Food Writer Fridays – Namiko Chen from Just One Cookbook

Namiko Chen from

by Maureen on March 16, 2012

How easy is it to fall for Nami?  She’s such a sweet individual with the best Japanese recipes.  I met Nami 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? 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 be entertained as well.  I’m never disappointed at 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. When I asked her why she started her blog, I loved her reply.  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 the way to go 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 young 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, house to keep tidy, laundry, ferrying the children to soccer/dancing/swimming AND find time to cook, photo shoot, edit, blog, oh and find time to sleep 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” and then I’d taste and make adjustments. Since blogging I have to be much more precise when coming up with a new recipe.  Have you noticed you’re more accurate with noting the amounts now?  Nobody wants someone to prepare 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 is 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 til 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 about food and she told me that when she was young, it was mostly Japanese food on the family dinner table but they did make spaghetti and her favorite sauce is below.  I laughed when she told me she judges a restaurant based upon her meat sauce evalution.  That’s Nami!  I’m sure we all guessed her memory food would be something Japanese, eaten often growing up.  That teaches me not to assume anything. Here’s her famous meat sauce recipe!

spaghetti with meat sauce from

5.0 from 11 reviews
Spaghetti Meat Sauce
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.

You might also like:

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeno @ Week Nite Meals March 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Thank you for the posting, Nami is super sweet and I am so glad we all got to “Meet” her through cooking and sharing! That’s funny about the Spaghetti meat sauce, because my husband and I also judge an Italian restuarnt by ordering that particular dish, we would not return if the meat sauce is not up to par, because how can they serve good Italian food if the basic meat sauce is not right?


Martyna @ WholesomeCook March 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I really adore Nami too – she is so personable and her dishes look and sound amazing. Great interview Maureen!


Charles March 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm

“When I asked Nami what she likes best about blogging, she told me it was the eating”

Haha, oh yes! I love Nami’s site – so much fun… I love the look of this meat sauce too… I don’t often add pork to mine. Sounds great, must give it a try :)


Joanne March 20, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I love the idea behind Nami’s blog name and her food looks so delicious too! I have to go over and peruse her site some more!
Joanne recently posted..Recipe: Curried Tomato Soup with Hard-Boiled Eggs {the food matters project}


Lori Lynn March 21, 2012 at 12:30 am

Enchanting interview.
There’s never a dish that Nami makes that I wouldn’t love for lunch or for dinner.


Debra Kapellakis March 21, 2012 at 3:58 am

I am also lucky to be a recepient of Nami’s blog. I agree with you on that her photo’s and recipes are lovely!


Nami | Just One Cookbook March 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thank you Debra! :-)


cassie March 21, 2012 at 5:20 am

loved learning more about Nami! I have been following her for some time and her recipes, photos and personality are all top-notch!


Liz March 21, 2012 at 5:58 am

I remember when Nami just started her blog…she’s been sweet and genuine from Day 1! What an excellent interview. Nami, you are a gem!


Biana | Meal Planning Tips March 21, 2012 at 7:18 am

Thank you for sharing this interview with Nami! The Spaghetti With Meat Sauce sounds delicious.
Biana | Meal Planning Tips recently posted..Tomato Salad With Green Goddess Dressing


Magic of Spice March 21, 2012 at 8:53 am

What a fun read Nami :) Your sauce looks fantastic…just how my kids like theirs :)
Fantastic post!
Magic of Spice recently posted..Whats for lunch? Shaved Endive, Black Radish, Carrot and Apple Salad


Kiran @ March 22, 2012 at 12:52 am

Love your new blog design — so chic ;)

And absolute delight to read a feature on Nami here — she is one talented blogger :)


Sawsan@chef in disguise March 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I loved reading your interview with Nami, she is for sure one of the most talented and passionate bloggers I know and I loved knowing a little more about her.
P.S. love the new look of your blog, it is so professional and inviting
Sawsan@chef in disguise recently posted..Mutawam “roasted zucchini garlic yogurt dip”


Asmita March 23, 2012 at 11:00 am

Loved reading this interview. I enjoy reading Nami’s blog too. She is a very talented blogger.


Leave a Comment

Rate this recipe:  

Current ye@r *

CommentLuv badge

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: