“Our life centers on the farm and the field. We eat what we grow,” says Nancy Singleton Hachisu, author of Japanese Farm Food which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2012: USA Winner for the Best Japanese Cuisine Book. It’s a fascinating take on Japanese cuisine from Hachisu, a native Californian who moved to a small village in rural Japan more than 30 years ago, intending to live there for a year. Describing herself as coming for the food, but staying for love, she met and married Tadaaki, an organic farmer, moved to the rural Saitama Prefecture. There she raised a family in an 80-year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse and immersed herself in both the culture and cooking. The book is so very niche that it’s almost like being in her kitchen and on her farm, giving us an amazing insight into a tiny slice of Japanese farm culture.
Hachisu also has written Japan: The Cookbook which she describes as not an examination of regional cooking traditions, as much as a curated experience of Japan’s culinary framework from a specific moment in time. Using both fine and generous strokes, I have put together what I hopes a broad and rich picture of the food of this island nation.”
Her other books include Preserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting, and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen It’s a book offering a clear road map for preserving fruits, vegetables, and fish through a nonscientific, farm- or fisherman-centric approach. Ruth Reichl, author of Tender at the Bone and former editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine writes “Even if you never yearned to make your own miso or pickle your own vegetables, this beautiful book will change your mind. It’s almost impossible to flip through these pages without wanting to join Nancy Singleton Hachisu in the lovely meditation of her cooking. This book is unlike anything else out there, and every serious cook will want to own it.”
Food Artisans of Japan, another of her wonderful books, offers us a look into Japan’s diversely rich food landscape and includes 120 recipes from 7 compelling Japanese chefs and 24 stories of food artisans.
Pork and Flowering Mustard Stir-Fry
Buta to Nanohana Itame
“Tadaaki made this one night when we had fields of flowering mustard and komatsuna. The flowering tops of brassicas, particularly rape (natane), are called nanohana in Japanese and are similar to rapini. Tadaaki tends to throw some meat into his stir-fries because he feels it gives the dish more depth,” writes the author in this simple recipe that is delicate and delicious. “I’m more of a purist, so prefer my vegetables without meat. But this dish really won me over, and I quickly became a convert (almost). Japanese stir-fries can be flavored with soy sauce, miso mixed with sake, or even salt. In this dish, I like the clarity of the salt.”
- ½ tablespoon organic rapeseed oil
- Scant ½ pound (200 g) thinly sliced pork belly
- 1 tablespoon finely slivered ginger
- 1 (10 ½-ounce/300-g) bunch flowering mustard or rapini, cut into 2-inch (5-cm) lengths
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil.
Heat a wide frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the oil quickly followed by the pork belly slices and ginger slivers. Sauté until the fat sizzles and there is some minimal browning, but don’t overdo it.
Place the flowering mustard in a mesh strainer with a handle and lower into the pot of boiling water. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until no longer raw. Keep the strainer at the top of the water surface in order to scoop the mustard greens out in one brisk pass. Shake off the hot water and toss into the cooked pork belly. Toss a few minutes more over high heat and season with the salt. Cook for about 30 seconds more, then serve.
Variations: Substitute soy sauce for the salt or chopped ginger for the slivered ginger.
—From Japanese Farm Food, by Nancy Singleton Hachisu/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC