Newest Review: ... Once you have seen the quality and descriptive recipes in this book you will no longer be wanting to simple add a sachet of swee... more
The Wagamama DIY Handbook
Wagamama Cookbook and DVD - Hugo Arnold
Member Name: obscuredbykep
Wagamama Cookbook and DVD - Hugo Arnold
Advantages: Great range of food - cooking at home
Disadvantages: No Duck Gyoza
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.
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...
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:
The Wagamama Kitchen
Sauces, Dips and Dressings
Sides and Other Small
Vegetable Main Dishes
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Summary: The Wagamama DIY Handbook