Welcome to the Just Hungry reference section! Here is where we store various kinds of information in "handbooks" that we refer back to again and again.Filed under: site news
My mother, who lives in Yokohama, occasionally sends me a box of Japanese food goodies. Since she is in her own way as much of a foodie as I am, she diligently scours the land for great sources of locally produced, artisanal and/or organically produced foods. Many of these foods are known under the umbrella term sanchi chokusou(産地直送), direct from where it was produced. If you think French people are hung up on terroir, you should read some Japanese food magazine ads for sanchi chokusou products. Here's a photo of a recent box that arrived by seamail. (If you go to the flickr page, there are notes that describe what each item is.)
I'm always writing about Japanese food from the perspective of a person living outside of Japan, where it's naturally more difficult to get a hold of various ingredients. Japanese food prices outside of Japan are more often than not priced in the range of luxury gourmet items. I feel that most books written about Japanese cooking for a non-Japanese audience don't address the issue of the difficulty or expense of getting the right ingredients outside of Japan or an area with a big Japanese population. While I can rely on my mother to supplement my pantry, I've had to pare down what I do purchase and keep there while still being able to reproduce those "flavors of home".
These are things I always have in stock. If your interest in Japanese cooking is limited, or you're on a tight budget, concentrate on this list first.
And a few essential fresh ingredients:
These are ingredients that are staples of a Japanese kitchen, but aren't as essential as the ones above.
There are lots of these of course, but here are a few that are often mentioned as 'essential' Japanese ingredients, but I have little use for.
Since I posted my article about essential and not-so essential Japanese ingredients, a number of people have asked about the equipment I use for preparing Japanese food. It's taken me a while to get to it, but here it is finally. (You can consider this as a kind of gift guide for anyone who's into Japanese cooking too..'tis the season and all that after all!)
The list of special equipment that I do have besides the things you might find in any European-style or American-style kitchen is not that long, but there are some items that I find are well worth having. Keep in mind that, as usual, I'm speaking from the perspective of someone who doesn't live in Japan. If I lived in Japan chances are I'd have a lot more Japanese cooking-only items, such as a square pan for making atsuyaki tamago (the thick, square slightly sweet omelette often served in sushi restaurants). I also use some substitutes for things that I can use for Japanese cooking methods as well as other cuisines, as you'll see.
The following items are ones that are not Japanese, and which might not be used much in Japan, but I've found to be very good for Japanese cooking.
As you can see the list is not that long. The only other things you need are a couple of good knives. Knives are a whole topic unto themselves, so I'll leave that for another day.
Besides the cooking equipment I have a variety of Japanese bowls and serving dishes I've accumulated over the years. If you're starting out on this road you can get a lot of very nice things from eBay these days. Jlist also carries many traditional and fun authentically-Japanese serving items. If you want to present a minimalist kind of plating though, just serve your Japanese food on plain white plates, and use plain white bowls for rice and soup. Don't forget to use chopsticks though!Filed under: basics equipment japanese
This is a list I originally created in 2006. I haven't really revisited it since then, but I have cleaned up some unnecessary cruft (i.e., you no longer have to click on something to see the descriptions). I may come up with another list sometime....
What 100 Japanese foods would I recommend people try at least once?
I tried to keep away from foods that are only available in certain regions, or even certain restaurants or homes (e.g. my aunt's homemade udon) and stuck to foods that are widely available in Japan. I've also tried to include foods from all categories and all price ranges, from wildly expensive matsutake mushrooms to cheap and sometimes not so good for you snacks. I also did not limit the list to 'genuine Japanese' foods (純和風), but include Western-style yohshoku dishes and a sprinkling of chuuka (imported Chinese) foods that are so ingrained in Japanese food culture that most people barely think of them as Chinese any more. And of course, I have eaten all of the foods listed at least once - in most cases many, many times. I like them all!
The list is not numbered in order of preference. It's just how I happened to list them.
Nigiri-zushi and the most common types of sushi are not on the list, because I am assuming that if you are reading this, you've already had sushi. (Though... are you sure you've had great sushi at a top notch sushi-ya? See Judging a good sushi restaurant.)
Want more lists? The Big List of Must Eat Lists.Filed under: japanese ingredients offbeat lists
I am finally getting around to sowing some seeds for the vegetable garden. I really should have sown some things earlier, but I figure it's not too late yet.
If you are planning a vegetable garden, or even a few pots on your windowsill, and want to introduce some Japanese flavors, here's a list of some herbs and vegetables to consider growing, in order of importance and ease of growing in a temperate climate. (That's one with real winters...at least, before global warming.) The ones marked with an *asterisk can be grown in pots. A couple of my favorite seed sources are listed at the bottom.
If you can only grow one Japanese vegetable or herb, it should be shiso, or perilla (perilla fructescens). I've also seen it labeled "beefsteak plant", for what reason I know not. Shiso is used at all stages of growth. The seedlings are clipped and used as mejiso, as a fragrant garnish. The fully grown leaves, called oh-ba (big leaves), are used whole or shredded, as wrappings or garnish, as well as in pickles. And the flower buds, called hojiso, are salted and pickled. Onigiri wrapped in salted green shisos leaves are to die for.
The green shiso is the most useful one - the red shiso is usually just used for making umeboshi (pickled plums), and for hojiso. If you have the space growing both is great, but you'll need more green than red.
Since shiso leaves bruise rather easily, they are pretty expensive even if you can buy them. So, they are really worth growing yourself.
If you are lucky, shiso will self-seed itself. They did for me, but someone else mistook them for stinging nettles and pulled them all up! So, I'm sewing some anew this year.
You might find this in the ornamental seeds section,since the leaves are very attractive.
In terms of growing habits and conditions, it's quite similar to basil, so if you can grow basil you can probably grow shiso successfully. To keep the plants going keep plucking off any new buds until the weather turns cool, then let them form buds which you can cut off and preserve in salt. The only problem with shiso is that the leaves can get chewed up or get little holes drilled into them by various insects. Otherwise they are quite problem free. They do require lots of sun.
This is another herb that adds a really Japanese flavor to dishes. It's primarily used as a garnish, so you just need a little.
There are two kinds of mitsuba sold, but they are the same plant: regular mitsuba, and the kind with long, blanched stems. The latter kind is a pain to grow for the home gardener, but regular mitsuba grown for the leaves is very easy. Succession sowing is required. Mitsuba does pretty well in pots on a windowsill.
Called kaiware (which means "split shell), this is something you grow indoors rather than outside. Sew some seeds on a piece of thin washing-up sponge pushed into the bottom of a pot or a waterproof container of some kind, and keep the sponge moist. The seeds should sprout in about 2-3 days. Let them grow straight up if possible, though you can still use them if the stems curl. Used as a garnish and a salad ingredient.
Japanese turnips (kabu) are snow white and tiny compared to Western style turnips. They are very sweet and great in everything from pickles to soup to stews. The green tops can also be cooked. Provided you can prevent the pests from chewing the roots, they are very easy to grow, maturing in 30 days or so.
[Note: this part has been edited to correct some botanical fallacies and confusion!]
There are many easy to grow Japanese greens: Komatsuna, Mizuna, Shungiku, Nanohana, etc. Most are better when grown in cool weather. If you can manage to overwinter komatsuna (botanical name brassica rapa var. peruviridis) and other greens in the spring you'll get more tender and sweeter leaves. On nanohana (botanical name: brassica rapa var.amplexicaulis), which is rather similar to broccoli rabe or broccoli rapa , you will get some beautiful yellow-green flowers, considered as one of the harbingers of spring.
Beetles and other pests do love to make little holes in the leaves of tender greens, so you need to protect against that - if you don't mind how it looks, covering them in horticultural fleece is the best way. Note that in Japan, greens (including spinach) are usually allowed to grow to full size rather than picked as 'baby leaves' for salads.
Japanese eggplants or aubergines are small, black and slim. You can substitute eggplants sold as "Chinese", which are a bright purple and very slim, but you can't really substitute large Western style eggplants.
Growing eggplants is rather advanced gardening, especially in cool climates. I have had the best success growing them in large pots in a protected location. They require a rich growing medium, frequent fertilizing and lots and lots of water. If you're up to it though, they will reward you with tons of gorgeous little eggplants that keep giving and giving.
Shishito chili peppers are mildly spicy, rather like jalapeño peppers. They're usually eaten while still green. Very nice as tempura and in many other dishes. If you can grow other kinds of peppers, chili or sweet, then you can grow shishito.
You use such a lot of green onions in Japanese cooking that it can be quite worthwhile to grow some in the garden. You need to sow then in succession for a continuous supply. They are quite easy to grow. There are lots of varieties, but I just grow a general "evergreen" type. You can grow these in pots or growing boxes. You can even try planting up the cut off bottoms of store-bought green onions - they will sprout!
You need lots and lots of space to grow squash. Japanese squash, or kabocha, are sweet, dense and decidedly not watery. I've had mixed success with kabocha, but when I have gotten some to ripen successfully we've spent the rest of the year talking about how good they were.
I find daikon difficult to grow because we have rather stony soil, so the daikon roots often end up splitting in odd ways. Also, you can buy daikon or mouli quite easily in stores, so it may not be worth the effort. But your own are always better, of course, especially since you can also eat the delicious green tops, which most stores in Europe and the U.S. seem to cut off.
Gobo, or burdock root, is very hard to get a hold of unless you have access to a fairly good sized Japanese grocery. But it's also very hard to grow. It requires very deep digging to avoid it splitting into multiple thin roots, and it takes a long time to mature. But that earthy, crunchy flavor is an integral part of many Japanese dishes.
Japanese cucumbers are small, very thin and quite seedless. Worth growing if you like to eat lots of raw cucumber in salads and so on. Grow like other cucumbers, ideally on a trellis.
I've had mixed, mostly bad, experiences trying to grow these:
I'd also like to get my hands on some myo-ga root. And if I could grow a real ume tree...
My favorite Asian seed mail order source by far is Evergreen Seeds in Anaheim, California. I have been buying seeds from them forever, and my mother used to buy seeds from them back in the early '80s for her garden in Long Island, New York. They ship internationally, which is so rare for a U.S. based company. They carry lots of Asian (as in Chinese/Korean/Thai) seeds besides the Japanese ones.
Kitazawa Seed Company in Oakland, California is another good mailorder source (though their website seems to be broken at the moment). I don't think they ship outside of the U.S. though.
I'd also like to mention Real Seeds, especially for UK and European gardeners. While they don't really carry a lot of Japanese vegetable seeds, I just love their whole attitude. They don't sell any F1 hybrids, just heirloom and open pollinated varieties. They actively encourage you to save your own seeds - unheard of for a seed supplier! Their web site is so fun to read I bought way more seeds from them than I needed.
A reader recommends Nicky's Nursery in the UK. They have some 'Oriental' vegetable seeds, green, red and bi-color shiso seeds, and so on. They ship to Europe and 'Rest of World', but not to the USA or South Africa due to import restrictions by those countries.
A lot of general seed catalogs, like Thompson and Morgan, Burpee's, Mr. Fothergills etc. do sell some Japanese vegetable seeds. Thompson and Morgan is my favorite big seed catalog, mainly because they ship worldwide. (The two major Swiss seed companies, Select and Samen Mauser, are good sources for vegetable seeds in general, but they don't carry any Japanese vegetable seeds. They have great selections of green beans though.)
[Updated to add Substitution section.]
See also: Sake and mirin redux etc.
I haven't exactly counted it up, but of the thousands of comments left on Just Hungry, not to mention Just Bento, probably at least a quarter are questions about ingredients or ingredient substitutions. So I thought I might put down what my criteria are for what kind of ingredients I choose to feature in the recipes on either site, especially when it comes to Japanese recipes. [Update added on August 15th, 2008]: I've also added some suggested, and acceptable, substitutions.
In case you didn't know, at the moment I live in a country with a fairly miniscule Japanese expat or immigrant population (the last I heard there were less than 2000 Japanese people living in the Zürich area). There is only one real Japanese grocery store near me, and it is quite small with a limited selection of products. There's also an equally small (though slightly better stocked) Korean grocery store, and a couple of Chinese grocery stores. (See Where I shope for Japanese/Asian ingredients in Zürich.) I supplement what I can get locally by placing an order with Japan Centre a few times a year.
My point is, that what I can get is fairly limited compared to many people, though more generous than others. So by sticking to what I can get here, I think that I'm in a good middle ground for people trying to cook anything Japanese. If you live in a region (e.g. most of California, New York City, or Hawaii) with big Japanese expat/immigrant populations, you have a much bigger selection available to you than I do!
(My mom also sends me things from Japan periodically, but I do not include the more exotic things in the recipes here, though I might mention then in passing.)
I also periodically check to see if certain ingredients are available online. Some online merchants don't have very comprehensive listings on their web sites, but by emailing them they can tell you if they have something in stock.
In order of the likelihood of finding Japanese ingredients:
In general, I try to stay away from any ingredient that might be considered to be too regional or esoteric in Japan, and stick to ingredients that are likely to be in any Japanese kitchen.
When I do traditional Japanese recipes here, I try to stick to ones that are commonly made in Japanese homes (vs. something exotic, regional or so complicated it's only available in restaurants).
The exception to this rule is when I try to make something that is readily available in Japan, but not necessarily elsewhere. An example of this is really fresh tofu. The hard work required is worth it for the results.
In certain cases, you can make substitutions without a problem. I try to include substitution recommendations whenever possible, or when I am fairly sure it would work. For instance, many Japanese recipes call for katokuriko （片栗粉）which is a flour made from potato starch, but this is hard to get outside of Japan in most places. Cornstarch (or cornflour) has a very similar texture and performs the same function, so that is an easy substitute. Using honey or syrup instead of maple syrup will change the flavor a bit but also works.
In some cases though there is no substitution. If you are making kuzumochi, you really can't use anything other than kuzu powder if you want the same texture.
Sometimes you just need to try out a substitution to see if it works. For instance, when I call for a specific rice flour like shiratama-ko or joushinko, but you can't get it, try substituting a rice flour you can get and see how it goes. (I 've made rice dumplings with red rice flour from Sri Lanka, and it turned out fairly well.) The worst that can happen is that you end up with an inedible dish that you have to throw away, but that's not the end of the world. Don't be afraid of making mistakes!
[This section added on August 15, 2008]
In the vast majority of recipes here on Just Hungry as well as on Just Bento, I try to stick to these flavoring ingredients, plus universal ones like salt, pepper and sugar, so hopefully you won't run into too many problems around here at least.
Are there any other ingredients you'd like to know possible substitions for? Let me know in the comments.
I've talked a little about kohya dofu or kouya dofu (高野豆腐）in the past, but I thought I'd describe it in detail so that I can refer back to it when I use this very versatile Japanese pantry staple in recipes.
Kouya dofu is freeze dried tofu. It's a long lasting pantry staple of most Japanese households. It comes in plastic packaging, usually 5 to a pack, like so:
Each square is about the size of a business card, and about 1cm or 1/2 inch or so thick. Each kouya dofu square is about 90 calories. They look like dehydrated squares of bread, or one of those sponges that you soak in water to reconstitute and use. The packets require no refrigeration.
Indeed, it is a sponge - a block of tofu that's been reduced to its cell structure. It's a very old traditional preserved food, that probably got invented by accident when someone left out some tofu in the winter and it froze solid. It's made by repeatedly freezing and thawing tofu, until all the moisture can be extracted.
Usually, kouya dofu is used by reconstituting it first. The easiest way is to soak it for a while in boiling water to cover. When the water has cooled down enough for the tofu to be taken out and genty squeezed, it's ready to use. It swells up to about 3-4 times its original size.
From here, you can just cut it up and use it in soups or stews. You can also marinate it. It has a more dense and firm texture than regular tofu, and like regular tofu it soaks up any flavor it is soaked or cooked in. It's usually stewed in a standard japanse soy sauce - mirin - sake - dashi - sugar mixture.
Here I've cooked some reconstituted kouya dofu in the same way that I cooked frozen tofu cutlets, to make kouya dofu nuggets. But I didn't have to take the time to freeze and defrost regular tofu. The results are much 'meatier' than nuggets made with frozen regular tofu. You might even be able to fool some unsuspecting people into think it's some sort of meat....
Another interesting way of using kouya dofu is to turn it into a powder by grating it or whizzing it in a food processor. The powder can be used instead of breadcrumbs, as a filler or binder in burgers and meatballs. This can be a good thing for celiacs and gluten intolerant people. The spongy texture soaks up any excess moisture and flavors. And of course, it provides and extra protain boost.
In Japan, kouya dofu is very cheap. Outside of Japan it can be more expensive, but the packet of 5 in the photo above was only $1.99 at Nara Foods in Port Washington, Long Island. So, look for it next time you are in a Japanese grocery store and give it a try, especially if you or someone you cook for has gluten allergies, or are vegan or vegetarian.Filed under: japanese ingredients vegetarian tofu vegan
(I've updated this very popular post with some info about germ rice (haiga-mai) and sprouted brown rice (hatsuga genmai). In case you missed it the first time around, here it is again in your RSS reader and on the front page.)
Rice is a big part of my food life. While I do like other kinds of carbohydrates, especially good bread and pasta, rice is definitely my favorite.
There are so many different kinds of rice though. Even if one leaves out the rather more exotic kinds like red rice from the Camargue, American wild rice (which is not actually a rice but a kind of grain) or black rice (kokumai), I usually have on hand several different kinds of rice, each with a different use. Here are the ones I have in the pantry right now that I use in everyday cooking.
This is the long grain, parboiled rice, the kind that is most commonly used in European and American cooking. The grains don't stick together, for that separate, 'fluffy' texture that American/UK cookbooks find desirable. To me this is the most boring kind of rice with little character of its own. Nevertheless it is the least expensive kind of rice usually, and has its uses. I use this for rice dishes that have a lot of added flavor, like pilafs or fried rice. It can not be used as a substitute for japonica rice in most traditional Japanese dishes, since it is it not sticky enough.
