Saturday, February 6, 2016

Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking

Title:  Donabe:  Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking
Author:  Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton
Publication Information:  Ten Speed Press. 2015. 328 pages.
ISBN:  1607746999 / 978-1607746997

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Donabe is Japanese traditional earthen cookware."

Favorite Quote:  "The excitement of seeing and smelling the steaming-hot food when the donabe's lid is lifted never gets old and brings together everyone at the table."

Donabe:  Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking is definitely a specialty cookbook. It deals with a specific food culture - Japanese. It is even more specialized than that. Within that food culture, it deals with a specific type of cookware, a collection of different shapes and sizes of clay cookware known as donabe.

The first part of the book, about the first fifty pages, present a history of donate cookware, an explanation of how it's made, the artistic qualities of authentic donabe, tips on how to choose one, and some cultural menus in which donabe is incorporated. This section of the book is the education. These sections have beautifully photographs of the artisans and their work in progress. I do wish it had more photographs of finished pieces as the photographs do not lend themselves to appreciating the finished artistry. Even the double page spreads of menus are a top down view so the reader sees the food more than than the vessels. In a book focused on the cookware, I would like to see more of that.

The next six sections of the book are recipes organized by the type of donabe. The six types are the classic, the double-lid rice cooker, the donabe for soup and stew, steamer, the more modern tagging, and a smoker. Each section starts with a one to two page explanation of what that style of vessel looks like and what it is mostly used for. The individual recipes are presented with number of servings, an ingredient list, paragraph style instructions, and a picture of the finished dish. Many of recipes also includes directions for substituting one type of donabe for another or recommendations for other types of pots if you do not own a donabe.

The final recipe section of the book presents a collection of base recipes for dashi (broth), sauces, and condiments that can be used across the recipes of the book and as a basic guide for Japanese flavors. The book ends with a glossary which is really helpful as I am no familiar with many of the Japanese terms, a very short resource list for buying donabe or specialized ingredients, and an index which I always find helpful in a cookbook.

I don't know much about Japanese cooking, nor do I cook often with Japanese flavors. You may ask why then would I choose to add such a specific niche cookbook to my collection? Clay cookware can be found in found in many different cultures - a Moroccan tagine, a Southeast Asian haandi, a Mexican comale, and so many more. This book introduces me to the Japanese contribution in this tradition.

Although Japanese cooking and Japanese donabe cooking is not familiar to me, the concept of one pot meals and the use of clay cookware is. Having used clay cookware and having eaten food prepared in it, it truly does impart a unique flavor to the food cooked and served in it.  In particular, my bakeware is clay, and I find it makes a big difference in the texture and flavors of my baked goods.

As such, I may or may not used the exact recipes in this book, but I definitely look forward incorporating the techniques of donabe cooking, first perhaps using pots I have to mimic a donabe and maybe one day investing in a work of art that is a donabe.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.


  1. this is a very good review. direct, simple and good information. i particularly liked how you compare other cultural uses of this type of cookware. i've tried the tagine and the haandi and i've been looking for a donabe. perhaps i need to read this book. thanks for your review.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed the review. Hope you find the perfect donabe. Happy reading and happy cooking. Please come back and share your recipes.

  2. Keefe McIntyre has cooked and baked foods on various types of cookware sets at home, in restaurants, and through other venues. ceramic cookware