An Interview with Kumiko Ibaraki, Author of The Worry Free Kitchen

I can never claim to be a cook, however one of my favorite type of books to browse through are Asian cuisine cookbooks. Last year I was able to purchase The Worry Free Bakery, so this year I was quite happy to learn of Kumiko Ibaraki, the author was releasing a second translated cookbook of The Worry Free Kitchen. She was also in New York around the period of Book Expo, so I was able to get an interview with this Japanese author/dietician/teacher on Thursday with interpretation from Ioannis Mentzas, Vertical‘s Editorial Director. Here is a transcript of my interview with Ms. Ibaraki.

Q: Since your first English translated cookbook was on deserts, and now it is on a wonderful variety of appetizers, entrees, and side dishes, what made you decide to write The Worry Free Kitchen?

Kumiko Ibaraki: In Japan food order is deserts first, so that is a good question. In general Japanese food tends to be healthy, however Japanese deserts though healthy, tends to be fattening. So that is where I wanted to start from. The book was well received so I moved onto main dishes and appetizers.

Q: How much time have did you spend on researching and choosing recipes to be included in <strongThe Worry Free Kitchen?

KI: 10 years.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge you experience in writing The Worry Free Kitchen, and then getting it translated?

KI: Devising the low calorie tempura recipe was the hardest part, and as far as the translation goes (Mentzas indicates self) there really weren’t any difficulties. It was a well constructed book in Japan, so what we needed to do was translate it into good accurate English.

Q: In writing and researching The Worry Free Kitchen, has there been a memorable experience centered on writing this book, either from reactions of fans, your students or your family?

KI: I have been a teacher at a culinary school, so my students watch the recipes develop over the years and are glad to see it all in one place. My husband can now pick, (laughs) request recipes from the book to eat.

Q: In The Worry Free Kitchen what has been your favorite recipe to prepare or to eat?

KI: I have been a fan for Kentucky Fried Chicken, so coming up with a less fattening version is something I enjoyed. An Un-fried Chicken! (Ms. Ibaraki had prepared Un-fried Chicken as samples for people to try)

Q: Since The Worry Free Kitchen had came out in Japanese first, has readers commented on what their favorite recipe is to complete?

KI: The tempura recipes and the un-fried chicken recipe. The tempura recipes was challenging to come up with, because tempura is usually fried. Also normally when you fry tempura, you have to be standing, so because these recipes are baked instead you don’t have to stand and that is popular.

Q: What recipe would you always recommend for a beginner cook to learn?

KI: Every recipe in The Worry Free Kitchen should be easy for a beginner’s cook to accomplish.

Q: What is the essential ingredient to have in a kitchen?

KI: For this cookbook, mirin is a crucial ingredient. It has a mildness and texture that enhances the flavor of what is cooked. So if you look at the back of the book, it is listed as the first of necessary ingredient staples to be purchased.

Q: Outside of Japanese food what has been a cuisine that you have enjoyed the most?

KI: I am a glutton, so I enjoy anything, but I can enjoy it even more when cuisines can be less fattening. I start thinking that if I can gain weight with this, then no matter how delicious the meal is then I can’t enjoy it.

Q: Since the publication of The Worry Free Kitchen, and The Worry Free Bakery, what would be your next plans in order of writing and researching for another cookbook?

KI: Snacks using rice powder, (I cut in “Mochi?”) Mochi is one possibility, but you can do various other things with rice powder. It is a big fad in Japanese cooking nowadays, since technology has advanced to the point of grinding rice even more finer, so that has spread the options for cooking. This is is what I will be writing and researching about next.

So that was my interview and time spent with Ms. Kumiko Ibaraki. She has made a rare appearance in New York, and since the news of Japan are still having their aftershocks, I definitely wished her a safe travels. I also would once again thank Vertical Inc. for allowing me an opportunity to meet and talk with an author who’s work I definitely find useful to have in my own collection of cookbooks.