ryori, the food prepared and eaten by the monks and nuns of Japanese Buddhist temples, is totally vegan. This book, written by the abbess of the Sanko-in Temple, is an excellent introduction to the subject. It's easy to find dishes that can be prepared with minimal investment in unusual ingredients, although there are plenty of recipes for more exotic things such as seaweeds. Also, the 16 pages of colour photographs (with at least 5 delicately-arranged dishes per page) give ample inspiration for serving ideas and adaptation of dishes.

A comprehensive introduction (with informative line drawings) explains the techniques of preparation and cutting. Hints on food arrangement are given, as are guidelines for menu planning, and a suggested sample menu for each month of the year.

The organisation of recipes within the book leaves something to be desired, however; although one chapter is sensibly devoted to rice, soups and pickles, the remaining recipes are arranged by season. Considering that many of the vegetables used will be available to most people outside Japan only in canned, dried or frozen form, it would be more useful to arrange dishes in some other order, perhaps alphabetically by main ingredient. But this is a minor quibble, as the index is both well-arranged and complete.

Some of the recipes in the book are traditional, while others were developed especially - as the jacket says, `the strength of this 600-year tradition [is] not only its orthodoxy but its delight in innovation'. Recipes I have tried so far include Simmered Aubergine (Eggplant) with Ginger Sauce, Light Vinegared Aubergine (Eggplant), Green Beans with Sesame Dressing and Braised Shiitake Mushrooms (using ordinary flat mushrooms and omitting the oil). I have also successfully made several dishes based on or inspired by other recipes in the book.

Review added 24 Jun 1998; more recipe links added 24 Sep 1998; availability information added 10 Jan 1999; recipe links updated 18 Apr 2000.
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