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Wagamama Cookbook and DVD - Hugo Arnold

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      12.04.2011 23:35
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      Make sure you have a wok, soy sauce and noodles and you'll be grand

      As a quite frequent diner in the Wagamama restaurant I was really happy to find this cookbook in 'The Works' recently for the extremely cheap price of £3.50. This is written by Hugo Arnold and was first published in 2007, it is available as just the book, which I bought, or with a DVD which is available on Amazon and from the Wagamama's restaurant and website for £14.99. I cannot comment on the DVD, but presumably it had demonstrations of the dishes.

      The Author

      Hugo Arnold is a food writer and specialist having had a career writing for numerous magazine columns such as the Financial Times and Evening Standard. He has written about ten cooking books in total, two of which are based on the Wagamama restaurant chain, the second being called 'Wagamama: Ways with Noodles'. In addition to this he consults with restaurants, pubs bars and hotels and works in association with Good Food Ireland.

      The Restaurant

      Wagamama is a restaurant chain with a simple motto, Positive Eating and Positive Living. Their restaurants and food are based on pan-asian inspired noodle eateries, with the first one opening in London. They have successfully branched out from here to open 70 restaurants across the UK since 1992. The food is based on healthy foodstuffs with the aim of providing "fresh and nutritious food in an elegant yet simple setting with helpful, friendly service and value for money". Having dined in many of these restaurants over the years I can wholly agree that they are all of the above.

      The Book

      The Wagamama Cookbook is not only based on dishes created in the restaurant kitchens, it is much, much more than this. The chief elements of this book are founded on Japanese inspired dishes, chiefly noodles, rice and fresh high quality ingredients. Once you have seen the quality and descriptive recipes in this book you will no longer be wanting to simple add a sachet of sweet, sticky stir fry sauce to a bed of noodles.
      The book is divided into ten principal sections;

      The Wagamama Kitchen is the first section of the book and describes how the Wagamama restaurant functions and focuses on the freshness and quality of the food. Following this it gives tips on kitchen equipment needed (mainly a wok and you're ready to go!) and the art of stir frying, Japanese style, with no soggy ingredients cooked within an inch of their lives in sight. It tells you how to 'season' your wok, which needs to be done from new, basically burning the grease or oil from the packaging and finally the Japanese cooking styles which feature heavily throughout the cookbook - deep-frying; grilled; sautéed; simmered; steamed; vinegared and dressed salads.

      There is a very thorough ingredients list giving descriptions of the typical components used in the recipes, their Japanese name and exactly what it is. This is very useful reading and is easy to refer back to. You are then given a range of stock and seasoning recipes which a large number of their dishes contain, as well as simple pastes and oils.

      Section 2 is made up of Sauces, Dips and Dressings that can be the bases or added extras to the main and side dishes in the later chapters. Some of these are essential flavourings to a recipe such as ebi katsu sauce and teriyaki sauce, however some you can make in a batch and use as and when you want or need to for example the barbecue sauce and sweet miso dressing. These sauces are not particularly complex to make but some need a lot of ingredients and there can be a high cost factor involved when buying some of the more unusual ingredients. I find that I have not made too many of these recipes for this reason.

      Section 3 is Sides and other Small Dishes, some of my favourite recipes are in here such as the chicken yakitori that is sold in the restaurant and ebi katsu which is shallow fried tiger prawns with chilli and garlic dipping sauce. There is a great range of these side dishes and many of which are simple to make and can go with other food other than Japanese. There are both light, cold salads and larger sides with a good range of vegetarian and meat options.

      Sections 4, 5, 6 and 7 are split up into chicken, fish, meat and vegetarian sections. This is a great plus when you have a particular ingredient you want to use, as you can simply flip through the twenty or so pages of your chosen chief element of a dish. The range of Japanese main dishes contained in this book is amazing, there are soup based dishes, noodles and plenty of rice varieties and flavourings. The key to making good, flavoursome and healthy main dishes in this book is vegetables, spring onions, chilli, mushrooms and bean sprouts.