This is Japanese-style rice, or uruchi-mai - the kind of rice I talk about the most on this site. It is also sold as medium grain rice, or sushi rice. It's the rice to use for almost any kind of Japanese dish, including the all-important sushi and onigiri. The rice grains cling together without being mushy when properly cooked. This rice must be polish-washed to bring out its best flavor, as I have previously described. The best kinds of this rice have a translucent quality and have clean, rounded grains. As you can see, the grains are rounder compared to long-grain rice.
A variation of white uruchimai is haigamai (germ rice, 胚芽米). It's hulled and polished white rice with the germ left intact. This is a bit more nutritious than regular white rice. This is getting more available at Asian/Japanese groceries.See this excellent tutorial on Instructables for how to sprout brown rice.
This is gen-mai, the brown version of uruchi-mai. It requires more water and a longer cooking time than the polished version. If you are in the market for a new rice cooker you may want to look for one that can cook brown rice. I've been eating more of this instead of the polished rice recently. Since the bran that is on brown rice contains oils that can turn rancid, it should be as fresh as possible. (Update: how to cook brown rice in a pot on the stovetop.)
One way to process brown rice, which is supposed to make it much more nutritious, is to let it germinate or sprout. This turns it into hatsuga genmai (literally, "sprouted brown rice", 発芽玄米, also known as GBR in health-food/vegan circles). To sprout rice on your own, soak it in lukewarm water for 24 hours, and keep it in a warm place (I keep mine on top of the hot water tank). At the end of the 24 hours, you may see the end of the grains are splitting a bit, and evena tiny little white root peeking out - that means it's sprouted. If it hasn't sprouted yet, rinse the grains and cover again with lukewarm water. If it still hasn't sprouted by the end of another 24 hours, it probably never will, so you can just cook it before the grains start fermenting actively. Since the grains have been soaked for so long you can cook it as you would white rice (in a rice cooker for example). It is softer and supposed to be easier to digest than regular brown rice.
You can also purchase sprouted rice - look in health food stores.
This is mochi-mai, or mochi rice, otherwise called sweet rice, short-grain rice, or sticky rice. The grains are not really that much shorter than the "medium-grain" uruchi-mai above but as you can see, the grains look quite different. The are opaque and white rather than transculent. This is beaten and kneaded to make glutinous mochi cakes, used to make osekihan (red rice with beans), or used for some sweets.
This is vialone rice from Italy. I use this or arborio rice for making risotto. It actually looks quite similar to uruchi-mai or japonica rice. These medium grain Italian rices can, a pinch, be used instead of Japanese rice. This is useful to know if you live in an area where vialone, arborio and other Italian rice varieties are cheaper than Japanese rice (which is certainly the case in Switzerland...we are a lot closer to Italy than to Japan after all). The reverse holds true too - if you have more or easier access to Japanese rice than arborio, vialone or carnaroli, you can use that, unrinsed, for risotto. When used for Italian dishes rice is not rinsed, since the powder that clings to the grains is the substance that makes risotto creamy.
The final kind of rice that is a staple in our house is basmati rice. It has the longest grain of all, and a translucent appearance. It also has a a distinctive sort of spicy aroma, which matches spicy dishes perfectly. I keep this on hand of for Indian and Thai type dishes. I often have Thai 'perfume' or 'jasmine' rice on hand too, which is quite similar in cooking qualities. Neither basmati or jasmine rice can be used successfully in traditional Japanese dishes such as onigiri or sushi, since they are not sticky enough.
(Periodically I like to dust off an article from the vast Just Hungry archives, give it a little facelift, and present it on the front page again. I wrote this guide to tofu back in September 2008. I think it will answer most, if not all, your questions about Japanese-style tofu and related products. Enjoy!
There are several tofu recipes both here in Just Hungry as well as on Just Bento, and I've even shown you how to make your own tofu from scratch. However, up until now I have never really tried to explain the differences between types of tofu, when to use them and how to store them. Well now is the time to fix that.
Aburaage （油揚げ）is deep fried tofu, where almost none of the soft white tofu remains. It's also called tofu skin or tofu pocket sometimes. When the tofu is deep fried, an air pocket is formed inside which can be stuffed, as in inarizushi or eggs in treasure bags. Besides stuffing it, you can use aburaage sliced up and put into soups or stir-fries, gently cooked whole in a broth as in kitsune udon, and more.
To get rid of the excess oil on the surface, blanch aburaage in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain away. To loosen it up so that it's easier to stuff, roll a round chopstick over the surface several times after blanching to loosen it up, then cut open.
The best way to store aburaage for longer than a few days is to freeze it. (The bag in the photo is actualy frozen.)
Japanese aburaage is always a rectangular sheet, but you can get small puffs or squares in Chinese markets.
Note: Don't confuse aburaage with canned (or packaged) inarizushi (or 'bean bag' sushi) skins, which have been cooked in a sweet-salty sauce. That is just one way to prepare aburaage. The canned inarizushi skins do tend to be rather high in salt, sugar and MSG, though they are very convenient to use. See how to make inarizushi from scratch, using plain aburaage.
Atsuage （厚揚げ）or namaage （生揚げ）is a block of tofu that has been slowly fried in oil until it forms a slightly crinkly pale brown skin. It's stil white tofu inside though, unlike aburaage. You can get rid of the excess oil on the surface just like with aburaage, by blanching it in boiling water. Aburaage is a very versatile food, that can be pan-fried or grilled like a steak, cut up and used in stir-fries or stewed, put into soups and so on. I like using aburaage in bento recipes a lot - because it has less moisture than non-fried tofu, it keeps longer.
Finally we get to plain tofu. Plain tofu can be divided into two main types: silken or kinugoshi （絹ごし）, and firm or pressed. In Japanese firm tofu is called momen （木綿）or cotton tofu. Here are a block of each: silken on the left, and firm/cotton on the right.
Here are the blocks from the side:
As you can see, the silken tofu is smoother and more watery, while the firm/cotton tofu is well, firmer and denser. Since silken tofu is much softer (higher water content), it is harder to handle if you want the tofu pieces to not fall apart. So if you are a tofu beginner and you want to use it on stir-fries or things like bacon wrapped tofu, you will want to use firm tofu. Firm tofu is less liable to fall apart, especially if you drain off the water a bit. Some recipes call for extracting even more water from the tofu (see using tofu for bento friendly recipes). On the other hand, silken tofu is more suited for recipes that call for it to be pureed, such as quick tofu pudding and baked squash and apple pudding, or in smoothies. I prefer silken tofu in miso soup, though firm is fine too.
I don't have these on hand so pictures are missing...
Yaki dofu （焼き豆腐）is firm tofu that's been grilled on the outside, giving it a nice flavor.
Kouya dofu （高野豆腐）is freeze-dried tofu that is sold in the dried food section. It looks like little dried beige sponges. This is reconstituted in water before stewing. It can be a good pantry staple because it keeps indefinitely. Update: All about kouya dofu
Yuba （湯葉） is a Kyoto speciality. Thin films of tofu are scooped off the top of vats of warm soy milk. It's available in dried form and is usually used in soups and such. Fresh yuba made from fresh warm soy milk is considered a great delicacy and is usually eaten with a litle soy sauce, yuzu juice and such.
Once you open the vacuum sealed pack the tofu comes in, any leftovers must be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, immersed in water. You will need to change the water every day too, but in any case don't keep opened tofu for more than 2 or 3 days. (With homemade tofu the shelf life is even shorter - a maximum of 2 days.) If you leave tofu out of water for more than a day in the fridge, it will take on a sour taste, not to mention picking up stray refrigerator smells! It is possible to freeze tofu (see frozen tofu cutlets) but the texture will change.
As mentioned above, aburaage can be frozen. Firm atsuage can also be frozen, though the inner texture will change a bit.
Per 100 grams or about 3.5 oz:
Whenever I write about soy or tofu products here, I usually get some comments or emails about how soy products are either bad for you (the current trend - makes men grow breasts and so on) or good for you (prevents certain types of cancer and what have you).
My attitude about these types of reports is this: Tofu has been eaten for hundreds or thousands of years. Generally speaking soy products are a great source of vegetable based protein and fat. And in any case, no one should be eating massive quantities of any one food product every day of the week, as seems to be the case with those reports of body builders taking lots of soy protein powder and sprouting boobies and such. Even the most die hard tofu fan in Japan, like my mother, does not eat tofu every single day. (For what it's worth, she has IBD and finds tofu to be one of the few easily digestible proteins.) Variety is the spice of life, and your diet! See also: A problematic report on the dangers of soy.
Hopefully most if not all of your tofu related questions have been answered here. If not, ask away in the comments!
[From the archives. This miso primer was published here last September (2008). I've added some notes about miso-based blends, especially sumiso or miso with vinegar.]
This is a post that has been a long time coming. I kept on holding it off until I had a good variety of miso on hand to show photos of. I can't say I have a comprehensive selection to show you, but I hope you will find this article useful anyway.
Miso （味噌、みそ), as you probably know already, is a naturally fermented paste made by combining cooked soy beans, salt, and often some other ingredient such as white or brown rice, barley, and so on. The texture can range from smooth to chunky, and the color from a light yellow-brown to reddish brown to dark chocolate brown, and the flavor ranges from mildly salty and sweet to strong and very salty. It is packed with umami and protein, not to mention all sorts of nutrients.
Miso-like fermented bean products and pastes exist all over Asia, but here I will mainly limit myself to the most commonly used Japanese misos.
The color can be a fairly good indicator of the strength of flavor, age and saltiness of the miso. Generally speaking, the lighter in color of the miso, the sweeter (less salty) it is. Light colored misos are also younger than dark colored ones in general.There are exceptions to this rule, but if you are confronted with a selection and don't know which way to go, it's useful to remember.
The longer a miso is aged, the deeper in flavor it gets, though it can get a bit odd if aged too long. Commercially available miso is usually aged from 6 months to 2 years. (Note: Many misos made by health-oriented companies (e.g. Eden Foods in the U.S., Clearspring in the UK) do not seem to be aged too long, and therefore lack depth of flavor. If you're just eating miso for health reasons you may not care, but otherwise you are forewarned.)
You can keep unopened miso at room temperature indefinitely. Once opened, store well covered in the refrigerator - though it won't go 'off' that fast really. Ideally you want to consume it within a year of purchase. (I've kept miso for 3 years in the fridge without any ill effects, but I don't really recommend you do that!)
Shiromiso (白みそ）or 'white' miso is the generic term for golden-yellow to medium brown miso. It is milder than other kinds of miso, with a slight sweetness. It's the most versatile one for cooking purposes - you can use it for miso soups, miso marinades, and so on. If you can only afford one kind of miso budget-wise or space-wise, get a good shiromiso that is labelled 'medium sweet'.
Akamiso （赤みそ）or 'red' miso is the generic term for miso that is a dark reddish-brown in color. It is usually (but not always!) more salty and assertive in taste than shiromiso. If you see a red-brown miso that is labelled a inakamiso (田舎味噌）or 'country' miso, you can be pretty sure that it will be strong in flavor and fairly salty.
Awasemiso (合わせ味噌）or 'blended' miso is just that, miso that combines two or more different types of miso together. This is also a good general choice if you don't want to assemble a miso collection.
Since miso is so often used in conjunction with dashi stock, some misos already have dashi added to them. These are usually labeled dashi iri （だし入り）. If you want to add your own homemade dashi, or you are a vegan and want to avoid any fish products in your miso (see vegan dashi), look for additive-free or mutenka (無添加）miso. If you can't tell from the label whether it has dashi or not, look at the ingredient list - an additive free miso should only have soy beans, salt, rice or barley if they are used, and perhaps some fermentation ingredients (usually listed as koji (麹)).
If you want to be sure to get miso that is made from soy beans that are organically grown and not genetically modified, look for ones that say yuuki (有機）. Most if not all miso that say mutenka (無添加）or additive-free are also non-GM . You may also encounter miso that says it's made from kokusan (国産）or domestic (Japanese) soy beans; this usually (thought not always - so check!) means it's made from non-GM, happy soy beans. (See above note about misos made by Western health-oriented companies.)
Unless the miso contains barley (麦、mugi) or wheat (小麦、komugu) it is gluten-free, unless it has some not-traditional additives.
You may see a number of 'brand' names for miso, such as Shinshuu, Yamato, etc. Most of these names don't really mean much except to indicate where the miso comes from - the differences are too subtle except for a diehard miso connoisseur. There are a couple that stand out though.
These are not pure misos, but are sauces or blends with miso.
As with many things in life, generally speaking the more expensive a miso is, the better it's going to taste. Do be sure you are comparing like-to-like when looking at prices though. Generally, special misos like Saikyo miso, or ones with special additives like brown rice miso, tend to be more expensive than general white, red or blended miso. Also, organic/additive-free misos tend to be a bit more expensive.
The only way to really know if a miso is good or not is to taste it. So, if you are trying out a new to you miso, try to get the smallest package possible and try it out.
You may think me prejudiced, and I probably am, but I do think that miso made in Japan generally tastes better than miso made elsewhere. Not to name names, but I've tried some non-Japanese brands, and they are lacking in depth of flavor, even if they are sometimes more expensive!
I have not tried this myself yet, so I have nothing to show you, but you can make miso at home. All you need is soy beans, salt, some ko-ji (麹）(a sort of fermented rice starter), a big bucket, space, and patience - since you need to age the miso for 6 months to a year. You can find instructions on the interweb. (Maybe one day I will try making my own...)
The top row shows the three misos I use the most: two types of shiromiso, and an awasemiso. One shiromiso is a big chunkier in texture and has brown rice in it; the other shiromiso and the awasemiso are both all-soy bean types. I use any of the three for most if not all the recipes here on Just Hungry or over on Just Bento. There's no good reason for me to have two shiromisos and an awasemiso - I just like trying out stuff.
The second row shows misos I use a lot less. On the left is a Saikyo miso, and in the middle is some quite salty-strong akamiso. I use Saikyo miso in some baking experiments and as a sauce to go with stewed daikon radish and such. The red miso is used for some marinades and some miso soups.
Lastly, since I had a square to fill and I only have 5 kinds of miso on hand at the moment, I've included some Korean gochujang (or kochujang as it's pronounced in Japan), although it's not a miso at all. It is however a fermented soy bean paste with added wheat, spices and so on.As you can see much redder than the 'red' akamiso - since I use it almost as much as miso because I love it so much.
What actually prompted me to finally post this was an article I saw elsewhere that was titled What Is Miso Paste? It stated that miso and rice for Japanese people are like 'meat and potatoes for Americans'. Heh?
Sure, miso is part of Japanese cuisine. But you do not always eat miso, or always have miso soup, with a meal, if that was the analogy they were trying to use. Sure, soup is often served with a meal in Japan, but it can just as well be a clear soup as a miso soup. The real basis of Japanese cooking is rice, dashi and _sa shi su se so_. If you whittle it down to the bare essentials, a bowl of plain, white rice and something salty to go with it makes me feel Japanese through and through.
But enough of my whinging. If you have any questions about miso that I haven't answered here, ask away!
(An exhaustive look at Japanese soy sauce. Originally published in December 2011, revised and edited in August 2012.)
I've written so many articles here on Just Hungry over the almost nine years of its existence, that I've forgotten half of them. But one thing I have not really done so far is delve into the subject of one of the most important ingredients in Japanese cooking, shoyu (醤油）or soy sauce. I have written about soy sauce briefly in years past, but I feel now is the time to go deeper.
Note: I am talking here only about Japanese soy sauce. Soy sauce is made by other Asian cultures of course, where processes and ingredients may differ. I'm sticking to what I'm familiar with here as usual.
So, let's dive in to the world of Japanese soy sauce.
Like miso, soy sauce is a fermented and aged product. The kanji characters for soy sauce or shoyu are 醤油, which literally means 'fermented food oil' - so in Japanese and Chinese there's no 'soy' at all in the 'soy sauce' name. In the olden days, many foods were salted and fermented for longer shelf life and flavor. For instance the ancient Romans liked a thing called garum, a strongly flavored condiment or sauce made from fermented fish. The fish sauces that are essential for south east Asian cooking are salted-and-fermented-food products too. (Did you know there are several Japanese fermented fish sauces too? The most well known one is called shottsuru (しょっつる）and is made in Akita prefecture, in the Tohoku region.)
Generally soy sauce is made from a mixture of soy beans, wheat, salt and yeast. Some types of soy sauce also include fermented rice (kome koji) or amazake to give sweetness to the flavor. Mass produced soy sauce is made from defatted soy residue (soy from which the oil has been extracted), which makes the soy sauce ferment a lot faster than using the whole bean. Purists argue that this also leads to a loss of flavor and body. The wheat and/or rice is necessary to feed the yeast as the mixture ferments, and to develop a sweet flavor in the soy sauce.
Here's how they make soy sauce at a traditional soy sauce maker (shoyu-ya) in Chiba prefecture:
Here's a nice big vat fermenting away...
Of course this is not how it's done at say, Kikkoman factories around the world. But the process is fundamentally the same.
Soy sauce is typically aged at least 6 months before it is bottled, though some are aged longer. While 'standard' soy sauce (see koikuchi below) usually does not have any additives, in some cases things are added (usually alcohol) to prolong the shelf life of soy sauce, or sweeteners to give it a sweeter flavor. By Japanese law, all such additives must be clearly indicated on the label. So if you're looking for a soy sauce that's as natural as possible, look for one with no additives.
There are 5 main traditional types of shoyu or soy sauce. The type of soy sauce used in largely influenced by what part of the country you live in, or where the cook of the family grew up. (I know a lot of people outside of Japan tend to think it's all the same and homogenous, but at least when it comes to food that's certainly not the case.) Typical Japanese households stock just 1 or 2 types of soy sauce, unless they are really into cooking.
The most widely used type by far is koikuchi (濃い口）soy sauce. Koikuchi literally means 'dark mouth'. This is the quintessential soy sauce that you see for sale from brands like Kikkoman and Yamasa in Japanese grocery stores around the world, and since it is the 'starndard' soy sauce for many people it is not always labeled as koikuchi. Koikuchi soy sauce sales account for more than 80% of the market in Japan according to the Soy Sauce Information Center (SOYIC - Japanese only website). It's the soy sauce of choice in the Tokyo/Kanto area and the north. Koikuchi soy sauce is usually made with equal parts of soy and wheat, plus salt and yeast.
