Donabe by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton – A Book Review

When it comes to things for the kitchen, I’m the guy that has to have one of everything! Case in point: I have owned a donabe for years. The only problem was that I just didn’t know what to do with it. I used it in one way or another from time to time, and it certainly is beautiful to look at, but I just never got around to using it as it was intended. When I got the book ‘Donabe’ by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton, I finally had the opportunity to put my donabe to work. Since one of my favorite things about cooking is exploring different cuisines and discovering new ways to create things, this book seemed like a perfect fit.

The donabe has been around for hundreds of years. This book contains everything you need to know about cooking in a donabe including what to look for, where to purchase one and how to season and care for it. The book also provides information on how to plan a meal in the donabe style and is beautifully illustrated with photographs and detailed descriptions on creating your own donabe feast. As it turns out, there is more to it than putting a pot on the table as the author Naoko Takei Moore explains:

“Donabe cooking is all about sharing. Whether it’s at home or in a restaurant, a simple family meal, or a special dinner party with guests, donabe can make the experience more fun and memorable.

It’s the communal dining experience that donabe creates, and it teaches the concept of
ichigo-ichie — every moment is a once-in-a-lifetime treasure.”

Naoko is not only a donabe enthusiast, but she also operates a website that imports them. Included in the book is a chapter on the artisanal pottery company Nagatani-en, in Iga, Japan. Though reluctant at first, Nagatani-en eventually became the pottery company that allowed Naoko to buy and import their products to the US. She began selling them on her website in 2008. Although you can find donabe clay pots easily here in many Asian markets and online, I doubt you will find any as beautiful or as well made as the ones from Nagatani-en in Iga. The history of pottery here goes back almost thirteen hundred years. The clay from this region that is used to make the pots is from a prehistoric layer of earth and contains fossilized microorganisms. The resulting characteristics of the finished product are what make these donabe pots so exceptional and unique.

In reading this book, I was surprised to find that there were so many different types, sizes, and shapes of donabe. After thoroughly describing the background on the donabe, Naoko’s book has six chapters each dedicated to a unique style of donabe, beginning with the classic donabe. Many of the dishes in the following chapters can be made in a traditional donabe. However, the recipes for the donabe steamer, tagine-style donabe, and smoker style donabe cannot. There is alternative cookware that can be used for these recipes and suggestions are made so that the reader can adapt other types of cookware as needed. As much as I would like a shelf full of the various types of donabe cookware, I can’t see myself, or the average reader, making such a commitment (well maybe I can make room for three or four). In any case, I still enjoyed reading and being inspired by all the recipes in each chapter. A chapter on ‘Dashi, Sauces, and Condiments’ rounds out the book, as well as a glossary, and some pages on tools and resources.

If you were interested in buying a donabe or making use of the one you already have, this book would be a great addition to your cookbook collection. If you plan on making some of the recipes found in here without one, your results will not be the same, but will be no doubt delicious.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

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