      The main dish recipes run you through how long to heat your wok for, when to add your oil and for each ingredient tells you how to cook each element and how long for. It is very descriptive, but doesn't go over the top with additional useless information like some cookbooks do on the origin of a sugar snap pea! Japanese cooking is rapid and you can easily whip up most of these dishes in fifteen to twenty minutes or less, depending on your prep time. There are approximately ten to fifteen recipes and varieties of recipes in each section, so a very good range.

      Some of my favourite recipes from these sections include;

      Chilli beef ramen with bean sprouts, red onion and lime

      Salmon korroke - salmon cakes with amai sauce, mixed leaves and wakame

      Grilled teriyaki sea bass with mixed leaves and garlic rice (I generally have with noodles)

      Chicken rice noodles with chilli and coconut ginger sauce

      As above there a large number of dishes taken straight from the restaurant and you can adapt and change elements of them to your liking. Again these often have 15 plus ingredients in the list, but I often leave certain items off to suit my time and budget etc. It is a very flexible recipe book and you can add the flavourings to suit your taste.

      Section 8 is composed of salad recipes which I hate to admit but I haven't really made use of, here is where a lot of the dressing and sauces from Section 2 can be made use of. Recipes include noodle salads, leave salads and more sophisticated and filling additions such as tofu steak salad and grilled salmon salad. If I was a salad person I would be very impressed, but I'm not!

      Sections 9 and 10 are Desserts and Juices and Drinks this is principally made up of fruit dishes which consumed after cooking one of their main dishes is a very healthy dinner indeed! There is a good variety of sweet snacks to make but to me most are just glorified fruit salads. The Juices and Drinks section is very good having a bizarre yet strangely alluring selection of healthy beverages such as apple, carrot and watercress juice along with apple, celery and mint juice. These recipes can be used at any time of the day and are very refreshing and healthy.

      All in all I really like this cookbook, I love the fact it contains recipes that I have eaten and loved in the restaurant and the variety of healthy and tasty meals in it is brilliant. I chiefly use the side and main dish recipes but think as a whole it has produced a great choice of Japanese food culture.

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        14.03.2010 00:20
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        A good basic Japanese cookbook for the Wagamama fan.

        Everyone in our house loves Wagamamas, including my very picky son, so when I saw this cookbook, I thought it was a great idea.

        It comes with a DVD, which I lost before I got round to watching, so I've no idea what that's like. It's a nice idea, though. The book itself is a big, glossy affair, with thick pages and plenty of pictures, both of the food and of various wagamam restaurants and kitchens. It looks like a coffee table book.

        The recipes are interspersed with talk... stories about where the recipe came from, or how it's served in the restaurants. There is a lot of talk, but I like that, so long as there are plenty of recipes too; and there are about a hundred (I didn't stop to count, I'm afraid!) Most of the recipes are illustrated - it's only the sauces and salad dressings that aren't - meaning that any complete dish you can see what you're aiming for.

        The recipes themselves are written so as to be as easy to follow as possible. Any sauce, marinade or dressing preparations are set in a seperate section, which can lead to sudden realisation that you have to make something before you begin, but so long as you're prepared you'll be fine. Each step is written clearly, so as to be able to follow them exactly to a perfect finished product; this book would be ideal for a non-confident cook.

        As for an experienced cook, well, there's enough there to keep your interest too. The dishes are all very elegant and modern, and delicious. The recipes might be simple, but there's enough of a twist - there are few things in the book which would be as I'd make them without the book.

        All aspects of the meal are covered, too, from starters and side dishes all the way through to drinks.

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          24.01.2010 16:12
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          Overall a great cookbook allowing you to re-create some of the resturants favourite dishes

          A few years ago a friend kept going on about Wagamama's - I had never been myself, so on a day out in London we popped in for a bite to eat...that's where the love affair started.