This is the soy sauce I use in all of my recipes here on Just Hungry as well as on JustBento unless specified otherwise. Why? Well for one thing I'm from Tokyo, and my mom and her mom and my father's mom were all from the Kanto region. So we are koikuchi folks. Also, koikuchi soy sauce is the 'standard' as noted above, and much easier to get a hold of than other types.
The second most popular type of soy sauce is usukuchi （淡口; kanji scholars may notice that the kanji 淡い is used rather than 薄い). This is a lighter colored, used primarily in western Japan, namely the Kansai region (Kyoto/Osaka), and has about 15% of the soy sauce market share. In traditional Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine), which has its origins in refined imperial court cooking, dark colored koikuchi soy sauce is considered declassé and ruins the flavor and appearance of food. However, don't think that because it's lighter in color that it's less salty. On the contrary, usukuchi soy sauce is saltier than koikuchi soy sauce - 18-19% of its volume is salt, compared to around 16% for koikuchi. In recipes that call for usukuchi soy sauce this is taken into account. Usukuchi soy sauce is also made with soy and wheat, and is often rounded out with the addition of fermented rice (kome koji), wheat gluten or amazake.
Another type of soy sauce that became popularized in the west is tamari (溜まり）- which means 'pooled residue'. It is a thick, almost viscous soy sauce, which originated in the Chuubu region (central Japan; the main city in the area is Nagoya). It's used mainly as a dipping sauce for sashimi, and to finish off certain dishes to give a burnished reddish- brown color and shine, e.g. to teriyaki dishes. Tamari became popularized in the west because it got the reputation that it was made without wheat. This is not necessarily the case - especially if it's a tamari made the traditional way. If you must stay away from any kind of wheat please check the label. (Tamari made with 100% soy does exist.)
(*A note about gluten intolerance and soy sauce. Much of the wheat gluten is broken down and basically consumed by the yeast during the long fermentation process. I've looked at the blogs of many Japanese celiacs, and they all say they don't worry about consuming small amounts of soy sauce. But of course, Your Body May Vary. Kikkoman does make a gluten-free soy sauce, but I'm not sure if it's for the overseas market only.)
Finally we come to two very regional soy sauces. Saishikomi (再仕込み）soy sauce originates south-western Japan, especially Yamaguchi prefecture. It's unique in that it is re-brewed (that's what 'saishikomi' means) from a previous batch ofmade soy sauce. This means the color is very intensely dark red-brown, and the flavor is less salty and sweeter more rounded than other soy sauces. And then there is shiro (白) or white shoyu that originates in Aichi prefecture. It's even lighter in color than usukuchi shoyu - it's about the color of dashi stock made with lots of katsuobushi (bonito flakes), and has become rather trendy to use amongst some chefs in Japan who want to add some soy sauce flavor to dishes but not color. (Outside of Japan, certain trend-conscious chefs have started specifying usukuchi soy sauce. They need to catch up. ^_^)
Reduced or low-sodium salt soy sauce, called genen (減塩）or teien (低塩) is koikuchi soy sauce that has had its salt content reduced mechanically so to speak.The salt content of reduced sodium soy sauce ranges from 9 to 13%. (Don't confuse reduced salt soy sauce with usukuchi (light) soy sauce, as noted above.)
Soy sauce is graded both by the Japaneese Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry (JAS) and an industry group called the Japanese Soy Sauce Association. The official government grades are Special Grade (特級, tokkyuu), First Grade (１級, ikkyuu) and Standard Grade (標準, hyoujun). Grading is based on measuring the chemical composition soy sauce, mainly for its amino acid and alcohol content. The Japanese Soy Sauce Association adds two more grades that are higher than Special Grade: Extra Select (特選, tokusen) and Ultra-Extra Select (超特選, choutokusen).
Soy sauce is also graded by experts based on color, aroma, roundedness and other such more subjective criteria.
As with most Japanese things, you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to soy sauce.
Other things to look for on a label might be "yuuki" which means grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides (almost organic), and "marudaizu" which means the soy sauce is made from the whole soy bean rather than defatted dregs.
Generally speaking, people tend to use expensive, special soy sauces and very assertively flavored ones straight up, for dipping and other uses where it is not diluted by other ingredients.
Nama-shoyu (生醤油) - unpasteurized soy sauce - seems to be the new trendy thing these days in the U.S. It's exactly what it says - soy sauce that has not been heated to kill off any good or bad organisms. Natural-food fans like it because it's, well, unpasteurized. Does nama-shoyu always taste better? I'm really not sure. I personally think that the soy sauce made by skilled, experienced artisans is the best, regardless of whether it is 'raw' or not.
Is nama-shoyu a health food? In my opinion, anything with the high levels of sodium soy sauce has can never really be a "health food". It's a condiment and flavoring, something to be used in small amounts. In that sense, and this is just my humble opinion of course, nama-shoyu is not worth the expense over a good old pasteurized soy sauce. Pasteurization is not 'bad' for you you know - it's one of the greatest innovations in human history. Before pasteurization, people died regularly from food poisoning and such.
Many people in Japan called nama-shoyu ki-joyu; both terms have the same kanji characters (生醬油). I've read that they are both the same, and also that ki-joyu is just a culinary term used by chefs and such to say 'straight soy sauce' without the addition of mirin, sake or other ingredients. In English speaking areas at least nama-shoyu is the term used.
If you can only afford one soy sauce type (budget or space-wise) in your kitchen, get the best koikuchi (or regular) soy sauce you can afford. It's really the best all-rounder. I usually buy Yamasa Marudaizu or regular Yamasa. I just prefer Yamasa over Kikkoman, but that's just a personal preference. (And by the way, I do stick to Japanese brands; I just find they taste better to me. I tried an 'organic' soy sauce made in the UK once and it was just..lacking.) I do have a couple of extra-special, artisanal soy sauces around purchased in Japan, but they are not really necessary and I actually rarely use them, except for dipping.
If you dislike the dark color soy sauce gives to dishes, or have gotten into Kyoto style cooking, you'll want to use usukuchi soy sauce, but it does tend to be more expensive than koikuchi. Your local Japanese grocery store will stock both koikuchi and usukuchi soy sauces, as well as tamari and maybe other types. Your local general-Asian grocery store will probably only have koikuchi (plus soy sauces from other nations).
Nowadays you have a wide selection of soy sauces to choose from in the U.S. as long as you're willing to mailorder - go nuts if you want! In France/Europe, be sure to look up Workshop Issé if you want to go high-end with your soy sauce.
I hope I've covered all of your soy sauce questions! If not, let me know in the comments as always.Filed under: basics japanese ingredients washoku
I've been craving sour flavors recently for some reason (and no I'm not pregnant ^_^;), which means that I've been making nanban foods quite a bit. The word _nanban_ uses the kanji characters for 'south' and 'savage', meaning savages who come from the south. It was originally used to refer to the Portuguese, the first non-Asian foreigners to land on Japanese soil. Later it came to refer all foreigners except for long-time neighbors China and Korea - or in other words, the Europeans. I guess to the Japanese of the 16th century or so, those white people looked like otherworldly savages! In any case, it seems that the Portuguese had some kind of dish that had sour flavors (I haven't been able to pin down what that dish might have been - if anyone has a clue let me know), and so the term 'nanban' came to be used for any dish had a combination of sweet/sour/salty and often spicy-hot flavors.
Nanban sauce or vinegar is most commonly used for nanban dishes. For instance Chicken nanban is a dish that originated at a popular restaurant in Miyazaki prefecture in the southern island of Kyuushuu back in the 1950s, and is basically battered deep fried chicken that's been doused in this sauce and served with a ton of of tartare sauce. It was popular in Kyuushuu for decades, but only became well known nationwide in the last decade or so when it became a popular item on _famiresu_ (family restaurant) menus, as well as in convenience store bentos. _Wakasaki no nanban zuke_ is another popular dish, consisting of small, whole ice fish (which are a bit like little sardines) that are deep fried and doused in nanban sauce with lots of shredded vegetables. Nanban sauce can also be used on noodles, or with either cooked or raw vegetables. It makes an unusual salad dressing.
I'll have specific recipes that use nanban sauce later on, but I wanted to write down the basic recipes so I can point to them instead of repeating them over and over. There are almost as many nanban sauce recipes as there are households and restaurants that make nanban dishes, but here I have three variations. Just pick the one that looks the most appealing to you. Any one of them can be kept for at least week or two in the refrigerator.
Update: Check out my panfried chicken nanban on JustBento.
By Makiko Itoh
Published: March 04, 2011
A version of a versatile Japanese vinegar based sauce that can be used as a marinade, dipping sauce, dressing and more. This is a classic version using mirin.
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 5 min
Total time: 10 min
Yield: 2 cups
Combine all the ingredients in a small pan,
Heat and stir until the sugar is melted; heating it also takes the edge off the vinega and makes it milder.
Cool and put in a screwtop jar.
Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep more or less indefinitely. If you want to keep it in your pantry instead, just strain it off and pack into clean, sterile jars.
By Makiko Itoh
Published: March 04, 2011
An alcohol-free (no mirin) version of a versatile Japanese vinegar based sauce that can be used as a marinade, dipping sauce, dressing and more (Since classic nanban sauce is not cooked for a long time, it still has some alcohol in it, which may be a concern if you're going to use it as a dipping sauce or dressing.) The honey in this adds an interesting dimension. See Recipe no. 1 for ingredient descriptions.
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 5 min
Total time: 5 min
Combine all the ingredients in a small pan,
Heat and stir until the sugar is melted; heating it also takes the edge off the vinega and makes it milder.
Cool and put in a screwtop jar.
Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep more or less indefinitely. If you want to keep it in your pantry instead, just strain it off and pack into clean, sterile jars.
By Makiko Itoh
Published: March 04, 2011
Another version of the versatile Japanese vinegar based sauce that can be used as a marinade, dipping sauce, dressing and more. This is a bit more elaborate than the other two, but really good. It also has less sugar, since the leeks are quite sweet anyway. (See description of ingredients under Recipe no. 1 above.)
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
Total time: 15 min
Yield: 2 cups
Heat a frying pan over medium heat, and add the oil.
Sauté the chopped leek until soft and lightly browned
Combine all the ingredients in a small pan, Heat and stir until the sugar is melted.
Cool and put in a screwtop jar.
Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep more or less indefinitely. If you want to keep it in your pantry instead, just strain it off and pack into clean, sterile jars.
If you have kids or people who don't like spicy food, omit the chili peppers. If you like extra heat, add more.
Try out this non-recipe: Heat up some leftover fried chicken until hot in the oven. Even KFC will do. Douse the hot chicken in some nanban sauce, and let cool again. This is really nice for bentos and picnics.
(Technical note: I am trying out some search-engine friendly recipe tagging, which accounts for the repeated use of extraneous information like Author: Makiko Itoh for each recipe. Please bear with me as I iron out the glitches.)
(Another note: I mistakenly deleted the original post, together with all of your comments! At least I did have a backup copy of the original article. My apologies to everyone who left a comment...;_;)Filed under: basics japanese sauce yohshoku washoku
A listing of free cooking courses held on Just Hungry.
A list of JustHungry courses for 2013.
The response to Bento 101, my introductory course to the basics of bento lunch making, has been overwhelmingly positive. So I've decided to follow it up with another structured online course titled Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku. We'll be conducting it here on Just Hungry since it's about general cooking methodology rather than specific to bentos.
As you may already know, the cooking that goes on in Japan is roughly divided into 4 cuisine types: Washoku, yohshoku (or yoshoku), chuuka, and everything else. The first three, washoku (which means "Japanese food"), yohshoku (meaning "western food" see a description of yohshoku) and chuuka (Chinese food) comprise most of what Japanese people cook for themselves every day. And of these washoku, which comprises what's considered traditional Japanese food, is the most important to learn if you want to master Japanese cooking, since it forms the foundation for everything else that goes on in the Japanese kitchen.
In this course you'll about the fundamental building blocks of washoku and Japanese cooking. After completion you should be able to tackle Japanese recipes with a lot more understanding and ease. It may even help you to recognize the difference between good and not-so-good Japanese food when you eat out.
During this 5 part course, we'll be making 5 dishes: rice, soup, and three okazu - the foods that go with rice. (There may be some variations to each item too.) Each dish will teach you specific skills and flavor combinations that are used all the time in Japanese cooking. And as a bonus, at the end you'll have a "full course" Japanese meal that you can serve proudly to anyone, even your Japanese friends, with the knowledge that it's pretty authentic.
Nope. Just like Bento 101, it will be free.
There's no formal sign up process. Just follow along when we start in March!
So there you have it. Interested? Questions? Let me know! I'll post the required materials and so on later this week.
(ETA: I inadvertently deleted the original announcement post - and more than 150 or so of your comments under it! :( If you asked a question or something and don't see it, please try re-posting your comment.)Filed under: japanese washoku cooking courses japanesecooking101
The response to the Japanese Cooking 101 announcement has been very encouraging! I'm glad that so many of you want to learn about making Japanese food from scratch.
As promised, here is the list of required ingredients that I would like you to have ready for the course. Unfortunately most Japanese ingredients are rather expensive, but on the plus side this will form the nucleus of an authentic Japanese pantry after the course is finished, since we'll only be using a small amount of each.
The fresh ingredients needed will be announced before each lesson, but for this course I will be sticking to things that should be easily obtainable in most of the world, at any tme of the year, so you shouldn't have any problems there.
I've put together a section on my Amazon.com aStore that lists these ingredients. You don't have to buy them from Amazon of course, but you may find it useful to take a look anyway for a visual of the ingredients.
This is available at Japanese grocery stores. Make sure you get "japonica" rice, not "sweet" rice or "mochi" rice. Rice listed as "sushi rice" is ok. For this course, please don't substitute other kinds of rice or it will defeat the purpose. (And we'll be using white rice rather than brown rice since that's the baseline.) These days Japanese style rice is grown in the U.S. (mainly in California, but also in places like Arkansas) as well as in Europe (Italy and Spain), and various parts of Asia. I've not bought any Asian-grown Japanese rice myself, but all the U.S. or Europe grown Japanese rice brands I've tried have been fine. Japanese-grown rice is quite expensive although it's really top quality.
In the U.S. two well known and well priced brands are Nishiki and Kokuho Rose. Of these to I personally prefer Nishiki. If you can afford it, Tamanishiki and Tamaki rices are better quality. I've listed different pack sizes of all three rices on the aStore page. The most frugal option is to get a 2.2 lb / 1 kg bag of Nishiki rice.
In the U.K. and Europe, rice types like Yumenishiki and Yutaka are grown in Spain and Italy. I've tried both, and slightly prefer Yumenishiki, which is now our everyday white rice. Japan Centre (who ship all over Europe) carries both, as well as several Japan-grown rices and Nishiki and Tamanishiki from the U.S.
Most Japanese grocery stores stock this in the rice section. They are small packs of rice that can just be heated up in the microwave for 2 minutes. One brand is Katokichi, but there are others. Again please refer to the aStore page for a visual. (By the way, I could only find a big pack of these on Amazon, but you don't need all of that for the course. They usually sell for around $1.50 or so each in stores. If you end up with extras though, they are really handy when you are too busy or lazy to cook your own rice.)
The reason why I'm requiring this is that I want to make sure that you know what Japanese rice should look and taste like when it's properly cooked. I don't really trust the quality of rice at every "Japanese" restaurant around - I've had some pretty awful rice at some - and believe it or not these microwaveable rice packs are pretty good quality.
Essentials for making dashi, which is the foundation for most savory Japanese dishes.
Another essential for making proper dashi stock. Don't bother with the tiny little 6-packs - that's meant to be used as a sprinkle on top of food. Get a bag filled with large, puffy flakes if at all possible. Again I refer you to the aStore page for a visual.
If you cannot get either katsuobushi or konbu seaweed, dashi granules like Hon-dashi (an Ajinomoto brand) is better than nothing. Keep in mind that dashi granules have added salt, MSG and other things, so you will have to adjust your recipe accordingly.
Used in soups and salads. You can usually just get the dried version, but if you're lucky enough to get the fresh, salted kind, let me know and I can tell you how to handle it.
The reason why I specify a Japanese brand is that soy sauce formulas differ a little from country to country. Two well known Japanese brands of soy sauce are Kikkoman and Yamasa. I prefer Yamasa but either is fine. A non-Japanese company that makes Japanese-style soy sauce is ok too.
Sake is used in many Japanese dishes. I much prefer to use a regular sake, but if you can't get it using ryouri-shu or cooking sake is acceptable. Keep in mind that cooking sake has salt (and sometimes other things) added to it so you must adjust the salt in your dish accordingly.
Note: The question of substitutions for sake in cooking is addressed here.
Hon-mirin is an alcoholic beverage that is used exclusively in cooking. Aji-mirin or mirin flavored seasoning is what it says - not real mirin, but fairly close, and containing less than 1% alcohol. Get hon-mirin if you can, but aji-mirin is acceptable.
Note: The question of substitutions for mirin in cooking is addressed here.
The standard vinegar used in Japanese cooking. Mild and slightly sweet.
Used for miso soup and a lot more. White miso is milder and less salty usually than red miso; blended miso is a great all-purpose miso. See Japanese Miso Primer for more about miso.
By the way, if you're in the UK or Europe Japan Centre carries a Japanese Cooking Essentials kit that contains everything you need for the course except for wakame seaweed, which you can just get separately. It has some other ingredients too which are handy for Japanese cooking. (Note: Japan Centre is an advertiser on Just Hungry, but I'm also a happy longtime customer.)
Besides these ingredients, there are a few pieces of equipment that I'd like you to have on hand:
By fine-mesh, I mean a steel wire mesh rather than the kind of colander that is made of a sheet of metal with holes punched through it. This is used for rinsing rice efficiently. Again, I've listed an example on the aStore page for reference.
