Namiko Chen from Just One Cookbook

by Helene

Namiko Chen

We all love Namiko or as we all call her, Nami. Her wonderful sweet personality and of course we love reading and learning about her throughout detailed kitchen adventurous.  She’s a gem and she certainly posts the best Japanese recipes!  I met Namiko Chen online last year when I began following all her blog posts.  Her photography is always spot on and I like the way she incorporates her “real” life in her posts.  Why is her blog named Just One Cookbook? Well, all she needs for the rest of her life is just one cookbook of recipes that her family enjoys.  I love that.

Through her food blog, we learn about her life and her children and that makes her blog interesting.  Honestly, if all I wanted was a recipe, there are books for that.  I visit blogs to get the recipes and to be entertained in the same time.  I’m never disappointed with Just One Cookbook.

For those of you who don’t know her, Nami lives in California with her husband and children but she was born and raised in Yokohama, Japan.  She went to the US to attend college and while she enjoyed American dishes, she was homesick for Japanese food and began cooking the recipes her mother had taught her.  I loved her answer, hen I asked her why she started her blog.  She told me that she wants her children to know her food heritage.  I think that’s so important!  Also her friends have asked her about Japanese cooking and a blog seemed to be the solution to share her recipes.  I’m so glad she started blogging because otherwise we’d have never met.

Like every young stay-at-home mother with small children, she works hard to balance her blog time with all the other things that require her time.  With two children there are lunches to prepare, a house to keep tidy, laundry, ferrying the children to soccer/dancing/swimming AND find time to cook, photo shoot, edit, blog, oh and of course some time to sleep is required too.  She cooks while the children are at school and writes and edits at night after they’ve gone to bed.

Shrimp-Ball by Nami at

When I asked Nami what she likes best about blogging, she told me it was the eating.  I can agree with that.  She cooks most of the family meals at home and loves the cooking aspect.  She said,  “After blogging I’m forced to measure my ingredients more accurately, and it’s actually a fun process since I know that I or any other reader can have a good meal as long as we follow my recipe”.  That really made me reflect on my own blogging and I have to agree.  Before blogging I used to be a “pinch of this and a dash of that”  person and then I’d taste and make adjustments. Since I stared blogging I have to be much more precise when coming up with new recipes.  Have you noticed you’re more accurate with noting the amounts now?  Nobody would want try one of our recipes and have it turn out badly.

If you want to learn to cook fantastic Japanese food, subscribe to her RSS feed at, follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

Nami’s favorite go-to meal doesn’t involve any cooking and can be on the table in 5 minutes if the rice is ready in the rice cooker.  Imagine that!  It’s salmon sashimi with salmon roe over white rice.  I don’t have any 5 minute meals but I could always borrow hers.

Her photography is stunning.  When I asked her if she cleans as she goes or if she does it all when she’s finished, she made total sense.

Since I started blogging, I would drop everything and leave the kitchen immediately once the dish is ready for photo shoot no matter how messy it is and clean up afterwards.  The window to photograph after a dish is done very short.

honey glazed pork by Nami at

All of us know that food goes “off” photographically speaking in a short amount of time.  That’s the best excuse I can think of for waiting till I’m done to clean up.  Nami did the cleanup for her mother when she was a kid and Japanese kitchens are pretty small in comparison to her much bigger American kitchen.

We talked about childhood memories and about food and she told me that that when she was young,they would serve mostly  Japanese food in her family home but they did cook spaghetti back then and her favorite sauce is just below.  I laughed when she told me she judges a restaurant based upon her meat sauce evaluation.  That’s Nami!  I’m sure we all guessed her food memory would be something Japanese, something that was eaten often while she was growing up.  That teaches me now not to assume anything. Here’s her famous meat sauce recipe!

spaghetti with meat sauce from

Namiko Chen from Just One Cookbook
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is Nami’s go-to dish when she wants food from her childhood
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ¼ lb ground pork (Today I use ground beef & pork package from Japanese market)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf, cut in half
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 28-oz whole tomato can and their juice
  • 2 cubes vegetable bouillon or 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water (omit if you use vegetable broth)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parsley for garnish, finely chopped
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat and cook garlic and bay leaf until fragrant.
  2. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until golden browned.
  3. Add the meat and break into pieces with wooden spoon.
  4. Add red wine and turn up the heat. Mix well and let the wine evaporate until the liquid is almost gone.
  5. Add whole tomato and bouillon (if you are not using vegetable broth) and break up the tomatoes with the wooden spoon.
  6. Add water (or vegetable broth) and mushrooms.
  7. Skim off the scum and fat from the soup with a fine mesh strainer. This process is important to achieve refined taste. You can easily clean the sieve in water.
  8. Cook uncovered on medium low heat for 1 hour. Stir once in a while and it’s done when you see the bottom of the pan when you use scoop with the spatula.
  9. And add butter and mix well. Sprinkle generous amount of salt and pepper to taste (since we eat with spaghetti). Serve the meat sauce on spaghetti and garnish with parsley. Grate fresh Parmesan cheese at the table.


Helene is the author behind and shares FoodWriterFriday with Maureen from She is originally Austrian/French but moved in her very early twenties to the beautiful coastline state Goa, India. She loves to discover new exotic ingredients and she enjoys developing Indian/European fusion dishes and of course you will find her also cooking traditional Austrian, French and Goan dishes.

Latest posts by Helene (see all)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous at
Anonymous at

Leave a Comment

Rate this recipe:  

Previous post:

Next post: