Rice, Noodle, Fish is part travelogue, part food guide, and one of the best I’ve read from either category in quite some time. Stunning landscapes might stir my wanderlust, but what I ultimately want to know is “What do they have to eat?”
Matt Goulding ably answers that question, traveling Japan to highlight the wide range of shokunin (artisans who are obsessively devoted to their craft– think Jiro from Jiro Dreams of Sushi). From high end yakitori in Tokyo, to cocktails with unexpected seasonal ingredients sourced entirely from Japan (carrots from Kanagawa, anyone?), to a small town couple preserving long-held traditions of fermentation, to an incongruous but excellent French bakery in Hokkaido, I found myself alternately delighting and despairing in Goulding’s descriptions. Why am I not there, eating that, right now??
Goulding intersperses his profiles of shokunin with short cultural tips, food photos with accompanying names and kanji, and even recommendations on what to order from vending machines or buy from conveniences stores (which I’m already smitten with). Even if you’re not a big foodie, the writing is engaging; covering history, culture, stories of the shokunin– and yes, while it’s not the major focus– Goulding will have you yearning for the streets of Kyoto or the mountain landscapes of Hokkaido.
Rice, Noodle, Fish is not exactly meant as the kind of travel guide you carry in your backpack, but there’s so much great info, and so many must-try restaurants, that I’m either taking copious notes or making room in my suitcase for this book next time we visit Japan.