Used for washing rice.
Any of these can be used for cooking rice. Please have at least one of them ready.
For frying something!
For boiling, making soup, and so on.
The big kind you use for cooking, not a fancy little soup-tureen one.
A regular chef's knife or santoku knife is fine; no need for a special Japanese one. You should also have a cutting board.
This is not mandatory, but it's very handy to have around for all kinds of Asian cooking.
Again, not mandatory, but handy to have.
For presenting your final complete Japanese meal. You certainly do not have to go out and get specialized Japanese dinnerware for this (unless you want to) - just use what you have.
So there you have it. If you have any questions let me know in the comments.Filed under: japanese ingredients washoku japanesecooking101
We'll be starting Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku next week. If you're cooking along with the course as the lessons are listed, this is your shopping list of fresh ingredients. This is in addition to the staple ingredients on this list.
For Week 1 your fresh ingredient shopping list is pretty short. Basically I want you get something that can go into miso soup (omisoshiru) or clear soup (osuimono or osumashi). Here are some suggestions for some classical ingredients, but you can go with something else if you like too.
For miso soup - choose 1 or 2 of the following (you don't need the whole list):
For clear soup - again, choose 1 or 2 of the following; if any of these ingredients are unfamiliar to you, just go with something else:
If you haven't gotten all the ingredients on the staples list yet, the ones you will be needing are:
You'll also need some salt, which I'm going to assume you have anyway. (Any old edible salt will do here, you don't have to get expensive sea salt or anything unless you want to.)
And that's it! The first lesson will be posted early next week.Filed under: japanesecooking101
Welcome to the first lesson of Japanese Cooking 101! Throughout this course I hope to teach you about the foundations of traditional Japanese cooking or washoku (和食), as well as how to cook some Japanese dishes. So let's get started!
Dashi or stock (often called dashi stock, which is kind of redundant) is the foundation of all savory washoku. It's not just used in soups; it's used in everything, from sauces, dressings, as a liquid when stewing vegetables, and more. Without dashi, your Japanese dishes simply aren't right. If anything, dashi is more critical to Japanese cooking than meat, vegetable and fish stocks are to French cooking.
So what is dashi? Basically it is a liquid that is packed with umami, or glutamates. Umami is an essential part of any savory cuisine, but particularly so in Japanese cooking. It's not at all surprising that it was a Japanese scientist who invented the purest chemical form of umami, monosodium glutamate (MSG).
While using MSG or a instant dashi powder or granules is very handy, and although the quality of dashi powders have have improved in recent years, dashi made from time-tested, natural ingredients is more rounded and better tasting. The difference between dashi made from instant powder and one made from scratch is like the difference between a bouillon you make with a stock cube and one you make by simmering bones and vegetables for hours.
Luckily for us, the Japanese of yore came up with ways to make whipping up a batch of dashi very easy. Various dried ingredients, mostly from the sea, which can be kept without refrigeration, are used to make dashi quite easily - so much easier than making a meat stock. (I mean, dealing with those icky greasy bones after making chicken or beef stock is not nice.)
Dashi is made from one or two of these ingredients:
kombu seaweed is a slightly leathery seaweed. It may come in wide sheets, or long ropey strands. kombu is the most widely used dashi ingredient, and has the most neutral flavor of them all. If you are a vegan, a pure kombu dashi is an all-purpose, neutral tasting dashi.
Good kombu is covered on the surface with a fine white powdery substance. Do not wash this off - it's not caked on salt or dust! It's full of that umami we want to extract.
(Note: Many Japanese cookbooks instruct you to wipe the dirt off the surface of kombu with a tightly wrung out kitchen towel. The truth is, this really isn't necessary in most cases these days, since the kombu we get has already been cleaned very well. If you happen to get a batch with some gritty stuff on the surface you'll need to wipe it off, but make sure you're not getting rid of that powdery white stuff in the meantime. If a tiny bit of grit does make it into your dashi you can always strain it off later.)
Also called kezuribushi or okaka.
Katsuobushi is a bonito fish (katsuo) that has been dried and fermenented to develop a lot of umami. The fish shrinks down and hardens until it's like a block of wood. This is then grated or shaved into thin flakes, rather like wood shavings. The shavings are used in cooking. Good, fresh pre-shaved katsuobushi is fluffy and yellowish-beige in color with a hint of blush pink. Katsuobushi is the second most common dashi ingredient after kombu. Most of the dashi used around the country in restaurants uses a combination of kombu and katsuobushi.
Katsuobushi is usually available in flaked form, although you can get a whole katsuobushi and a special box grater and grate your own. While freshly shaved or grated katsuobushi is very flavorful, it's a pain in the ass to grate manually, so most people, including professional cooks, use the pre-shaved stuff. (I've seen some electric katsuobushi-shavers sold in Japan, but they're pretty expensive.)
We won't be using these ingredients for this lesson, but these items are used in dashi too.
Simply put, ichiban dashi or first dashi is the dashi you make from fresh (as in previously unused) ingredients kombu and katsuobushi. Niban dashi or second dashi is dashi made from the kombu, katsuobushi and so on that has previously been used for making ichiban dashi. Ichiban dashi is used for things like soups, or when you want the maximum amount of umami possible. Niban dashi is used for things like stewed dishes, when other ingredients like meat and vegetables will add more umami to the dish so a subtler dashi is adequate. Niban dashi is really a way of being frugal with your dashi ingredients.
In this lesson we will be making a standard ichiban (first) kombu and katsuobushi dashi, but I'll also show you how kombu-only dashi is made.
Long time readers of the site may know that I've given you a couple of different ways of making dashi in the past. They all work well, but here I'll walk you through the method that I think makes the best tasting dashi.
We will making 1 litre, or about 4 U.S. cups of dashi. For this you will need:
The ratio of water to ingredients: Allow for a minimum of 10 grams of kombu, and 10 to 15 grams of katsuobushi, per 1000 ml(1l) or 4 U.S. sized cups of water. If you're making a kombu-only dashi, you'll want to use at least 15 grams. If you don't have a fairly precise scale, 10 grams of kombu is about a 4 inch square piece - which is the advice I've given you previously, and 19-15 grams of katsuobushi is a good handful. Here I used 15 grams of each. If you don't get the amounts precise don't worry; since these are all-natural ingredients, you can't really use too much of it.
Here's 15 grams of kombu. - about 1 1/2 4-inch / 10 cm squares.
And here's 15 grams of katuobushi - a generous handful:
Set aside the katsuobushi. Put the kombu and water in a pan and leave it to soak for at least 30 minutes. You can leave it in the water for up to a day in the refrigerator, if you want to do the soaking step in advance.
If you want to track how the dashi progresses, take a small sip of the liquid after the kombu has been soaking in it for a while. You should taste just a hint of the sea already. The surface of the kombu will have turned a bit slippery.
Put the pan on the hob and turn up the heat. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat.
If you are making a kombu-only dashi, keep the pan on a barely-there low simmer for 30 minutes. Check the water level and add a bit more if it seems to be evaporating too fast.
IF you are making a kombu-katsuobushi combination dashi, simmer the kombu for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.
Again, if you want to track the progress of the dashi, taste it at the 5, 10 and (if you're going for kombu-only dashi) the 30 minute stages. You'll notice that the dashi is getting gradually stronger in flavor, tasting like the sea. You should notice the umami even at the 5 minute mark. Kombu-only dashi barely has any color.
To make a kombu-katsuobushi combo dashi: After 10 minutes of simmering, add the katsuobushi, and turn the heat off.
Let the pan sit for a few minutes (about 10 minutes) until the katsuobushi sinks to the bottom of the pan.
Strain off the liquid, using a fine-mesh sieve.
Don't throw away the used kombu and katsuobushi! We'll be using that in a later lesson, so put it in a plastic bag and store it in the freezer.
The dashi will have a pale golden color. Give it a taste - you'll notice the katuobushi, but it won't be unpleasantly 'fishy'; it will be like a very light bouillon without the salt.
At this point the dashi can be used right away, or stored well covered for a few day in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it - putting it in ice cube trays is a handy way of doing this.
_This pale golden liquid is the foundation for your savory Japanese dishes. Master the art of dashi making and you're well on your way to becoming a Japanese Iron Chef!
Tomorrow I'll show you how to turn this dashi into two kinds of soup: clear soup called osumashi or osuimono, and misoshiru or miso soup.
While dashi made from natural ingredients tastes the best, it may be difficult of not impossible to get the raw ingredients like kombu seaweed and katsuobushi in some parts of the world. In that case using instant dashi stock granules is fine, and certainly better than using straight MSG or nothing at all. And to be brutal, most Japanese restaurants around the world do not make dashi from scratch; they use the granules, (Once you know the taste of 'real' dashi, you'll soon be able to tell when a restaurant isn't using it.)
A complaint I hear sometimes about dashi made from dashi granules is that it is 'fishy'. While they do have some fish flavor (and the granules themselves, especially certain brands, can smell rather fishy) since they are made from katuobushi extract and such, I suspect that one problem is that people are using far too much of it. You only need to use about 1 teaspoon per 4 cups (1 liter) of water, or 1/4 teaspoon per cup.
Dashi, whether made from granules or from scratch, is not meant to be used on its own; it is meant to be a flavor enhancer, not the entire flavor. You add other ingredients like salt, soy sauce, sake and so on to the dashi to "complete" the flavors. So trying to make add enough dashi granules to water or other liquid to make it 'strong' will not turn out well at all.
When you use dashi granules start with a small amount, add the other flavors and then add a bit more if you think it really needs it. Tasting as you go along is the best way to cook something you're unfamiliar with.
Dashi granules that come in pre-portioned packages like these are handy if you can't remember the dosage. These little sealed packages tend to keep better too.
But again, if you can get the real ingredients, please try to make dashi the proper way at least once, so you can know what it's supposed to taste like.Filed under: basics japanese washoku japanesecooking101
Now that you know how to make a proper dashi, you're 90% on your way to making delicious miso soup and clear soup. If you have ever wondered why your miso soup doesn't taste quite right, and you were omitting the dashi part...you're in for a treat!
For this lesson I will be using one ingredient, potato, that should be familiar to anyone, and another, wakame seaweed, which may be more unusual but is a standby in Japanese kitchen. It also gives me a chance to show you how to handle miso soup additions that have different cooking times.
Wakame (わかめ) is very different from kombu, but is probably the second most used seaweed in Japanese cooking. Unlike kombu wakame doesn't have a whole lot of umami, although it has a pleasant sea-flavor. It's enjoyed more for its texture, which can be kind of chewy and squeaky when raw, or soft once you cook it even briefly.
Wakame is available in two forms: fresh (raw) and packed in salt; or dried. I usually have the dried kind around because it's more convenient (especially when you live far away from a Japanese grocery store like me) and that is what I used here:
Dried wakame expands to 4-5 times its volume when reconstituted, so use sparingly. Dried wakame usually comes already chopped up, so all you need to do is to take out some and reconstitute in cold water is using in salads or side dishes. For soup you can just put it directly into the soup.
Fresh wakame packed in salt should be stored in the refrigerator. Before using, rinse off the salt under running water, then blanch briefly by pouring boiling water over it. If using in a salad, refresh in cold water. Fresh wakame comes in long whole strands, so you need to chop it up before using. It also expands a bit (about 1.5 times or so) so don't pull out more than you need from that tangle in the packet.
For this miso soup I used a white Shinshuu miso. Shinshuu is the old name of Nagano Prefecture, and is known for its excellent miso. It's fairly mild on the saltiness scale.
Every miso has a different level of salt, and the worst thing you want to do is to add too much miso to your soup. A general rule of thumb is to use about 1 tablespoon per cup (U.S. measure, 236.5ml) or 1/4 l (250ml) but if you have a very salty red miso for example, you may need less. So when you are trying out a new miso, always add less than you think you need. It's easy to add more. Since we'll be using 1000 ml / around 4 cups for this recipe, we'll start with 3 tablespoons and add more if we think we need it.
(See: Japanese miso primer for more about different types of miso.)
For 3-4 servings
Add the dissolved miso to the soup, then immediately turn off the heat. Miso should not be boiled, or it starts to turn a bit grainy. (Mind you it will still taste fine, so if this happens to you don't throw away your soup or anything). Taste your soup, and if needed add a bit more dissolved miso.
Serve in a bowl. The combination of potato with soft wakame is really homey and delicious. Take your time to inhale the aroma of the soup. If you serve this to a homesick Japanese person they may cry in gratitude.
Tip: If you can't get wakame, you can use some shredded spinach (as I used in the clear soup below) instead.
Delicate clear soup or osuimono may seem even easier to make than miso soup on the surface, but getting the flavor balance just right can be a bit tricky. A clear soup really must have a great tasting dashi as a base. Many cooks prefer to use a kombu dashi which is more subtle and refined according to some, but the standard kombu + katsuobushi dashi is fine too.
Here I have used two ingredients that should be easy to get anywhere.
For 3-4 servings
I didn't include any step by step photos here since you'll just see a pan of clear liquid mostly! But here are the steps.
So there you have it! You know how to make great miso soup and clear soup!soup miso washoku japanesecooking101
For Lesson 2, we are going to cover the all-important subject of cooking rice. So, from the list of pantry ingredients for the course, you'll need:
You'll also need the following equipment:
If you'd like to try the bonus how-to, how to prepare proper sushi rice, you will also need:
And that's it! It should be a very interesting lesson!Filed under: japanesecooking101
This is Lesson 2 of Japanese Cooking 101. Today I'll show you how to cook the star of Japanese cooking - plain, steamed rice. Rice is so central to the Japanese table that the word for cooked rice, gohan (ご飯）to use the polite term, or meshi （飯）to use the more informal term, is also the word for the entire meal. In other words, in Japan when you have rice, you have a meal.
Another point to keep in mind is that most savory foods eaten in Japan, with the exception of noodle dishes, are designed to go well with plain rice. Once you understand that a lot of things about Japanese cooking will make sense. Japanese dishes tend to be a little bit too salty or a little bit too well high in flavor, especially umami, to eat on their own. They are made that way on purpose so that they will pair well with the blandness of that bowl of plain rice.
The handiest way to see how Japanese rice is supposed to be like is to get one of these - a pack of microwaveable rice.
I wish I could say you can go to your nearest Japanese restaurant to get a bowl of good rice, but I've seen such difference in quality at various so-called Japanese restaurants that I'm hesitant to do that. But I do know that these microwave packs are pretty uniformly good.
So how do you heat these things? If you look at the corner of the rice packet - and this is something all the different brands of these rice packets share - you see the numbers 2 and 15. That means that to cook it in the microwave you need to peel back the top wrapper to the line, then microwave on the High setting for 2 minutes. If you don't have a microwave you cat heat it up over a pan of boiling water: Put the pack in a pan of boiling water lowered to a simmer, with the top wrapper on, and heat for 15 minutes.
So go ahead and heat up the rice. Take some out - careful, it's very hot - and put a little into a bowl. Taste it without anything on it. The rice should taste quite clean, with a slightly sticky texture so that the grains adhere to each other if you press them together lightly. However, each grain is still intact and not at all mushy.
One more thing:
One of the things that flummoxed me most when I got interested in cooking as an adult (I cooked a bit as a teenager, but mainly things like everyday Japanese food and cookies) was this insistence in many American cookbooks that the ideal texture of rice should be "fluffy". I didn't get it at all, since fluffy to me is duck feathers, the fur on my favorite teddy bear, a soufflé maybe, or angel food cake...in other words, not something applicable to well cooked rice, at last not Japanese style rice. I do understand that some types of rice, such as basmati (my second favorite kind of rice) and jasmine, need to have fairly firm and separate grains. I also understood why risotto needed to be creamy. I have since tried rice that is said to be 'fluffy', such as the type that cooks up in a minute...but if that's supposed to be 'perfect' rice then I don't know what.
But regardless of how other types of rice are supposed to be like, the bottom line is: Japanese rice is never, ever "fluffy".
Now you know how Japanese rice should be like, you should also understand why you cannot substitute the types of long-grain rices that should have separate, non-sticky firm grains like jasmine, not to mention Carolina type rice. (You can use the medium-grain rice types that are used in risotto and the like in a pinch; see Looking at Rice, my rice-type primer.)
So let's cook some Japanese rice!
Many rices don't need any rinsing at all, and with some, such as the risotto rices, it's even prohibited, since the powdery substance is critical to the creamy texture. Things are very different when it comes to Japanese rice: the rinsing, drying and soaking steps are the most critical parts of cooking properly textured, properly tasting rice.
In this lesson we will be cooking 320g / 360cc (360ml), or 1 1/2 U.S. cups ((11.3 oz) of rice. If you have a rice cooker, this is equivalent to 2 rice cooker measuring cups.. To that we'll be adding 410ml (1 3/4 U.S. cups) of water at the end.
Equipment: We will be using a fine-mesh sieve and a bowl that the sieve can fit over, as described in the list of required ingredients and equipment for the course. This will yield about 660 grams, or a bit more than 4 U.S. cups of cooked rice, which will serve 3-4 people as part of a Japanese meal. To cook the rice we will be using a heavy-bottomed cast iron pot with a heavy lid as the base.
Measure the rice into the sieve, and put the sieve into the bowl. We'll be working in the sink.
Run cold water from the tap at a fairly slow stream into the sieve/bowl. Rub the rice grains gently between your fingers. The water will turn very milky and opaque.
Lift the sieve out of the bowl. It's important to not let the rice sit in that milky water, otherwise it will be re-absorbed into the grains and the cooked rice will not taste as clean as we want it to be. Discard the water in the bowl.
Repeat the fill with clean water -> rub grains gently -> drain away the cloudy water steps, until the water in the bowl is pretty clear. (Don't rub the grains together too hard or you may break them up, which is not the idea.)
This about as clear as it should be. With most Japanese rice these days you only need to do the above 3 steps about 4-5 times, but if you're using another rice such as vialone, you may need a couple more rinse cycles as it were.
