Because I saw so many conflicting reviews on this book I decided to check it out of the library first. I've had it for three weeks, and I've now ordered my own copy from Amazon. It has so much good information in it: Marinade recipes, techniques for adapting your Weber grill (gas or kettle) to the classic yakitori style of grilling, how to thread your skewers for yakitori, tips for getting the most from your marinades and bastes, and advice on what cuts of meat (fowl, beef, pork, lamb), species of fish, types of veggies to use, and where to get hard-to-find ingredients. This cook book takes classic Yakitori grilling and puts it in a very fresh new light: It takes Yakitori grilling off the in-home table top and shoves it out into our back yards. The authors present the classical approach via our American love of outdoor grilling.
I love to grill, BBQ, whatever you want to call it--I'm out in the yard all the time. And because I live in lower Texas, I'm outside cooking more often than not. I've got a smoker, several grills and a setup for open flame. Give me hardwood charcoal, pecan wood from our trees out back, propane; give me a grate, or skewers or a red-hot cast iron griddle: Point is, give me almost any type of food and I'll try to cook it outdoors. I may not be the most "normal" of grillers, but I bet the further South you travel in this great country of ours, the more "normal" I appear to be. Because the more opportunities there are to grill outdoors, the more you embrace it.
Problem is, grilling so often, sometimes I need a little creativity boost. I'm unhappy with myself when I start putting the same-ole', same-ole' on the table. American-style barbecue sauce is barbecue sauce; you can change it just so many ways. Same goes for American-style marinades. So there was a time that I got tired of the usual recipes for "BBQ" and grilling in general and I turned to "Fushion" recipes and started incorporating soy sauce, ginger, scallions, hot peppers into my marinades and bastes. Add another culture's grilling style into your repertoire and you're off and running again.
So I got cozy with the Asian markets in my vicinity and now I've got a whole cabinet full of Asian sauces and condiments. And that's where I was a month ago: Experimenting. And while I love to experiment, I also love to have some expertise behind my gambles.
Now I have this book and it provides a wealth of different marinades and a lot of techniques to make the most of them and to pair them with the right cut of meat, seafood or veggie. Granted, there are a lot of recipes that are "variations on a theme", but in most of those recipes there is a little tidbit of very useful information, and those tidbits of info then feed my "fire" for more creativity.
I especially love to prepare whole fish on the grill. This book has an extensive seafood and fish chapter. And, the authors have provided a good variety of fish species as alternatives. I'm very happy with that.
If you have investigated Asian markets before, you are probably familiar with most of the ingredients listed. (If you've never been to an Asian market, you really need to do yourself a favor and make a day trip of it--you will be amazed!) Most are pantry shelf items that you can find and keep at home. There are two herbs--shiso (perilla) and mitsuba (Japanese parsley)--that you can grow in your garden. There might be one or two hard-to-find condiments, but they are described in the book with such detail, you can probably make do and concoct your own reasonable substitute, (There it is again: Creativity!).
I also have the authors' book: Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals. Now, I wasn't so keen on that book as I am on this one. That book does require a lot of fresh veggies and greens that are not available daily in my area. So it wasn't so user-friendly for me. But we have reconfigured our winter garden to incorporate some of the veggies and greens that are used in hot pots, so we're using that book more often. Plus, the more often you use the names and ingredients that go with the names, it all gets easier.
I'm very glad to have this book in my cook book collection. I've got a whole shelf on grilling, another shelf for Asian and Japanese, a shelf for seafood and fish, a shelf for beef and pork, many shelves for veggies--this book is a stand-out on any of these shelves!
NOTE: If you need to shy away from salt in your diet, you may want to check this out of your library before deciding to purchase it. There is a lot of salt in the sauces and condiments used; a lot of salt in soy sauce and miso pastes. I personally try to avoid a lot of salt in my diet, and I find that I might be able to cut down a touch of salt in these recipes. I also pair these grill recipes with plain rice and steamed veggies. You might never appreciate plain rice until you use it as a counterpoint to a richly flavored, salty taste of grilled meat or fish. After pairing the two together, you will crave the combination more and more often.
ANOTHER THOUGHT: I list below a few other cook book titles--not that I consider them as fine as the one I'm reviewing here, but they might work for you: If you like the idea of adding another culture's ingredients to your grill recipes, but think The Japanese Grill contains too many unknown or unfamiliar ingredients, you may want to take a look at some older books: Steven Raichlen was one of the first--if not the first--to start writing about grilling "cultures": The Barbecue! Bible and Planet Barbecue!, and any of the series by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison, like Hot Barbecue (Hot Books). These books would allow you to approach these new flavors at a more leisurely pace.