          Following that day, I continued to eat in Wagamama's and continued to sample the various dishes, from chicken or duck gyoza, chicken ramen (noodles, broth, vegetables and chicken), salmon hotpot, to their signature dish wagamama ramen which includes prawns, chicken, noodles, bamboo shoots and vegetables.

          When a friend then bought me their cookbook I was in seventh heaven - Wagamama's at home - genius!

          The book is divided into various sections -firstly explaining their kitchens and the equipment used and the various cooking styles and a fantastic ingredient glossary.

          The book then moves into sauces and dressings; sides and small dishes; chicken; fish; meat; vegetable main dishes; salads; desserts and finally juices and drinks.

          For those slightly familiar with the restaurants or Japanese cuisine, the dessert section in not overflowing but I do not find that a problem.

          The dishes are all fairly easy to make and the key is in the preparation and having the ingredients ready as most of the dishes cook very quickly. Another benefit - especially for those looking to stick to their new years resolution of healthy eating etc. - the dishes are healthy, nutritious and, more importantly, absolutely yummy.

          The only downside can be some of the ingredients - depending on where you live. My local supermarkets to no tend to stock some of the more 'exotic' ingredients (although I do go into London quite a bit so can pick these up or on-line) but I have still been able to cook a majority of the dishes.

          Some supermarkets do stock a couple of the ready made sauces to make it even easier for you - I have often used the chilli men sauce to recreate the chicken chilli men dish and had an amazing meal in 10 minutes.

          If you like food with is healthy, tasty and fast to cook than this is the book for you.

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          08.01.2010 15:58
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          The Wagamama DIY Handbook

          I decided to go back up to uni early this term, so that I could enjoy a few days in our halls flat, on my own. The novelty didn't last the night but still. One thing I am enjoying though, is having free reign of the kitchen. Not having to worry about taking up space so the other 9 can cook, or making sure my washing up is done straight away. On tonight's menu, is Steamed Swordfish Steak, with lemon and herbs, served with Jacket Potatoes, Steamed Veg, and a pepper and ginger sauce (made from scratch of course). Not typical student food maybe, but revelling off the fact mum filled my fridge and freezer, along with cupboard with so much that I have to keep some in my bedroom. It's cooking right now, so I thought I'd start on another review.

          I scanned my room, thinking what to write about this time, when, from the corner of my eye, my only cookbook jumped out at me. "The Wagamama Cookbook". I got it for my 18th birthday, so that's just 2 years and a few days now, and to date have used it just the once, but only for one reason which I will get to later.
          Wagamama
          I got given this cookbook for two reasons. 1) I do quite like to cook. Especially experimenting with flavours and bits. I don't actually own any cookbooks other than this one, though would quite like a shelf full. 2) It is a restaurant me and my ex (whom gave me it) used to go to quite a lot.

          For those who do not know, Wagamama is a popular high-street Japanese restaurant, first opened in Streaham Street London, and now can be seen all over the place, Norwich, Manchester, Cambridge you name it. I had never tried Japanese food before I went to a Wagamama, and loved it instantly, and, although pricey compared to some of the normal places I'd eat (around £7.00 for a main meal) it was always a great treat.
          They offer a great range of authentic Japanese food, all cooked to perfection, if you ever pass one buy you should try them out, and maybe once you have, you will want to re-create that at home...

          The Book
          Available from the Wagamama Restaurants, or online at Amazon (£9.59) it contains a lot of the recipes for creating your own Wagamama dishes at home. The book is a paperback, and its RRP is £14.99 which may be how much Wagamama sell them for.The book is split into a number of sections:

          Introduction
          The Wagamama Kitchen
          Sauces, Dips and Dressings
          Sides and Other Small
          Dishes
          Chicken
          Fish
          Meat
          Vegetable Main Dishes
          Salads
          Deserts
          Juices and Drinks