Drain the water away from the rice once again. Suspend the sieve over the bowl to let the rest of the water drain away from the rice, for at least 15 minutes. 30 minutes is ideal. (You use the bowl under the sieve to catch any dripping water, but if you have a sieve with legs you can just leave it in the sink.)
After draining for 30 minutes, the rice grains should look very white and a bit opaque.
Put the rice and 410ml (1 3/4 U.S. cups) of water in the pot. This about 1.1 times the rice in volume. Note: If you have rice that's been around for more than a year, add a bit more water (around 420ml) to compensate for the rice drying out. Leave the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes, 1 hour is ideal. Soaking the rice ensures that the moisture penetrates each grain, so that they cook evenly and thoroughly in a relatively short time without getting mushy or leaving a hard uncooked center.
So we've soaked our rice. For this lesson we'll be using a small yet hefty cast-iron pot. You can use these instructions as-is if you are using a donabe (a pottery pot for cooking rice) or a tetsugama (an iron rice cooking pot). If you want to use a frying pan to cook the rice, please follow the instructions on this page. The most important thing that all methods share is a lid that sits quite securely on the cooking container. And of course, if you're using a rice cooker you can just set it and let it do its thing.
So we've now soaked our rice. Put the pot on the hob over medium heat on the low side. If you're using gas, the flame should be about this big in relation to the size of the pot. (For electric or IH, set the heat to a tick below medium.)
Now at this point, you can do as my mother advises: Set a kitchen timer for 12 minutes and forget about it until the timer goes off. This actually works pretty well. But if you want to fuss a bit over the pot and see how it progresses....
Let the pot heat. Do not open the lid. You should hear the pot start to boil. Eventually you should see steam coming out of the edges of the lid. (The photo doesn't show this too well to be honest, but in person you'll see it.)
Lower the heat a little bit more so it's a bit stronger than a bare simmer, and set the timer for 7 minutes. (Actually if you just let it be, the boil time + simmer time does add up to around 12-13 minutes. Mother knows best!)
At this point you really shouldn't open the lid but if you must, take a peak. You should see that the water is gone, the rice looks shiny, and there are little steam holes all over the surface. You may see a few bubbles.
Put the lid back on as quick as you can! Turn the heat off, and let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
Open the lid - your rice should look like this: perfectly cooked, the surface dotted with little steam holes. There should be no excess moisture left in the pan, but if there is, put the lid back on and put the heat up to high for 20 seconds. Note that this may brown the bottom of the rice a bit.
Stir up your rice with a rice paddle. Use the paddle to turn up the rice away from the sides and the bottom. The stirring-up process helps any remaining excess moisture to evaporate, so the rice grains don't have a chance to get mushy. (Tip: this stirring-up is especially important if you are using a rice cooker and using the keep-warm function. If you don't stir up the rice the bottom parts get rather water logged.)
There shouldn't be any grains glued to the bottom or burned!
Take a small bit of the rice. Note the texture, the color, the flavor...it should be very much like that microwave-packet rice. Grains separate, sticking slightly together; sticking well together when pressed lightly; and a very clean flavor.
And there you have it - a perfectly cooked bowl of Japanese rice...
...the star of a Japanese meal (I put a little furikake on top.)
Phew, that was a lot of steps! But it's pretty easy once you have them down.
I hope you can digest all that. I know it's a lot of instructions, but by following along you will have rice success.
Remember: whatever cooking method you use, including ones I haven't covered here such as using the microwave or the oven, the important parts of the process to ensure proper texture and taste are the rinsing an soaking steps.
Coming up, we'll have a bonus for Lesson 2: how to prepare sushi rice, or shari, plus how to take care of your rice cooker. Stay tuned!
And of course as usual, please post your comments, questions and results in the comment section right here or on the Facebook page.
If you have very hard water in your area, you may find a kind of grey scum on the top of your cooked rice. You can just remove the scum and the rice should be ok, but if it bothers you try using filtered water for the soaking and cooking. When we lived in the Zürich area we used to filter our rice-cooking water with a Brita filter. In our new house, we invested in a water softener - one of our best decisions ever. The rice no longer looks grey, our towels aren't hard and spiky, and our shower drain doesn't need cleaning out nearly as much.Filed under: basics rice washoku japanesecooking101
Now that you know how to cook Japanse rice properly, perfect sushi rice, called sushimeshi (すし飯) or shari (しゃり). Sushi rice is what makes sushi sushi - the topppings and things mixed in are almost secondary. So, for good sushi, you must have good sushi rice.
Many books recommend cooking the rice with dashi, or something that has a lot of umami such as kombu seaweed. Indeed that's the recommendation I gave when first wrote about making sushi rice on this site almost 10 years ago. While that umami boost does make rice taste yummier, it's not always necessary if the things on top of the rice or mixed in the rice have plenty of umami anyway. Keep in mind that the soy sauce or other sauces have loads of umami too.
One trick of the trade that I learned from my mother, who used to run a very busy sushi restaurant, is: if you want the rice to have that extra bit of shine, add a tiny bit of flavorless vegetable oil such as canola oil to the rice when cooking - about 1/8 teaspoon per rice-cooker cup (180cc/ml). So per U.S. cup it's about 1/7th of of a teaspoon...a couple of drops really. Do not add any more - you don't want your rice to be oily, just shiny. This is a good trick to use if you find that the quality of the rice is a bit subpar.
For this lesson, we'll keep it simple and just cook plain rice, as detailed in the first past of this lesson. The only things we'll be adding are: rice vinegar, sugar, and salt - to the freshly cooked rice. I used some sucanat for this (which is a raw cane sugar that is light brown in color), and sea salt - just for that extra bit of luxury - but plain white granulated sugar and table salt will work just as well.
For the amount of rice we cooked in the first part (360cc, or 2 rice-cooker cups, or 1 3/4 U.S. cups) we will need:
Mix all the above together. That's it!
Note that the amount of salt depends on what you'll be putting on, or in, the rice. If you're making unseasoned raw fish sushi, then add 1 teaspoon; if you're making a sushi with salted ingredients, such as the smoked salmon and cucumber sushi below, you'll need less.
Here is another tip from my mother: as long as the rice is piping hot, there's no need to heat up the vinegar, sugar and salt so that the latter 2 ingredients dissolve. They will dissolve fine in that hot rice. Here she just quickly mixed them together in a rice cooker cup and dumped it on the rice. We used a stainless steel mixing bowl, because I don't have a nice wooden sushi oke or handai. (The wood helps to absorb excess moisture from the rice, but as long as you work rapidly a plain old bowl works well.) A tip here for rice cooker owners: don't mix the sushi rice in the cooker bowl, since the vinegar may damager the inner markings or coating, especially with less expensive cookers.
Rapidly mix the rice using a cutting motion with your rice paddle. It's rather like folding egg whites into a cake batter: use a cut-turn-fold motion, trying to break up lumps vertically and letting in air so that the rice cools rapidly. Don't squish the rice grains if you can help it.
If you have a pair of extra hands, they can help cool the rice more rapidly by fanning it from the side, but if not just mix the rice as quickly as you can. The metal bowl helps to cool the rice a bit faster than wood.
And so there you have it - a bowlful of sushi rice. It should still be slightly warm - the ideal temperature.
Chirashizushi (ちらし寿司) means 'scattered sushi', and is the easiest kind of sushi to make. This version uses two ingredients that anyone should be able to get - smoked salmon, and cucumber. Since the smoked salmon is 'cooked' so to speak, this sushi is great for bentos.
Cook the rice as per the instructions. While it's cooking, prepare the vinegar mix by combinting the vinegar, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.
Slice the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice very thinly, and sprinkle with a little more salt (not listed). Massage the salt and the cucumber with your hands, and squeeze the cucumber tightly to remove excess water. Set aside.
Slice the smoked salmon into thin slivers. Set aside.
When the rice has finished cooking, while it's very hot empty it out into a bowl. Working rapidly, mix in the vinegar mix as per the detailed instructions above.
Once the rice is mixed, fold the cucumber and salmon in gently, leaving a few pieces to decorate the top.
Serve on a plate, in a bowl or in a bento box.Filed under: japanese rice sushi japan washoku japanesecooking101
I hope that you have enjoyed the first two lessons plus bonus lessons of Lessons 1 and 2 of Japanese Cooking 101. I'm going to have to take a few days break because I'm feeling a bit under the weather, but Lesson 3 will come next week and possibly Lesson 4 also. So this is the shopping list for both lessons. As usual, this is in addition to the basic pantry ingredients required for the course.
For lesson 3 we will be tackling nimono (煮物) or stewed dishes.
We will be doing _sunomono__ (酢の物）or a mixed vinegar flavored side dish.
And that's it! I'll see you back here next week for the next lesson.
(If you are just joining us, please start at the Japanese Cooking 101 course announcement and work your way through the linked pages at the bottom.)Filed under: ingredients japanesecooking101
This is Lesson 3 of Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku.
If you have been following along on Japanese Cooking 101, so far you have learned out to make proper dashi, the base stock used in many savory dishes in Japanese cooking (as well as miso soup and clear soup using that dashi), and also learned how to make proper Japanese style rice.
In Lesson 3 we'll be making vegetable nimono, one of the most common types of dishes found in washoku.
The ni part of nimono (煮) means to stew or simmer. A nimono dish in Japanese cooking means that it's been simmered in dashi flavored with sugar, sake, mirin and soy sauce, plus some salt on occasion. The ratio of the flavoring ingredients differs according to personal taste, regional preference and so on but the basic combination is the same.
The dashi you use for making nimono can be regular "1st dashi", as we made in Lesson 1. But if you look back at that recipe, you'll see that we kept that used kombu seaweed and katsuobushi and stuck the little packet in the freezer:
That once-used dashi ingredient mixture will yield even more goodness, called "2nd dashi" or niban dashi (二番だし). 2nd dashi is not as flavorful or refined as 1st dashi (ichiban dashi), but it's flavorful enough for simmering vegetables and so on where we'll be getting plenty of flavor from the ingredients anyway. Since I tend to make miso soup more frequently than nimono, I just keep the used kombu seaweed/katsuobushi in the freezer and pull out 2 of the little packs at a time to make niban dashi.
Making niban dashi is very simple. Just put it in as enough water as you need (for today's recipe we will be needing around 400 ml or about 1 3/4 U.S. cups, so add that plus a bit more to allow for evaporation) in the pan with 1-2 used-dashi-ingredient bundles. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and simmer for 5-6 minutes. At this point you can put in a small handful of fresh (unused dry) katsuobushi (bonito flakes) to boost the flavor a bit, or even 1/4 teaspoon of dashi stock granules. Let the dashi ingredients settle down in the pan, then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
If you forgot to keep the used dashi-making ingredients, just make a batch of "1st dashi" following the Lesson 1 instructions. Water plus dashi stock granules is fine too, if not as flavorful.
So let's try making a potful of delicious simmered vegetables, Japanese-style!
I stuck to using ingredients that 1. most people should be able to get a hold of, 2. that are inexpensive, and 3. don't need any pre-processing for this dish.
Yields: About 5 cups of cooked vegetables, enough for 2-3 Japanese meals as a side dish
Time required: 10-15 minutes prep time, 20-25 minutes cooking time (does not include time for making the dashi or soaking the mushrooms, which can be done in advance)
The cooking liquid:
Equipment needed: Cutting board, sharp kitchen knife, a small saucepan, and an otoshibuta - which I'll explain below.
Proper traditional Japanese cooking (washoku) is all about getting little details right. They really don't have to take a lot of time once you've learned them, but they make all the difference both in taste and texture, as well as final presentation. If you want this dish to turn out as nicely as it can, please read through and follow the cutting instructions. Of course it will all turn out pretty good even if you cut up the vegetables the way you want to...but humor me and follow along at least once. ^_^
The most common cut used for carrots in stewed dishes is called ran-giri (乱切り) which means 'random cut' or 'rough cut'. You want each piece to be fairly even in size, but with multiple surfaces so that they cook evenly. It's quite simple to do: Put your peeled carrot on the board, and cut at even intervals while giving a quarter-turn to the carrot each time.
You'll end up with pieces like this...
...sort of trapezoidal in shape. These pieces cook very nicely and evenly. (I cut my carrots like this for curry too.)
Now this is very much optional, but if you want to give your final dish an extra flair cut some regular round slices from the carrot and make some flowers out of them. I didn't include the cutting how-to here since it was already way too long, but if you have some small bento cutters you can just cut out some flowers or other shapes (see this post for example.)
Next up are the potatoes. After peeling them, cut them into fairly even pieces like so:
The next step is optional but will really make the final dish that much better. Since potatoes are starchy, the sharp cut edges tend to melt and disintegrate into the cooking liquid. This makes them look a bit messy, as well as clouding the liquid. To prevent that, just shave the edges of each piece to round them off. This cutting method is called mentori (面取り) - 'taking off the edges'.
The potato pieces will look like this. The reasoning behind this is related to the reason why vegetables are 'turned' in classic French cuisine but it's a lot more simple to do. It's not necessary to "mentori" all vegetables - carrots for instance stay firm and intact after cooking unless you overcook them. The most commonly "mentori"-ed vegetables are the starchy ones like potatoes and kabocha squash, plus daikon radish - the ones that literally tend to lose their 'edge' during cooking.
But a frugal Japanese home cook doesn't throw away the trimmed edges. Save them for a soup or a stir-fry by rinsing off the starch in water (to prevent them from browning) and wrapping tightly.
Put the cut up potato in a bowl of water, and then drain to rinse off the surface starch. This step will make the final dish that much more clear shiny. Don't let the potato bits soak too long in the water though - we don't want them to get waterlogged.
Tightly squeeze out the rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms, saving the soaking liquid. Cut off the stem, which is usually too chewy even after rehydrating. Cut each cap in half - but instead of just going straight up and down, make a slanted 45 degree cut.
The reason for doing this is purely for aesthetics. The diagonal cut shows off the pale beige inside part of the shiitake, which offsets the dark brown cap nicely. A small, simple yet nice decorative touch. Do this cut for fresh shiitake also. Regular white button mushrooms can just be sliced in half (you can leave the stems on); if you have brown cap mushrooms the diagonal cut may work well too.
Just cut the onion into 1/8th wedges.
Once you've prepped the vegetables, the cooking is pretty easy.
Heat up your pan with the teaspoon of oil. Sesame oil will add a bit more flavor, but any vegetable oil is fine here. (Olive oil is great too.) Put the onions in first and stir around for 2-3 minutes until the edges start turning a bit translucent.
Add the potatoes and carrots and continue stirring for a minute. This short sautéing step helps to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables.
Add the mushrooms and stir a bit more.
Add the dashi stock (or combined dashi + mushroom soaking liquid). There should be enough to just about come to the top level of all the vegetables in the pot - if there's not enough, add the a bit more dashi or even plain water, but do not overfill with liquid or the end results will be rather blah.
Bring it up to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Some scum will rise to the top, which should be removed so that the final dish will have a clean taste and appearance. I use this specialized scum-scooper ladle but any ladle will do fine - even a large spoon will work. Try to take off just the scum and leave the liquid.
Add the flavoring ingredients in this order: sugar, mirin, sake, and then finally the soy sauce. You can even reserve the soy sauce until the very end to retain its maximum fragrance if you prefer. I just dump it in at this stage though.
Finally we want to let it simmer on its own. But before we leave the pot, let's put on an otoshibuta (落としぶた) or "dropped lid". This is one of the things that may be unique to Japanese cooking, although other cuisines use similar techniques sometimes. It's essentally a lid that is smaller than the diameter of the pot, that is placed directly on the surface of the food that's being cooked. it prevents the surface from drying out, allows moisture ton condensate on the backside and then drop back into the cooking liquid, and keeps the ingredients in the simmer from shifting around and falling apart. I've explained the otoshibuta several times already on this site, and used it whenever I've made a simmered dish. The most traditional type of otoshibuta is made of wood - but it's still hard to get one of these outside of Japan. But a makeshift one works just as well really. The simplest form of makeshift otoshibuta is simply a pot lid that belongs to a pot that's smaller than the one you're using, preferably one. You can also use a piece of crumpled up aluminum foil or kitchen parchment paper with a couple of holes punched into it for ventilation.
I do happen to have an otoshibuta, which I bought in Japan...it's made of silicone. The 'handle' part is a pig face, with the snout acting as ventilation holes. It's also a pun, since the word for pig in Japanese is "buta". So...otoshibuta... ^_^; (OK so I do like my silly puns.)
So, leave the pot to simmer with the dropped pig...I mean, dropped lid on top, for around 20 minutes. If the heat is too high, lower it or take the pot off the heat for a couple of minutes before putting it back on. You may want to give it a stir up from the bottom halfway through. (Experienced cooks can take the pan and give it a good toss to mix the contents up, but don't do this unless you are confident you can.)
In the meantime, blanch 3-4 snap peas (or other greenery you are using as garnish) in boiling water for a minute or two, and set aside.
Come back to check on how tender the vegetables are, and if they are done turn the heat off and let it rest for a few minutes. Taste a potato and see if it needs a touch more soy sauce, or even a pinch of salt, and adjust according to your taste.
Arrange the vegetables attractively in a bowl, pouring a little of the cooking liquid over it to add shine and flavor. Garnish with the snow peas or other green garnish of your choice to make it "pop".
Store any leftover nimono in the cooking liquid. It will improve in flavor that way. Nimono like this will last in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 days, so make enough to use in a couple of meals and bentos. After a couple of days you may want to heat it through before using.
This basic procedure is the same for most kinds of nimono, whether they are all-vegetable or have some meat or other protein such as tofu in them.
As usual, please leave any questions, etc. in the comments below or on the Facebook page!Filed under: basics japanese vegetables washoku japanesecooking101
Not all nimono dishes need to be made with dashi. If one of the ingredients has plenty of umami on its own, you can make a dashi or broth from it without having to add any more. One such ingredient is squid (ika) or calamari. If you live in an area with a sizeable Italian, Greek or other Mediterranean immigrant population, as well as us Asians, chances are you can get a hold of good quality squid. If you can, get a nice one and try this quick and simple nimono.
