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An Interview with Just One Cookbook, My Favorite Foodies Series

by Spicie Foodie on May 21, 2012

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On today’s edition of My Favorite Foodies Series we meet Nami from the popular blog Just One Cookbook. I am a big fan of Nami and her delicious Japanese home cooking blog. Her photography is stunning, her authentic Japanese recipes easy to follow, and together it always inspires me to learn and cook along with her. What I love most about her recipes is that they are her family’s tried and true home cooking. If all that wasn’t enough Nami is one of the sweetest bloggers you’ll come across in our community. Please help me give Nami a very warm welcome.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about your blog?

I share my quick and easy Japanese home cooking on my blog Just One Cookbook. It was launched in January 2011, so I’ve been involved with the food blog community for a little bit less than 1.5 years now. I named my blog Just One Cookbook because all I need is just 1 cookbook of family favorites, and I wanted my children to continue cooking their favorite food using this blog when they get older.

2. Why do you like to cook/bake or spend time in your kitchen? Have you always liked spending time in the kitchen?

I have been helping my mom in the kitchen since I was really young. My mom made me prep for dinner everyday so I learned how to cook naturally from her. When I came to the US by myself to study, I missed my mom’s cooking and the only way to enjoy it was by cooking the dishes myself.

Even though I have been cooking all these years, I only started to cook more seriously after my children were born. I started to enjoy it even more after blogging because my cooking now has purpose (besides feeding my family) – recording the cooking process and sharing with readers.

Oh almost forgot. I’m actually not much of a baker, and it’s my new challenge to include more baked goods in my food blog. I’m slowly working on it.

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3. Your blog has an extensive collection of authentic Japanese recipes. Which of your recipes would be the easiest for someone looking to start learning Japanese cooking?

Most of the recipes are quick and easy to prepare as long as you have the right ingredients. Sometimes that’s the hardest part in cooking Japanese food because you might live in an area where there are no Japanese or even Asian markets. We need certain ingredients to cook authentic Japanese food such as most basic dashi stock (which is made of bonito flakes and kombu, or the alternative dashi powder).

A lot of readers started cooking from something they are familiar with from eating at Japanese restaurants. At least they know how it should taste and look like. So I’d recommend some dishes that are popular among food bloggers and served in Japanese restaurants, like Chicken Teriyaki (or Beef Teriyaki), miso soup, Chicken Katsu Don, Agedashi Tofu, Spinach Salad with Sesame Sauce, and Green Tea Ice Cream.

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4. When you want to treat yourself or loved ones what do you prepare or splurge on?

My husband and I enjoy eating good food, either at home or in restaurants. We don’t mind spending money on delicious food or ingredients as long as we think it’s worth doing. We occasionally eat out at some restaurants in the SF Bay Area which we’ve been wanting to try and that have received great reviews. Both of us enjoy cooking some dishes together that take team effort and time on those special occasions (as we can’t spend that much time on our busy weekday and weekend schedule). Most times we prefer to eat a great meal at home so we can share with our children.  We get really disappointed when we “overpay” for the quality of food a restaurant serves.

5. You live so far away from your homeland, what foods do you miss most from Japan? 

I visit Japan once a year and I always ask mom to make my favorite, her Korokke or Japanese Croquettes.

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6. What is your most memorable or most special kitchen moment, be it a happy or a disastrous memory? 

I tend to forget bad things. I’m lucky that way. Hehe. So I don’t quite recall any bad incidents that happened in the kitchen. Well, I’m not an elegant cook either and my kitchen gets pretty chaotic when I cook. But when I think about my most memorable and special kitchen moment it would be the time cooking with my mom.

7. What is your favorite ingredient, the one you couldn’t live without, the one you use most often? And is this ingredient the one that inspires you the most or is there another?

Can I put two? I’m pretty addicted to both shiso (Perilla – herbs) and yuzu flavor. Imagining any dish that has shiso or yuzu makes my mouth water… You might see shiso on your sushi plate as decoration, but that’s edible!

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8. What food is your food vice? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking:)

This has to be dark chocolate with almonds in it. I don’t need to eat a lot of chocolate, but I’d be happy with even a tiny bit of very good chocolate and almonds.

9. Who is your favorite foodie? (Be it a professional, enthusiast or novice)

Is it okay to say it’s my husband? He’s been my partner in crime for eating good food for all these years together. He is probably more passionate about food. It’s our common interest and that’s why we started the food blog too. Together we enjoy eating good food, talking about food, and exploring to taste good food. It’s always more fun to have someone you can share the great experience with, and that has been my husband.

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10. Why did you start blogging? Do you have a goal or what do you hope to accomplish with your blog? 

My close non-Japanese friends really wanted to learn how to cook Japanese food.  I started sharing my recipes with them through emails and Facebook.  About a year later my husband and friends suggested that I expand my sharing through a website or blog because it was not easy to search for older recipes on Facebook.  So my blog started in January 2011 and here we are.

My original goal was to organize all my existing recipes and write up everything in the blog. Then I stared to have regular readers who are interested in learning more basic Japanese dishes that they know or want to try. It took me awhile to realize my blog is not just for myself but also other readers. So I have another passion now which is to create a recipe website where people can search common and popular Japanese dishes. I’d be more than happy if readers think my recipes are reliable and cook along with me.

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Anything else you would like to say or share with us, tips or advice for fellow blogger?

I want to thank you, Nancy, for inviting me here today to introduce me to your readers – it means a lot to me!

Since I always appreciate any kind of tips when other bloggers share theirs, I’d like to return those favors here.

I know these tips are the most basic, but I always think of these as the key to success in the food blog community.

– Try to publish posts on a regular basis (even once a week, it should be somewhat regular so readers will know when the next post will be published).

– Readers look forward to good recipes and photography. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is very true for food blogging. If readers do not like the photo, they’ll be less inclined to try the recipe. Food photography and styling have always been a challenge for me and it’s my personal top priority to improve.

– Always have a clear and easy to follow recipe. Just like how you teach others to cook, it has to be clear instructions, especially when you are not there to teach. I’m always a visual learner so I took step-by-step pictures for myself in the beginning. However I have been getting great feedback from readers that the step-by-step pictures have been very helpful to cook some food they are not familiar with. Because of that feedback  I can’t stop taking step-by-step pictures now even though it’s so time consuming! You do not need step-by-step pictures, but you must write your recipes very well so readers feel comfortable trying them.

– Always respond to readers’ questions about a recipe. It can be really time consuming to respond to readers’ questions one by one, but if I’m a reader and have some question about the recipe, I’d love to get the answer for clarification.

– Try to avoid clutter and organize your blog so readers can grab whatever they need easily.

Thank you again for having me here today, Nancy, and thank you Spicie Foodie readers for reading my interview!

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Recipes for images in the graphic and photos can be found in the links below.
Japanese Tofu (Cold Tofu | Hiyayakko) , Curry Udon, Spanish Mackerel with Yuzu, California Roll, Strawberry Daifuku (Strawberry Mochi), Nikujaga 肉じゃが, Shabu Shabu, Green Tea Ice Cream (Matcha Ice Cream | 抹茶アイスクリーム), Wafu Dressing (Japanese Salad Dressing), Agedashi Tofu, Chicken Katsu Don,Spicy Shoyu Ramen, Quick & Easy Chirashi Sushi

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All images are the sole property of Namiko Chen and Just One Cookbook. Graphic design by Spicie Foodie. Please do not use images or graphics without prior written consent. Thank you.

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