          The Introduction is just a simple introduction to Wagamama, written by someone in first person. It made a brief interesting read, but obviously isn't the focal point of the book. The next section, The Wagamama Kitchen says that the recipes included in the book have been on the menu at some point or another, and they have only been slightly modified to cater for domestic cooking.
          It goes on to mention the utensils and such you will need, stating, that it is best to have a Wok, but you can get away with a large frying pan, and saying things like Ramen Bowls are useful, but large and can be expensive (£20 from the Wagamama website..) and they said one thing they worried about, was the Teppan, "a large flat plate on which the Japanese fry noodles mixed with other vegetables", however a large heavy bottomed frying pan is fine. There is then an ingredients section, which gives the details of many ingredients which you may not be familiar with, such as Sake, Wakame, Konbu and bits. Next up, how to make some stocks and other preparation pieces.

          Sauces, Dips and Dressings
          Many of the different dishes, will use a different sauce or something to go with them. For example, an Amai Udon, one of my favourites, uses an Amai sauce, which you need to prepare yourself. Many of these sauces are really simple to prepare, and can be easily played with if you wanted to use it in other dishes, and experiment. This section also has various dressings and sauces, from simple salad dressings, to barbeque sauce, they are all kept simple - and as you would hope, they are not too time consuming, meaning you can focus on the main cooking.

          Sides and Other Small Dishes
          Wagamama make a point of saying that sides are not starters. It says it on their menus, and says it here in the book. However, they are the closest thing to a starter you can get, and do serve the purpose. There is a good range of starters to chose from, some of which I haven't seen in the restaurant, but would love to try. This is the section where the Gyozas are featured. It says "gyozas are often shared in the restaurants, and make great party food." They are something I would get if I had the extra money, but not a necessary. In total, there are 15 recipes in this section.

          Chicken
          It has to be said, Chicken is probably one of my favourites, as I am sure it is of many others. Most of the time, when in a Wagamama, I opt for a chicken dish. This section has all the recipes with Chicken in, such as Chicken Tama Ricer, or Chicken Chilli Men. There are 13 recipes here, and many would be enjoyed by people of all ages, such as the Marinated Chicken Stir Fry - which is a simple and yummy dish.

          Fish
          Fish is a much more love it or hate it set of meals. People either like fish, or they don't. I have had two meals from this set, which is the Amai Udon, a stir fried noodle dish with prawns, tofu and leek and a Yaki Soba, which is probably my favourite - Stir fried chicken and prawns with soba noodles and pickled ginger. This section has a great variety amongst its 18 dishes using different fish such as prawns, haddock, cod, bass and salmon, offering choice for everyone.

          Meat
          Again, this section offers a small variety, using different meats from duck, beef, pork and lamb but only 9 recipes, 5 of which are pork. This is somewhat disappointing, since that is actually the one meat I am less fond of. Only one duck recipe, two beef, and one lamb recipe means that you do not get the choice you would perhaps want, but those that are there do look great.

          Vegetable Main Dishes
          These dishes are those which are perfect suitable for the vegetarians amongst you. There are 12 recipes which vary from simple soup, stir-fries and a curry.

          Salads
          Apparently, Wagamama have had repeated requests over the years for there Salad Dressing recipe, and it was first revealed in this book (under the dressings section). The 10 recipies here vary, containing different additions which make the salads, from a Green-Tea Noodle Salad, to Beef Itameru. I haven't tried anything out of this section, since a lot of them contain a few ingredients I do not like, such as rocket. The ginger chicken salad however, does look rather delicious.

          Deserts
          For many a desert is the best part of a meal. The recipes in this book are mostly based on fruit, since apparently it is a tradition to end a meal with fruit, as well as many Japanese homes not having an oven for baking, and their intolerance to lactose. There are 11 dishes here, including a Coconut Rice Brulee, Banana Katsu and a Green-Tea drizzle cake. They give a great ending to what could be a great meal.

