Check out our recommendation for six must have Japanese ingredients, what to use them for and just why there are so many different types!
Essential for sushi, sauces, dressings and more! Soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans. Be careful when you’re looking at recipes, all regular Japanese soy sauce is ‘light’ style compared with different Asian soy sauces. ‘Light’ or ‘white’ Japanese soy sauce is usually just lighter in colour, rather than flavour, so can be easy to go overboard.
This fortified alcohol used to be drunk as a medicinal treat, but these days you’re much more likely to find it in your nikujaga stew than your cocktail. Mirin helps to give a subtle sweetness to dishes and create the lovely glossy shine you see in dishes like teriyaki. If you prefer to avoid alcohol in your cooking, there are also low-alcohol or mirin-style alcohol free seasonings available.
Sake adds flavour, helps to stop strong tastes from meat, to keep the dish well balanced. Regular cooking sake usually has a little bit of salt added so it can be sold without alcohol tax or a license in Japan, so if you are watching your sodium intake, this is something to check before you cook.
Miso is made from fermented soy beans, but can have a very different flavour or style depending on how it’s prepared or what ingredients are used. There are three major kinds of miso: white miso, red miso and awase miso (which is a blend of both!)
It may seem obvious to say, but rice is a very important part of Japanese cooking! Some dishes such as onigiri rice balls or sushi have to be made with Japanese style short grain rice in order to get the right texture. Those really into their rice have preferred strains or growing areas. Here are some popular ones…
An essential ingredient for getting just the right tang in sushi rice, rice vinegar is also important for vegetable side dishes, dressings and making pickles! Rice vinegar has a very mild flavour compared to traditional malt or cider vinegar, making an indispensable addition to anyone’s kitchen!