          Juices
          There are 9 different easy to make juices here, which range from the nice looking, to the not so. From a nice Apple and Cranberry Juice, which is simply apples and cranberries juiced, to Apple Celery and Mint juice, which again is exactly as it sounds, and something I think I'd leave alone.

          The Book Overall
          The book runs to a total of 192 pages, and is A4 in design, meaning it isn't too thick that you need both hands to turn the pages. The design of the book is excellent. Each page is well laid out, and the recipes are written in such a way they are dead simple to follow. Many of the recipes also include a colour photograph of the dish, which is great to see how it should turn out. They also act as a real hook to trying that recipe. Just flicking through now, there are a few recipes I want to try purely from the mouth-watering look of the photograph. There are other photographs scattered amongst the pages of the restaurants, people enjoying their food, cooks and such which fills the blank spaces which would otherwise be left. Also filling these gaps, is plenty of interesting information, just random snippets such as the amount of fish they go through a week (1000kg). Not needed in the book, but adds a nice touch, along with the testimonials from various customers.
          I think the organisation of the book, into the sections above, makes it really simple to find exactly the sort of dish you are looking to cook, and the instructions are such that confusion is kept to a strict minimum. The book really is a one stop station for basic Japanese cuisine.

          The DVD
          I have only watched through the DVD once. It runs to around 30 minutes, and unfortunately I have left it at home so cannot focus in-depth upon it. It contains various demonstrations of how to cook different bits, how to slice the food a certain way, how to fry perfectly, that sort of thing. It is a watch once sort of thing, that you could probably catch online or on TV.
          So, It's all Good then?...
          Alas, if only. There are a couple of simple issues I have. Firstly, is a recipe that isn't in there, which I love. I am talking of course, about the Duck Gyoza. It is a favourite of mine, and is certainly an excellent part of a meal there, well worth the £4.95 or whatever it was I last paid for it. While other gyoza are included, this unfortunately isn't.

          Secondly, while I know it is supposed to be mainly Wagamama recipes, I do feel that the meat section is lacking a little, and would really benefit from some more recipes. More use of duck and beef particularly, which are great parts of any meal.
          Finally, the reason I have only used the book once. Cost. These recipes can be quite expensive, if you are doing it as a one off. If cooking them regularly, then all is fine, but, as a one off, no. Why, I hear you ask. It's all the flavours. When I last cooked it, I did one starter, 3 mains and a desert. The Caramelised Sweet Potatoes, Amai Udon, Yaki Soba, Chicken Tama Rice and Banana Katsu, and while it was great fun cooking it, and certainly all tasted good, there was the issue of it costing about £30 or so. It was all the little bits we didn't have in the cupboard, root ginger, oyster sauce, sesame oil, shaoshing wine, tofu, sesame seeds, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, tamarind paste and a couple of other bits. They all came to quite a bit when added up, and so much was left over that we simply didn't use enough to make the most of, such as the soy sauce and sesame seeds. If you are doing these often, then they can definitely be made so much cheaper, and maybe if just focusing on one dish, and creating a larger amount of it.

          Recommend?
          I definitely do recommend the book. There are some great recipes in there, and the food tastes great. If you chose to do just one dish, or are going to use it regularly then the price shouldn't be too much of an issue, and there are definitely a couple of dishes here I might try cooking here at Uni.

          I do suggest however, that rather than cooking your own noodles, you get the precooked ones, since mine went too stodgy when I cooked them.

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            03.01.2010 05:57

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            An excellent addition to any kitchen

            I bought this as a gift for my husband for christmas as one of our favourite places to eat is Wagamamas and knew we will both love to try to replicate the recipes at home from this book. So last night we did and used it for a couple of the recipes. And i have to say the recipes seem spot on, easy to follow and the resulting dishes were delicious. The photography in the book is excellent and i like the glossary at the front of the book that explains what some of the ingredients are that you may not recognise or know. The basic sauce and dressing recipes are in a seperate section and a suggestion to make would be if you are likely to be using the book and recipes with any regularity to make a batch of some of these seperately in a spare moment so when you come to cook the recipes it speeds up the process considerably.

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            18.02.2009 10:38
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            If you love cooking and Japanese food you will like this book

            I am a big fan of Wagamama and eat there as often as is possible, ive even tracked down the local branch in Brisbane while I was in Australia last year - the food is so tasty and filling as well as being pretty healthy and very good value for money. So I was over the moon when my brother in law bought me the cook book for christmas, being someone that also loves to cook this was a great idea.

            The book is split into sections for chicken, fish etc but all the favourites off the menu are there (for me this means ginger chicken udon and beef ramen) and it also has lots of narrative telling you about how the chain started, why it has the particular quirks (like writing your order on the place mat) and also hints and tips on how to cook things so they will taste like they should.

            The interesting thing is that one of the first sections is dedicated to making the base sauces which will then feature in your recipes, this does mean that a considerable amount of time is needed in preperation for your cooking but some of the sauces will keep for a while in the fridge so you could do them a few days in advance if you want to be able to just cook the recipe quickly.

            The problem I found was sourcing half the ingredients - I wanted to cook some of the gyoza dumplings (which I always enjoy in the restaurants) but finding gyoza skins in Shropshire is like searching for the Holy Grail! Thankfully I found a supplier on-line (www.mountfuji.co.uk) and they also had some of the other bits I couldnt find, like dashi no moto.

            I do think it is a pain to have to order ingredients in for a particular recipe - and it requires a degree of foresight before you plan to cook - but the recipes I have tried have tasted amazing and (quite) similar to how they do when cooked by the professionals in the restaurant.

            It is getting easier to pick up some of the key things like decent sake and udon style noodles in the supermarket, I have noticed, and maybe as time goes on it will improve. Basically you do need patience and motivation to cook the recipes in this book - but the payoff when you succeed is (I think) worth it!

            Not for you if you want simple, quick, low prep recipes with easy to source ingredients, but if you love Japanese food and have a passion for cooking then you will enjoy this book and your friends and family will love the food!

            This book is currently available for around £10.49 on Amazon.

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              23.01.2009 20:32
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              Wagamama not so wow.

              Wagamama has recently opened a restaurant in Cardiff, and so I went in there to check it out, and I was blown away, the noodles are really good quality and full of flavour. After my meal I went to WH smiths and purchased the book to accompany the restaurant. The book is 192 pages long and on the front cover has a child drinking from a bowl in black and white with the wagamama cookbook written at the bottom in red and white, and is very attractive to look at. I found this book ok, but at my local store they didn't have many products there that I needed to make the recipes which are really disappointing because they should be accessible to everyone or they should give you alternative products to use. I made Chicken Raman and although it the recipes are really easy to follow and to understand, mine tasted nothing like Wagamama. Well at least I tried, but I would not recommend the book unless it is on special offer and you have time and money to go searching for the products. Really dissapointed in this book.

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                07.01.2009 22:47
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                Your guide to recreating your favourite dishes, with no hassle!

                I got this cookbook for Christmas and have already tried a few of the recipes, and so far have been impressed!

                The book itself is aesthetically appealing in that it has a good size font and lots of pictures of the foods and also pictures from various Wagamama locations. All of the recipes are laid out in a very clear manner.

                The book is clearly written and easy to follow, and the great thing is that they don't EXPECT you to have or go out and buy all of the specialised equipment that is used in the restaurants. Furthermore, all of the recipes chosen are designed to be cooked within 20 minutes, which is great for people with busy lives and little time to cook! All of the recipes are clear, concise and easy to follow and give great results.

                The only downside is that some of the more specialised ingredients can be a little tricky to find, and in normal supermarkets can be a little expensive, but use your imagination and you'll find some great substitutes. Also, it's usually a good idea to hunt out your nearest local ethnic food store as this will make the ingredients cheaper, and spices etc of a much higher quality!

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