Yield: About 4 1/2 to 5 cups, enough for 2-3 Japanese style meals as a side dish
Cut off some of the legs and cut into pieces. Slice open the body so that it lies flat. Score the surface of the body and the back fins lightly in a crosswise pattern. Cut the body into squares about 1-1.5 inches (2.5 - 3cm) in size. Reserve the skin and guts.
Peel and cut the potatoes following the instructions in the basic nimono lesson.
Put the water, squid bits, and squid guts and skin into a pan and bring it to a boil. Put the squid pieces and legs in the water and boil for one minute, no more. Immediately drain the squid, making sure to reserve the boiling liquid. The boiling liquid will be your dashi or cooking broth. Take the guts and skin out of the blanched squid and discard.
Return the liquid to the pot and put the potatoes in. Simmer the potatoes until tender. Put in the sake, mirin and optional sugar, then add the soy sauce. Return the squid to the pot and simmer for an addtional 2-3 minutes. Don't over cook after you re-add the squid or it will turn tough. Taste, and adjust the seasonings if needed.
Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with slivers of onion and lemon or yuzu peel.
Any kind of protein with lots of umami will work with this method. You may want to try chicken for instance - the dark meat works best. Chicken wings will work well too. Thinly sliced beef or pork work well too.Filed under: japanese fish washoku japanesecooking101 squid nimono
I'm falling a little bit behind with Japanese Cooking 101 but not to worry, the rest of the lessons are lined up. Lesson 4 will be posted tomorrow, and Lesson 5 on Friday.
I've already given you some fresh ingredients to get for Lesson 4, but in addition or instead of the broccoli you can also use cucumber. If you can get a hold of some small white turnips with their tops on, you may find it interesting too. Of course you can always get the things later after reading through the lesson.
For Lesson 5, we'll finally be tackling the main protein dish. I pondered this for a long time since I know it's hard for many of you to get fresh fish. I've settled on using some fresh salmon for the main part of the lesson, with a variation using chicken. If you want to try the salmon, you'll need about 120-150g / 4-5 oz. or so per serving, skin preferable. If you'll be trying the chicken, you will need 120-150g/ 4-5 oz. per person of boneless dark thigh meat, skin on or off (I'll be showing it with the skin on). I've revised the plans for Lesson 5: please read this.
And as usual you will need the basic pantry ingredients for both lessons.
I'll see you back her tomorrow for Lesson 4!Filed under: ingredients washoku japanesecooking101
This is Lesson 4 of Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku.
So far in Japanese Cooking 101, we've covered how to: * Make proper dashi, the base stock used in many savory dishes in Japanese cooking (as well as miso soup and clear soup using that dashi) in Lesson 1; * How to make proper Japanese style rice, the base starch of most meals in Japan in Lesson 2; and * How to make nimono or stewed dishes in Lesson 3.
A typical Japanese meal consists of many small dishes to accompany the rice. At least one or two of those dishes is a relatively simple dish called aemono (和え物) a dish of vegetables and sometimes a small amount of protein such as seafood or tofu mixed with a sauce and served cold. One type of aemono is sunomono (酢の物), a sour-flavored dish. Think of it as a Japanese style side salad, using oil-free dressings. Sunomo are quite easy to prepare, can be made on the spot or a bit in advance, and are very refreshing as accompaniments to richer dishes.
There are two stages to preparing a sunomono dish:
In Part 1 we will be looking at the various sunomono sauces.
The su part of sunomono means vinegar, so sunomono sauces all consist of vinegar or a sour citrus juice plus flavorings. Collectively these sauces are called awase-zu (合わせ酢) or "combined vinegar". Here are some of the most commonly used awaze-zu, which can all be made in advance or just made on the spot as needed.
Which sauce you use depends on the ingredients you are using in the sunomono, as well as personal preference.
The most used vinegar for awase-zu is rice vinegar (米酢), read as kome-zu or (less frequently) yone-zu. This is a very mild vinegar with a slight sweet flavor. You can experiment with other vinegars; for instance, white balsamico is quite interesting, with a pronounced sweetness that may allow you to omit or reduce the amount of sugar in a given recipe. Apple cider vinegar, kuro-zu or black vinegar and so forth are alternatives with distinct characteristics. If you can't get a hole of rice vinegar, try white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
The type of soy sauce that is preferred in most awase-zu recipes is usukuchi (薄口) or light colored soy sauce. Light does not mean it has less salt - it actually has more salt than dark colored soy sauce, but it's preferred since it is light in color and won't add any brown tint to the vegetables and so forth. But the "regular" type of soy sauce you can get usually is dark soy sauce, so if that's all you have that's fine too. Some types of awase-zu specifically call for dark soy sauce, such as Nanban sauce (nanban-su).
Tamari and other very dark soy sauce types are rarely used in awase-zu recipes, will give a definite brownish color to your dish. But again, flavor-wise they are fine to use, although since they are usually a bit lower in salt you may need to add a tiny pinch of salt depending on your taste.
The awase-zu types that don't use perishable ingredients like dashi and citrus juice will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator, in a sealed container. The awase-zu types with dashi or citrus juice will keep for a couple of weeks, but don't try to keep them for too long.
I've given you a lot of information here, but it's really not difficult: just pick one awase-zu that looks good to you (or that's called for in a recipe) and you're ready to go.preserves and pickles vegetables washoku japanesecooking101
Now that we know how to make the vinegar sauces for sunomono, let's turn our attention to the prepping of the vegetables. The key to good sunomono, and all aemono (mixed-vegetable dishes), is to use vegetables that have had the excess moisture removed. The way to do this is to either drain them well, salt them lightly to draw out the moisture, or to blanch them briefly.
Here are some ways to prep vegetables for sunomono. The recipes for the the vinegar sauces (--su or --zu) mentioned are in Part 1.
Wakame is one of the easiest sea vegetables or seaweed to work with. I've been trying to eat more wakame recently since it is packed with minerals, so I'm just going to include it in all the sunomono variations below. It can also be used in miso soup, as I showed in Lesson 1a.
Wakame comes either in dehydrated form or 'raw' and preserved in salt. If you have the latter kind, simply rinse it well in running water, then soak for a few minutes in a bowl of fresh water. If you have the dehydrated kind, soak in plenty of water to cover until it's rehydrated. Either way, it should look like this after a while.
The dehydrated kind usually comes pre-cut into pieces but the salted kind comes in long pieces like so.
Just cut it up into small, bitesize pieces.
Here's about 1/2 cup of ready to go wakame, which can be used in sunomono, soups, salads and so forth.
Cucumber is one of the most versatile vegetables for sunomono. It's available year-round (although its real season is summer), and its crunchy-crisp texture lends itself well to vinegar sauce. Japanese cucumbers are quite small and narrow, but just about impossible to get outside of Japan, so I usually use the type of cucumber that's called an English cucumber - long, and sometimes sold individually shrinkwrapped. Since cucumbers have a high water content we need to remove some of that.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and rub the surface with a little salt. This adds salt flavor, draws out excess moisture, and also makes the dark green skin really pop in color. Plus, if you have very fresh cucumbers with sharp little thorns, the salt will rub those off.
Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
Be sure to be thorough and remove all the seeds, like so. (Tip: Don't throw away the seeds and pulp! Chill it in the refrigerator, then use it to give yourself a cool cucumber-skin treatment; apply it over your face, lie down for about 30 minutes, and wash off. Your skin will feel super-smooth and refreshed.)
Cut up the cucumber into fairly thin slices. Sometimes I like to slice it paper-thin, and sometimes I slice it a bit thicker as I have here. Massage the cucumber to distribute the salt, then squeeze out as much excess moisture as you can.
Cucumber sunomono lends itself to any kind of awase-zu, but I especially like it with the citrusy flavor of ponzu. I used the Ultra Simple version of ponzu here and it was great. Use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of sauce per cup of vegetables, or to taste.
Not all turnips are suitable for using uncooked like this, but small turnips work very well. These little white turnips are perfect.
If you can get turnips with their green tops still on, cut the greens off to leave a little bit on the root. (Use the greens for making homemade furikake.) Carefully peel the turnips so you leave that little green topknot intact.
Tip: The outer part of some kinds of turnips (like these white ones) is rather tough and fibrous, so you should peel them rather thickly. I know it seems wasteful, but the turnips will be a lot more edible.
Then slice the turnips lengthwise, so you have a bit of that green with each slice (except for the sides). Sprinkle the slices with a tiny bit of salt, massage as with the cucumber, and squeeze out tightly to express any extra moisture.
The sweetness of sanbai-zu brings out the sweetness in the turnips. This is just as good without the wakame. Use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of sauce per cup of vegetables, or to taste.
Tip: cutting the turnips with the green tops on makes the slices very attractive in miso soup too.
This is a very frugal dish, making use of a part of broccoli that most people just throw away. To prep the broccoli stems, cut off the florets (to use for another dish). Peel the tough green outer parts of the stems, and cut them into bitesize pieces. Blanch the pieces in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes until crisp-tender, drain and cool. The umami-rich flavor of tosa-zu goes very well with broccoli and wakame. You can add one broccoli floret as a green accent, or use another green accent like the snap pea piece I've used here. Use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of sauce per cup of vegetables, or to taste.
Many vegetables work as sunomono. As I wrote above, you just need to make sure that you get rid of any excess moisture. For instance:
A few vegetables may not be so suited to vinegar flavor (brussel sprouts come to mind for one) but that's really a matter of taste. I hope you'll try out your favorite vegetables as sunomono and see how they turn out.
Boiled seafood such as boiled shrimp, octopus and squid are often used in sunomono. Boiled shrimp is easy to do at home. If you want to try octopus, buy a piece of sashimi-ready octopus at a Japanese grocery store. (Raw octopus needs to be massaged and beaten up to make it tender enough before boiling.) Poached chicken also works well, especially with nanban-su.
You can find dehydrated seaweed salad mixes at Japanese or Korean grocery stores. To use these just soak in water as for the wakame until they are rehydrated and pliable. Use any of the vinegar sauces - for a Korean twist, add a bit of sesame oil and grated garlic.
Harusame is a noodle made from potato starch that is used in sunomono. It requires special treatment so I'll post a separate recipe with it at a later date.
If you think about it, sunomono sauces are rather like oil-free dressings, so they can be used with any number of salad-like combinations. The oil-free dressings sold in Japan are actually just variations on sunomono sauces.
I hope you've enjoyed this trip through sourness. In the next lesson we'll finally get to the main protein dish of a Japanese meal.Filed under: japanese vegetables vegetarian vegan washoku japanesecooking101
I have been re-thinking the last cooking lesson for Japanese Cooking 101. Originally I was going to do a mixed fish and meat lesson, but I think I will concentrate on fish since I really haven't covered fish cooking much over the years on Just Hungry. The problem I've always run into is that the availability of fish is very spotty around the world, so I'm never sure if the readers of the site can get their hands on the fish I'm talking about.
But the truth is, fish is central to washoku or traditional Japanese cooking. It's a bit hard to be a vegetarian in Japan, but being a pescatarian is very easy. While modern Japanese people do eat a lot of meat dishes, up until about 150 years ago eating meat was actively discouraged by the government, so meals were centered on vegetable proteins like tofu, and fish. And in Japan the array of fish available is rather bewildering.
So in the spirit of showing you the real fundamentals of traditional Japanese cooking, for Lesson 5 we'll be tackling fish! If you can get a hold of the fish in question please do try following along. If not, I hope the information will be interesting at least.
Note that I'm able to get all of these fish in my small village in southern France because we have an excellent fishmonger (poissonnerie) even though we're about a 2 hour drive away from the nearest fishing port. So please take a look around to see if you have a good fish seller in your town. A good fish shop should not smell 'fishy' at all; it should smell like the fresh sea air, and be impeccably clean, with lots of shiny, bright and clear-eyed fish.
I've arranged these in order from "probably easy to get for most people" to "maybe be very hard to get".
And, this last one might be very hard to get:
I do not expect you to get all the fish by any means, but perhaps you can file the lessons away for later.
Since I've revised the lesson plans, I'll be posting the first part early next week. (I'll be posting some non-lesson stuff in the meantime though.) I hope you'll enjoy the fish lessons!Filed under: ingredients fish japanesecooking101
Welcome back to Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku. We are entering the most involved lesson in the whole series: how to deal with fish. As I explained previously, learning how to deal with fish is pretty fundamental to conquering traditional Japanese cooking. So, Lesson 5 is divided up into several parts.
Before we dive into the deep end, let's start with something easy: cooking a piece of salmon. Salmon is one of the most easily obtainable fresh fish, since it's so popular, still available in abundance since part of the supply comed from fish farms (although the farmed variety has some catching up to do in terms of taste to the wild kind), and overall a pretty easy fish to deal with. It usually comes to us in cut form so we don't have to deal with de-boning or fileting it and things.
Incidentally, I prefer to buy all my fish, salmon included, with the skin on. The skin of a salmon is delcious anyway, but the main reason for buying a fish with the skin on is that it holds the flesh of the fish together better. And with very low-fat fish the skin helps to prevents the flesh from drying out too much.
While I've given you several formulas for teriyaki over the years on both JustHungry and JustBento, this is the one I use the most now because it's easy to memorise. The teriyaki sauce formula is a 2:2:2:1 ratio of soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar. You can halve or omit the sugar if you like it less sweet. The sake and mirin are what give this that delicious 'teriyaki' flavor, so do try to use them if possible.
Prep time: 5 min :: Cook time: 10 min :: Total time: 60 min
Yield: 2 servings
Serving size: 100-150g (approx. 3 to 5 oz)
(this part is for search engines)
By Makiko Itoh
Published: April 16, 2013
Type: fish, japanese, washoku
You can use this exact same formula for any kind of oily, firm fish such as swordfish or mahi-mahi. It is perfect for buri or amberjack/yellowtail. It doesn't work as well with white fish, but you can give it a try providing the fish is firm.
If you are making a larger quantity, use a ratio of 2 tablespoons each of soy sauce, sake, and mirin plus 1 tablespoon of sugar per 100-120g (3 to 4 oz) of fish.
You can also use a similar formula for chicken, including the pre-salting. Use the thigh meat, skin on or off; if skin on, pierce the skin a few times with a fork before cooking, and start cooking with the skin side down. Turn over when the skin is nice and crisp.
Note that I do not marinate the fish in the sauce beforehand. This is because I think the fish tastes better if it has been pre-salted instead, which enhances the umami that is already in the fish. Not pre-marinading also means you can get a nice crispy skin.
So, that was easy wasn't it? Next time as we continue the Fish Lesson, we'll dive into something a bit more challenging.Filed under: japanese fish washoku japanesecooking101
While many Japanese meat dishes are known around the world these days, such as tonkatsu and the gyuudon (beef on rice), many such meat dishes are in fact part of a different branch of cooking called yoshoku (yohshoku), or western-influenced Japanese cuisine. For a very long time eating meat was either actively discouraged or outright banned in Japan, so that most people who either lived near water or could afford it ate a lot of fish as their main source of protein.
So, learning how to deal with fish is quite important if you want to become a Japanese cooking whiz. Let's start at the fishmonger....
You will need to start by looking for a good fishmonger. If you're very lucky your local supermarket has a decent fish department (in the U.S. Whole Foods usually has a pretty good one), but otherwise you may have to ask around or do some research to find one that consistently stocks fresh fish.
A good fish seller should not smell 'fishy'. There will be some smell, but it should be like the ocean. If the place stinks, do not trust them.
A good fish seller should have a rapid turnover, and only stock what they normally sell. Just because there are tons of fish on display doesn't necessarily mean it's all good! Smaller fish shops may only sell locally caught fish. That's great, because it means that fish is fresh, in season, and all that you desire. If you live near the sea, you'll also want to see some locally caught fish, not just shipped in stuff. In addition, a good fishmonger will do things for you such as taking off the heads and removing the guts.
Let's talk about fish heads for a moment. I know some people are squeamish about seeing eyes on the food they eat, but in the case of fish the eyes really say a lot. Fish generally start to go bad from the head down, and if the eyes look sunken or dull, that's bad news.
This is a nice, bright-eyed fish.
And how about this guy?
Anyway: when you are looking at fish, if they have their heads on, make sure they are as clear as glass. If the fish you want has already had its head removed, look at the fish that's on the shelf or in the case that do have heads - do they look nice and clear? If yes, your headless fish is probably good too.
Another way to gauge the freshness of fish, besides it smell (it should not smell 'fishy') and the eyes is if it's nice and firm and has a moist looking skin. You have to gauge this with your eyes only most of the time since fishmongers will not let you touch the merchandise. So, use what you can readily see and smell first.
There are several ways to cut a fish - fileting it for instance, or cutting it across the body into 'steaks', and so on. One way that's pretty common in Japan is to simply open it up, leaving the head on and the backbone in the fish. This method of cutting a fish is called 開き - hiraki (noun) or 開く - hiraku (verb, to open). It's like butterflying but a bit easier. It's also a good way to become familiar with handling a whole fish. If you fish, this is a great way to cook your catch on a campfire grill on the spot, since the opened up fish cooks quickly and evenly.
The easiest kind of fish to use for this - indeed the easiest kind of fish to cut up on your own, is a medium sized round-bodied fish like mackerel, herring, trout and so on. Flat fish like plaice or sole are not suited for this treatment. Here I have used a fish that looked nice at our local fish shop - I think it's called a smelt whiting or whiting in English; it looks a lot like a fish called kisu in Japanese.
If you can, get your fishmonger to take the guts out for you. It's less messy that way.
You will need a sharpt kitchen knife and a cutting board. If you chose a fish with proment plasticky scales, you'll also need a de-scaler. Tip: if you don't have a de-scaling tool, try a used by clean credit card-type card. Run it up the fish skin from the tail repeatedly until all the scales are loosened, and rinse off. In any case, always de-scale befor cutting up the fish.
Put your knife in right behind the gills...
...and firmly cut through until you feel the bone. Don't go all the way through. (Tip: If you're removing the head, just keep going.)
Start cutting the belly side of the fish, starting with where you made your head cut. If you didn't get the guts removed at the fish shop, this is the time to remove them. Pause to rinse out the guts and pat dry before proceeding.
Cut through the belly side all the way to the tail....
...then pull gently on the top half of the fish while slicing through right on top of where the bone is.
Once the top half of the fish is separated from the bottom half and only connected at the back side, wash the fish out thoroughly inside and out. Make sure that all the scales are rinsed away, as well as any residual bits of the innards. (Tip: If you are fileting the fish you'd keep going and cut all the way through the back part.)
Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Isn't he a fine looking thing?
Put some salt in and round both of the eyes. This helps to keep them fresh a bit longer.
Lightly salt both sides of the fish. A good way to lightly salt something is to sprinkle on the salt from a high above; you get more even coverage that way.
At this point you can just grill the fish or pan-fry it, with no added seasoning if you want the flavor of the fish to shine through, or with a teriyaki sauce brushed on it (see Part 1 for the basic teriyaki formula.)
Or, you can make a sort of homemade himono or semi-dried fish, but leaving it on a rack for a day or two. (If you are not sure about leaving out fish in the open, and/or have some furry feline creatures around, do this drying bit in the refrigerator.)
Here is the fish after it's been air-drying for 2 days, simply grilled. It was delicious, in the way only really fresh fish can be. We had it with grated daikon radish and some soy sauce drizzled on top.
You can also pan-fry it in olive oil or butter, maybe with some herbs piled on for a great light meal.
Not too complicated or scary, right? Next time we'll look at how to deal with tiny fish like sprats and sardines.Filed under: fish how-to washoku knife skills
We are entering the home stretch here for both Lesson 5, Fish and the whole Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku course. I hope you've been enjoying it so far!
In this lesson we are going to get very intimate with fish. Basically all fish needed to be prepped the same way: the head taken off (sometimes the head is cooked with the fish or separately); de-scaled if it has prominent scales; gutted, and then usually fileted and/or boned. And usually you need a sharp knife for these operations.
However, with small fish like sprats, sardines and anchovies, you don't even need a knife at all, except to take the heads off. They are tender enough that you can just prep them with your hands. This is a great way to really get to know a fish, and it's kind of fun too.
This is a plate of fresh sardines, popular around the world, especially in the two places I spend the most time - Japan and southern France. Beautiful, aren't they? They have nice clear eyes.
The one thing you do need a knife for is taking the heads off. You could pull them off, but that's a bit messy. So, here are the beheaded sardines, with some of the ingredients we'll be using with them later to make the plate look prettier.
To deal with the sardines, position yourself at your sink and have a thin stream of water running out of the tap.
Take one of the sardines, and just run your thumb down the belly and pull it open. You'll see a bit of guts there; just pull it out and wash it off with the running water. (If you don't have access to running water, just use a bowl filled with clean water and swish the fish in it.)
The next thing is to take out the bone. This comes off easily in one go. Pry it off at the head end, and just pull. Don't be hesitant. Give it a tug and it's gone, tail and all.
Don't throw away the bones by the way! Put them on a plate to deal with later.
Here's the gutted and boned sardine - so easy! At this point, run your finger carefully down the surface of the fish. If you feel any little bones left in there (which you shouldn't if you ripped out the backbone properly) take them out with your fingernails or a pair of fish bone tweezers.
Here it is on the other side.
Wash each filet again to get rid of any stray bits of guts and stuff.
This next step is somewhat optional, but does improve the texture of your fish. The skin of the sardine peels off quite easily. Just pry up a corner with your thumbnail, and pull it off in one go. As with the bone, don't hesitate here or the skin will rip and it becomes harder to take it off.
Here are the skinned filets. Put them on absorbent paper towels to drain off the excess water.
At this point you can pan-fry them in a bit of olive oil or butter (maybe coat them with flour or cornstarch first), or marinate them, or whatever you like to do with such fish. You can even turn it into sushi!
Now that you know how to gut, bone and clean sardines, one of the nicest ways to eat the sardines is to turn them into little fish balls which can be floated in a hot pot, pan-fried, and so on - or most classically, served in a clear soup. The ginger and onion takes away any kind of 'fishy' taste. You can even serve this in cold soup for a refreshing change. They are very healthy too, since sardines are one of the best sources of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Prep time: 20 min :: Cook time: 10 min :: Total time: 30 min
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: 3-5 balls
(Below for search engine purposes only)
By Makiko Itoh
Published: April 25, 2013
Type: Japanese, washoku, fish, soup
There's no need to throw away the bits of fish that you cut off when you filet them and so forth. Fish bones and heads can be kept for making soup. Or, if the bones are tender enough they can be made into delicious fish-bone crackers.
At the sushi restaurant in New York I worked at many years ago, the chefs used to serve these as extra treats to customers who sat at the counter. One of those was a lovely little girl, who used to come regularly with her father. She just loved those fish bone crackers. One year the chefs made a big batch of them and gave her a takeout box full for her birthday. She was so happy I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head.
I've paired these with shoestring potatoes, which taste surprisingly sweet next to the umami-rich fish bones. The type of potato is important - choose a nice firm waxy type, not a floury type like Idaho baking potatoes. Alternatively you can use sweet potatoes.
A frugal way to deal with the bones taken out of small fish like sardines. Tip: Always fry the potatoes before you fry the bones, or the potatoes will take on the flavor of the fish.
Prep time: 15 min :: Cook time: 10 min :: Total time: 25 min
Yield: 2 servings
(Below is for search engine purposes)
By Makiko Itoh
Published: April 26, 2013
Type: Japanese, fish, washoku, appetizer
Welcome to the last lesson in Japanese 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku. I hope you've enjoyed the course and learned a few things along the way. In this last lesson we'll take a look back at what we've learned, and also see how to put it all together to great an authentic traditional Japanese meal at home.
First we looked at the basic pantry ingredients for the course, which are also the basic pantry ingredients for a traditional Japanese kitchen.
Then we got to the dishes that go with the rice and soup, starting with nimono or simmered dishes (even without dashi). We went on to sunomono and aemono - basically prepped or precooked vegetables with some kind of sauce.
We then ended by looking in-depth at arguably the most important protein used in Japanese cooking, fish, from a simple teriyaki to whole fish opened up to breaking down whole small fish and using every part of it.
If you missed the course by the way, just follow the links in the paragraph above in sequence! Or, just start at the very beginning intro, then go to the first article linked below that, required ingredients. After that just keep clicking on the 'next' article link below each article.
There's a reason why I presented the parts of the course in the order I did:
A balanced Japanese meal is supposed to have__ 一汁三菜 - ichijuu sannsai - 1 soup, 3 side dishes, to go with the rice. It may sound like a lot, but it's not that much more than many western style meals if you think about it. A typical western meal might have a soup as a starter, then a main dish with steak, potatoes, and some side vegetable like steamed broccoli, followed by a sweet dessert. A traditional Japanese meal doesn't have separate courses - everything is served at once. (This differs at top end Japanese ryoutei or kaiseki restaurants, who often serve single dishes one at a time in multiple course.) Having more than 3 sides is extravagant, although in the olden days people avoided having 4 sides since the number 4 is unlucky in Japanese culture. (4 can be read as "yon" or "shi", and "shi is synonymous with 死, or death. Most Japanese buildings don't have a 4th floor, just like most Western buildings don't have a 13th floor.)
The bare basic Japanese meal is 一汁一菜 - ichijuu issai - 1 soup, 1 side dish, plus the bowl of rice.
(Incidentally, there's also no tradition of having dessert with a meal, which may be why many Japanese main dishes have a bit of sugar in them. Sweets are eaten separately during the day, not with a meal. This is changing, and many people have some fruit or a light dessert after a meal, but that is a recent thing influenced by western style eating.)
Traditional Japanese meals are served in multiple serving containers, one for each item. And there are some basic rules to follow as to how to line them up.
Here's how to line up a basic 一汁一菜 - ichijuu issai - 1 soup, 1 side dish, bowl of rice meal.
As you can see, the rice goes on the left, the soup on the right, and the side dish is behind that. The rice always goes on the left, even for lefties. That left corner closest to the diner is considered to be the most 'honorable' position (don't ask me why it's honorable...) so that's where it goes. If you think about it it it's not the most convenient way to arrange things for a right handes person, who'd have to reach over the soup to get to the rice. Maybe this is why you usually lift up your rice bowl and your soup bowl to eat from them. (You don't life up the other serving dishes though.)
This is how the full 一汁三菜 - ichijuu sannsai - 1 soup, 3 side dishes and rice meal is arranged.
There are no rules really to dictate where the side dishes go in relation to each other. But again, the rice and soup are closest to the diner, with the rice on the left. Plus, the main fukusai or side dish is in the most prominent position.
I arranged the dishes we made during the course for dinner one day following these rules. (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)
The little dish of umeboshi is not really considered to be a proper side dish so you can ignore that, but as you can see the rice is on the left, soup on the right, and the side dishes beyond that. As I mentioned in the salmon teriyaki chapter for fish, the skin side goes on the top or the far side; the same goes for a piece of skin-on chicken for example. If you are serving a whole fish the head goes to the left.
When you put a Japanese meal together, pay attention to the balance of flavors and cooking methods. Ideally you should aim for 1 yakimono （焼き物), something cooked with dry heat - grilled, pan-fried, or deep fried; 1 nimono （煮物), something simmered, and 1 aemono (和え物) or sunomono (酢の物) - a cold dish with a sauce, dashi based or vinegar based. This gives a good balance of flavors and textures. While the yakimono is usually a protein, the two other sides can be all-vegetable, or contain a little protein (e.g. a little seafood), and so forth.
In practice, on an everyday basis most families would have maybe 2 side dishes plus some pickles or something. But this is the ideal anyway. And it's not impossible to achieve since many dishes can be prepared in some bulk in advance, especially the nimono. What makes things a little easier for the cook when preparing Japanese food is that not everything has to be piping hot. The soup certainly should be, and the rice should be freshly cooked and hot too. And some yakimono or protein dishes should be too. But the side dishes to round out the meal don't need to be.
There are a lot of recipes on the site that you can use for any of these categories. Take a look!
So how was that walk through the basics of washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine? I hope it was interesting.
For people who were looking forward to more fish lessons, I've decided to hold off on them for a bit and possibly put them in a more advanced course down the line. Stay tuned!
I'm also planning at least one more 'course' series like this this year, but I'm still open to ideas about what it should be about. If you have some ideas please tell me in the comments.Filed under: japanese washoku japanese culture japanesecooking101
I'm still getting reactions to the recently completed Japanese Cooking 101 course (if you missed it, here's the complete list of lessons.) While the reactions have been overwhelming positive, I've gotten a couple of negative comments too.
One I wanted to address in particular is the accusation, if you will, that the lessons do not represent that way most people cook in Japan anymore. One person even opined that I was not a 'real Japanese' because I didn't cook like 'the Japanese people I know in Tokyo' or something like that.
Well you know what, that person is right one one thing: Many (not all!) people in Japan don't take the time to make their own dashi from scratch, or grow their own shiso or other herbs. Some rely on prewashed rice called musenmai (無洗米) so they don't have to bother with rinsing rice either. A lot of recipes on various Japanese cooking sites call for the use of mentsuyu (めんつゆ), bottled noodle sauce concentrate, a readymade combination of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and dashi. It saves time having to pull out each individual ingredient and adding it one by one, for sure. There are just as many convenience foods and ready-made foods in Japan as there are anywhere else - not to mention tons of restaurants, fast food places, and the like. You can easily avoid having to cook, ever. And sadly, a lot of people are like that. Japan is after all one of those so-called developed countries where such a thing is possible.
I have plenty of quick and easy recipes on JustHungry, and many more on JustBento - although I do try to stick as much as possible to real ingredients. (Some of my Japanese recipes call for the use of dashi stock granules, especially when they're used as an underlying flavor rather than the main flavor. They're too convenient, plus I've heard from many readers that they're easier to get a hold of than bonito flakes and konbu seaweed.)
The whole point of the Japanese Cooking 101 course was to show how things are done for the best possible results, using traditional methods.
Most of the readers of my sites do not live in Japan. I'm not writing for a Japanese audience obviously, since I'm writing in English. I'm not even writing for an audience of English speaking residents of Japan - although I know there are some who've been following along for years (hi guys!). (My column in The Japan Times on the other hand is aimed at English speakers in Japan, so has a rather different focus.) Unless you live in a city with proper Japanese groceries, it can be very hard to get a hold of the right ingredients. Things like mentsuyu are often too expensive to rely on all the time.
Let's face it, most Japanese ingredients are expensive outside of Japan, if you can even get a hold of them. If you're going to try to make proper tasting Japanese food under those circumstances, I would much rather you spend your precious money on basic, fundamental, real ingredients rather than manufactured convenience products. If you have access to a Japanese grocery store you can get things like mentsuyu, or the Japanese equivalents of Hamburger Helper and the like. But they're expensive - too expensive for everday use. On the other hand, although soy sauce, mirin, sake, konbu seaweed and bonito flakes to make dashi, plain old miso and so on are not cheap either, they're a much better investment of your money if you want to create many authentic tasting dishes.
The point is, I want to be able to teach a little bit about how to cook Japanese food the proper way, through my sites, my book and my other writings. Cooking from scratch is, in my opinion, a fundamental skill, and I'm fighting the battle to keep that skill alive. Even if that notion is laughably old fashioned for some people.Filed under: philosophy washoku japanesecooking101
Here are some of my favorite 'go-to' meals, that I go back to time and again. Most take minimal effort to make and are quite healthy. They are all very good of course!Filed under: basics favorites
Following up on the previous post where I asked about your favorite go-to everyday dishes (keep your ideas coming!) I thought I'd introduce some of mine. The posting of them may be sporadic, since I'll be taking pictures and things when I actually made them for dinner.
First up is something that is very easy to assemble, quite healthy, cheap, as seasonal as you want it to be, and almost infinately variable. It's simply roasted vegetables. I make this all the time, throughout the year, using whatever vegetables I have. It's a good refrigerator-clearer too.
This is not really a recipe, but a sort of generic formula for roasting vegetables.
Preheat the oven to 225°C/ 440°F. Make ready one or two baking sheets
For a well-rounded one-dish meal, I use this combination:
The harder and more solid the vegetable, the smaller and thinner you should cut it. Alternatively, you may want to pre-boil it for a few minutes. Lotus root and taro roots require parboiling, and if you parboil white potatoes, when you roast them they will be nice and crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
For every 4 cups of combined vegetables, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil or other oil, salt and pepper, and mix well. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake/roast for about 15-20 minutes.
Take it out and give it a stir around. At this point you can add some toppings - see below for suggestions. Roast for another 5-10 minutes.
This is a great side dish to a main protein like steak or roast chicken, but it can also be a complete one-dish meal by adding a protein rich topping. Some suggestions:
(Last updated 2/12/2013)
Looking for a shopping list to start your Japanese cooking adventures? Start here!
Bento fans should also check Where and how to buy bento boxes and equipment on our sister site, Just Bento.
A general Asian grocery store/supermarket is not the same as a Japanese grocery store. Most large general Asian stores are Chinese-focused (e.g. Paristore in France), or Korean-focused (e.g. H-Mart in the U.S.). This means that they only have limited shelf space for Japanese food. Yes, there is a difference between the cuisines!
For the best selection of Japanese groceries, go to the stores that are specified as being Japanese. (Two chains with supermarket-level stores are Mitsuwa and Marukai in the U.S. Seattle-area mini-chain Uwajimaya also has supermarket-sized stores.) Your second choice is Korean stores, who usually stock a large selection of Japanese foods. Chinese focused groceries generally only carry a small selection of Japanese food, and may even carry pretending-to-be-Japanese-but-really not food (such as snacks with odd Japanese on them). See this article about where to get Japanese foodstuffs for more.
This is a rapidly growing set of lists of Japanese grocery stores around the world. Ambitious yes, but with the help of Just Hungry readers, we hope to put together a definitive collection of lists. This is definitely a work in progress - please bookmark it and check back often. Note that Korean and Chinese groceries are also noted sometimes, since they often carry a lot of Japanese ingredients.
We need your help! Tell us about your local Japanese grocery stores! in the comments! Please include the following information if possible - and please add the comment to the appropriate geographical region. Thank you!
The basic information needed is:
I've added an additional category for stores in Japan that visitors shouldn't miss - for selection, uniqueness, etc.
Additional comments, corrections etc. for already listed stores are always welcome.Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
This list is sporadically updated but should be reasonably current.
Japanese food is getting more and more popular across the United States. Korean-oriented markets also carry a lot of Japanese food supplies. (Chinese markets do not necessarily carry Japanese food, though they may have some items.)
Below is a reader-contributed list of brick-and-mortar Japanese grocery stores and stores selling food-related items in the United States. Don't forget to look through the comments also! Note that California and the New York-New Jersey - Connecticut areas have their own pages.
Bento fans should also check Where and how to buy bento boxes and equipment on our sister site, Just Bento.
See the California page.
There are several Japanese markets in Hawaii, and regular supermarkets and convenience stores like 7-11 and ABC Stores also stock some Japanese-ish snacks and so on.
Other stores - listings to be added: Shirokiya, Don Quijote,
Several Japanese bloggers living in Michigan mentioned they go to the Mitsuwa supermarket near Chicago (see Illinois listings).
See the NY-NJ-CT page.
See also the NY-NJ-CT page.
See below under Washington State/Oregon.
The stores listed with web sites above will sometimes also have mail order services - check the individual listings.
In addition, the following companies are primarily (or solely) mail order places, who ship only within the U.S.:
Bento fans should also check Where and how to buy bento boxes and equipment on our sister site, Just Bento.
Geographical bento suppliers list at Live Journal bentolunch community
Is your favorite grocery store missing? Leave the details in the comments! (Once the info in a comment is incorporated into the main article, the comment will be deleted.)
Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to this page! I couldn't do it without you!
(Last updated Feb. 4 2011)Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies usa
General notes on California: Due to the large Asian-American population and sizeable expat communities, Japanese grocery stores are quite plentiful, especially in the Los Angeles area, but throughout the state generally, and there are even more Asian groceries.
Is your favorite store missing? Let us know about it in the comments! Once the information in a comment has been incorporated into the main article, the comment is deleted to avoid very very long page syndrome.
General comments on San Diego area:
"[Marukai and Mitsuwa] are in the Kearny Mesa and Clairemont Mesa neighborhoods of San Diego. [Nijiya and Zion] are in Linda Vista and City Heights neighborhoods, respectively. My Filipino family has been shopping at all of these stores throughout the years and all of them offer an interesting variety of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino foods, among others." -(Lorena)
Also check out Biggie's San Francisco Bay Area shopping guide for bento things, on Lunch In A Box.
(Last updated April 8, 2008)Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
(Updated January 2011)
This page lists stores in New York, North New Jersey and Connecticut - the NYC Tristate area, plus upstate New York. South NJ area stores are listed on the main USA page.
General New York area notes: The Japanese-American population of the area is quite small, but there is a fair sized expat commmunity. The main areas where they live are in some suburbs of Westchester and Northen New Jersey, in lower Manhattan around the East Village, and near Columbia University. (There used to be a fairly big expat community in Queens around Flushing, but no longer.)
I've also included some bakeries and takeout places (since this is New York after all) and bookstores.
Also see this post which reviews some NYC area groceries.
Note: The stores that I (Maki) have personally visited and recommend are bolded.
Is your favorite grocery store missing? Leave the details in the comments! (Once the info in a comment is incorporated into the main article, the comment will be deleted.)
(I don't really hear about Japanese groceries in Brooklyn, and I don't make it to Brooklyn much when I'm in the NYC area. Anyone?)
No Japanese stores in the Bronx that I know of. Try Manhattan or Westchester.
Manhattan eating tip: Japanese restaurants abound in the Midtown area around 41st street up to about 55th Street, in all price ranges. Look for the lunch specials aimed lure in the Japanese businessmen who work in the area. There is also a fairly concentrated Japanese expat population (mostly students and other young people) around Columbia University and the East Village. You'll find Japanese bookstores and hair salons and the like besides grocery stores and restaurants.
General Canada notes: Vancouver has a large Asian population.
T & T Supermarket is a nationwide Chinese/Asian supermarket chain.
Toronto also has a Japantown (J-Town) mall.
Is your favorite store not listed? Let us know the details in the comments! (When the information from a comment is incporated into the main article the comment is deleted, to keep things neat and all.)
(Last updated on Feb. 9 2008)Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
(placeholder for the moment)Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
So far we have listings for Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
General notes on Europe: Japanese expat populations are the largest in London, Paris, and the business centers of Germany, especially Düsseldorf.
Let us know about your favorite stores, or comment on the ones already listed! (When the information in a comment is incorporated into the main article, the comment is deleted to avoid huuuge page syndrome.)
See the France page.
Also see the Greece-Japan.com site. (In Greek and Japanese mostly.)
See the Germany page.
General notes on Portugal: Intermarché, a French supermarket chain, has a growing Asian food section -(Ana)
General Spain notes: There seems to be a growing Japanese expat community in Spain, especially of retirees.
If you read Japanese there is a terrific forum for Japanese expats living in Spain, here. (スペイン探偵局)
There is a Japonica rice that is grown in Spain, called "Minori", produced by Okura Y Asociados Products, S.A. Web site. (But it has no contact info! Geez.)
General Switzerland notes: The biggest Japanese expat community is in Geneva. You can also increasingly buy some Japanese ingredients at the department stores (esp. Globus). Migros and Coop both carry a few Japanese/Asian (mostly Thai) products.
In the last 5-6 years, there has been an explosion (well in Swiss terms) of "Asian" restaurants in the major cities. Quality and authenticity varies. Most serve some form of sushi.
This page on the Laughing Lemon site (they offer highly regarded cooking classes in English and German, as well as catering) lists what's in season in Switzerland. See this page for dates and times of the markets in the major Swiss cities.
Also see moshi moshi, a site that lists Japanese restaurants in the Genève area in a tiny, tiny font.
General Zürich notes: There are quite a few Thai grocery stores. Migros City's fish department is pretty good for fresh fish. Increasingly, the morning markets are carrying Asian vegetables - in particular the Helvetiaplatz market and the Bürkliplatz market. At the latter, I've spotted things like shiso plants and fresh yuzu!
Also see this page.
See UK and Ireland page.
Many places with web sites listed will ship to you within Europe, or at least within the same country. Visit the sites and find out!
Let us know about your favorite stores, or comment on the ones already listed! (When the information in a comment is incorporated into the main article, the comment is deleted to avoid huuuge page syndrome.)Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
Many of the large supermarkets, especially in and around the big cities, carry a small selection of Japanese ingredients like 'sushi rice', instant miso soup, rice vinegar and the like. Japanese food seems to be trendy.
Paristore is an Asian supermarket chain with stores in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg and Toulouse. Has a very limited selection of Japanese food supplies, but an extensive variety of Chinese/Taiwanese foods and other Asian foods, e.g. Indian.
If you are in an area with no Japanese stores, look for the 'does mailorder' indication of some Paris stores.
This April 2009 article in Le Monde (French) indicates that the popularity of Japanese cuisine in France may lead to more Japanese groceries opening up. (Hopefully!)
Since we moved to Provence in southern France a couple of years ago, I've had time to assess the Japanese food shopping situation here. The closest Japanese grocery store to us is in Lyon (see below), but the selection is very small so we've ended making an occasional trip to Uchitomi in Geneva (see the Switzerland section on the Europe page) for perishables. Geneva is about 4 hours away from us, so it's a day trip, but if we have business there anyway it's not a big deal.
For non-perishables, I usually buy by mailorder from Japan Centre in London. Even if it's from the UK and figuring in the extra shipping costs, I find their prices and selection are better than the Paris stores. Their website is really easy to navigate, which helps a lot. I have bought the occasional extra special thing from Workshop Issé (see listing below under Paris).
I don't actually get to Paris that often - it's a 7 hour drive from here, and parking is a nightmare, and if we go by TGV we can't carry much. Geneva is much closer to us.
Regular French "gourmet" food sites like Bien Manger have started carrying a variety of Japanese foodstuffs, but the prices are pretty outrageous compared to Japan Centre or even Kioko.
We can get very good fresh fish, even sashimi-grade, from our local fishmonger. Go and visit your local fishmonger to see what they have! We also saw some fantastic fresh fish in Brittany.
Comments: "The frenchbento blog and the blog of another japanese expat in Bordeaux ; blog no longer updated, as she got a job, but lovely for homemade food anyway)often refer to these stores." -(Céline)
General comments: "And some precisions about the store I mentioned : Kazuki and Kimchi (real mirin, for instance, not the corn-syrup based one) and have some dashi, umeboshi, katsuobushi and kombu ; Whereas Paristore don’t sell these basic products (not to my knowing anyway). consequently Paristore is obviously cheaper, but often run short of some supplies in the japanese section." -(Céline)
There are two major shopping areas for Asian food: The Chinatown area, which is in the 13th arrondissement, and the 1st and 2nd arrondissements (Métro: Pyramides, Opéra, or Quatre-Septembre), which have a concentration of Japanese stores and restaurants. There are also a few stores in the 15th arrondissement (Métro: Charles Michels).
Also see the excellent FrenchBento blog (French). She doesn't know of any bento suppliers in France...and if anyone would know, she would I think!Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
Lyon, the third largest city in France and arguably the second most important one after Paris, does not have a large Japanese expat or immigrant population. However, there are some Japanese corporations that have factories or offices in the area, not to mention a large university population. So in terms of the availability of Japanese groceries in France, it ranks second to Paris, although it trails behind by a large margin.
The main reason I've been interested in Lyon as a source for Japanese food is that we are seriously considering getting a house in the Provence. Lyon is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the Haut-Provence (northern Provence), the area we're looking at, so it would be my closest source. (Marseille, which has a Paristore but no Japanese groceries, is about the same distance away, and Avignon, about a 45 minute drive, has two tiny Chinese groceries.) I could order non-perishables from the stores in Paris such as Workshop Issé, or from Japan Centre and so on, not to mention have stuff sent over or bring them back from Japan, but that doesn't work for things like tofu, konnyaku, produce and frozen foods.
It also gives me a chance to talk a bit about where exactly you can find the Japanese ingredients that are mentioned here, regardless of the town you're in, because the shopping options in Lyon are limited yet straightforward.
Kazuki (storefront pictured above) is a tiny, jewel-like boutique. In terms of presentation, it has a lot in common with Workshop Issé, but where Workshop Issé is selling high-end food and alcohol, Kazuki is at its heart just a regular Japanese grocery store. Things like cans of wasabi peas, ochazuke packets and run-of-the-mill furikake which only cost a few euros at most are displayed as if they were Hermés scarfs on sleek shelves. This is the Japanese aesthetic and penchant for neatness gone to the extreme.
Everything about Kazuki is beautiful and well presented, even their takeout bentos, which are neatly wrapped up in ribbon:
With a few exceptions, Japanese grocery stores tend to be rather neat and tidy places (though I've never seen one as pretty as Kazuki). They also tend not to carry any other Asian ingredients, though they may have a few Korean items.
Obviously a Japanese grocery store should be the first place to look for Japanese ingredients. If you want things like Japanese soy sauce from Japan, real mirin (hon mirin) rather than mirin-flavored cooking liquid (mirin fuumi choumiryou), go to a Japanese store, However, they can be a bit more expensive than other options, and because many Japanese grocery stores are small, the selection can be limited, especially when it comes to fresh produce.
Kimchi, which is just a few blocks away from Kazuki, is a tiny yet fairly typical Korean grocery store. Korean stores always carry a large amount of Japanese items; usually the selection runs around 50/50 Korean/Japanese. Older Korean people often speak some Japanese.
If you are lucky enough to have a large Korean market near you, it may be your first stop in a quest for Japanese foodstuffs, since they are likely to have most of the fresh produce used in Japanese cooking too. (Kimchi is too small to have any fresh produce unfortunately.)
In terms of larger Asian grocery stores, there are ones that try to cover all of eastern and southern Asia, and ones that just concentrate on a particular region. Supermarché Asie, which is in the same general neighborhood as Kazuki and Kimchi, clearly concentrates on east Asia: China, Korea and Japan. And, although I don't speak a word of Chinese I can sort of tell apart Cantonese vs. Mandarin and different dialects/pronounciations (well, just aa bit), and I did get the impression that the store is owned by people from Taiwan. Taiwan has much stronger ties to Japan than mainland China, so a Taiwanese-owned store is much more likely to stock Japanese things.Of course, it's difficult to tell apart a Taiwanese store from any other kind of Chinese store just by reading labels, so you'll just have to look around.
The good thing from the standpoint of someone interested in East Asian cooking in general, is that a store like this can be a one-stop shopping destination.
Paristore is a chain of Asian supermarkets that has stores throughout France. I've only been to the one in Lyon so far, so my impressions are of this store.
Paristore is ostensibly a Chinese supermarket, but it also carries many other 'exotic' foodstuffs, from African to Middle Easten to Indian, Thai and so on. This does mean that the selection of Japanese products is quite small. While I did see Japanese-style rice (from Spain, Italy and California) and a few Japanese condiments, there were little else. However, many Chinese ingredients can be used in Japanese cooking, so it's not a total waste of time to go to a store like this.
What you have to look out for (and this holds true of Supermarché Asie too) are products that may look Japanese, with Japanese writing on them, which really aren't Japanese at all. For example, canned green tea is never sold with sugar in it in Japan, but it seems that green tea meant for the southeast Asian market often is. I also spotted some Chinese snacks (manufactured in Taiwan) with fake Japanese writing on them, in the way that many Japanese products have fake English, or Engrish, on them!
From the standpoint of Japanese ingredient availability, I think you can categorize most Asian markets in European and North American areas into these four categories. Three other categories are: Chinese stores catering to people who came from mainland China or Hong Kong (they carry very little if any Japanese food items); Thai/Malaysian Southeast Asian stores (these also carry very little if any specifically Japanese things); and south Asian/Indian stores (again not many Japanese ingredients if any at all, but may have vegetables that are used in Japanese cooking such as okra, taro root/satoimo, bitter gourd and sweet potatoes.) There are stores fitting all of these categories in Zürich, incidentally.
Special thanks to Céline, who has been great about keeping the Lyon and Provence sections of the Japanese Grocery Stores in France listing so up-to-date! That page is where you will find all the addresses and other pertinent information for the stores described below.Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping france
From the outside, Workshop Issé looks like just another unassuming little Japanese grocery and gift store. There are quite a few stores of this nature scattered about Europe these days. But inside this little boutique in the heart of the Japanese quarter in Paris, you can experience something quite special: A crash course on top quality artisanal Japanese food and drink.
Inside the tiny store, sleek modern shelves are filled with what, to the untrained eye, might seem like the normal Japanese cooking ingredients - soy sauce, vinegar, spices, sake and other alcoholic beverages. Look closer though, and you soon see that these are no ordinary products. There's a soy sauce that's been aged for 2 years in ancient barrels; a pitch-black sweet miso that's been aged for 3 full years; finely sliced and dried battera konbu seaweed for making marinated mackerel. There are salted cherry blossoms that have been matured for six months, so no trace of bitterness remains. There are gardenia seeds (kuchinashi no mi), used as a natural yellow colorant - I've never seen these for sale outside of Japan, anywhere. There are what seem like dozens of fine sakes and shouchuus, and vinegars of all flavors and colors. This is a store with some seriously high end foodstuffs for sale.
The variety and quality of the selection is a little overwhelming, even for someone like me who at least knows what the products are. This store would be quite intimidating to someone not familiar with Japanese cuisine. But the Workshop part of Workshop Issé's name is a clue to their selling approach. Here, you can do a sampling of products, a degustation in fact (the method normally used to by a wine maker or merchant to sell wines), gently guided by a knowledgeable staff member, at least one of whom is a sake sommelier.
I had a chance to sit down and chat with with Monsieur Toshiro Kuroda, the owner and president of Workshop Issé. Having owned and run a Japanese restaurant in Paris for nearly 4 decades, he started Workshop Issé two years ago. His main reason, he said, was simply because he couldn't get a hold of the high quality ingredients he wanted from Japan through existing channels, so he decided to import them himself. There are no mass produced products here. All are of the highest artisanal quality; a typical supplier has 20 employees or less, and has been in business for more than 200 years. Here's M. Kuroda with his dog Pii-chan.
Besides selling via their web site and the boutique directly to customers, they also supply some of the best professional kitchens in France. For instance, if you've had the yuzu-flavored macaroons from Pierre Hermé, the yuzu juice and powder came from Workshop Issé. They also sell to the Michelin three star restaurant Troisgros.
I asked M. Kuroda about his marketing approach. He said that his mainly French customers take very well to the concept, since they are after all used to buying wine this way. They also don't blink an eye at the prices for their Grand Cru equivalent sakes, which can cost up to €250 per bottle and more.
It's obvious that M. Kuroda, not to mention his staff, take great pride in what they are doing. And no wonder - their product lineup would be impressive even in Tokyo. I don't know of a store like it anywhere, certainly not outside of Japan.
My budget that day was not up to buying a Grand Cru sake, so I picked up a few things that intrigued me. Here are a bottle of ume vinegar, and aged soy sauce. I love the classic labels, and the simple list of ingredients - for the soy sauce, just soy beans, salt, wheat. The ume vinegar is made from organic ume plums.
And here's some stone ground yuzu powder. Now I usually have this sent to me from Japan (or I buy it there), but it's nice to know it's available on this side of the world. The fragrance of this slightly coarse powder is wonderful, and the slightly bitter citrusy taste is addictive.
Is Workshop Issé worth a detour in Paris, even if you go to Tokyo regularly? I would say absolutely yes, unless you are thoroughly familiar with Japanese cuisine, speak and read Japanese fluently, or have a Japanese gourmet guide at your side. The combination of the carefully selected range of products and the knowledgeable staff, who speak Japanese, French and English, make this store a real winner. And if you aren't going to Tokyo on a regular basis and live anywhere near Paris or are visiting, and love Japanese food and cooking, it's a must stop.
I guess the only negative things about Workshop Issé are: They don't really have much in the way of fresh ingredients. There is a small refrigerated section with a limited supply of things like tofu and vegetables, plus real grated wasabi in a tube (€15, but worth it). Also, their prices are not cheap by any means, but you are paying for top quality.
You may also want to check out the rest of the Issé & cie. Japan-in-Paris mini empire: Bizan, a high end kaiseki restaurant; Issé, a 'tempura and tapas' restaurant; Momonoki, a tonkatsu and obento restaurant; and O-bento, a bento delivery service. All are described on this page (French). You can buy some readymade foods (osouzai) from the last three establishments at Workshop Issé too.
For a look at cheap Japanese eats in Paris, see A Frugal Eats mostly Japanese blitz through Paris.
(Merci beaucoup to Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini for telling me about Workshop Issé!)Filed under: food travel japanese ingredients shopping france paris
General notes on Germany: The biggest Japanese expat community is in the Düsseldorf area.
Updated May 2009.
Munich also has several general Asian food stores. See this page for a big list.
Two non-food stores:
We do have some listings for Ireland in the comments below...I'll incorporate them in here soon!
General UK notes: Obviously the vast majority of Japanese and Asian groceries are located in and around London!
(below is still unformatted - working on it!)
Oriental Delight Fairly pricey, but centrally-located and has a bigger range of Japanese food than the Chinese supermarkets nearby.
14 Gerrard St, London W1D 5PT 020 7439 1183
Chinese but has a seperate Japanese section, as well as a decent selection of fresh produce. Prices are about as good as you’ll get in London, especially if buying in bulk. Haven’t been since they finished the remodelling of the Cricklewood store, and never been to the others. I usually visit every couple of months to stock up on basics in bulk, much easier to drive there (plenty of free parking) than to try and lug 5kg bags of rice back on the bus!
Wing Yip http://www.wingyip.com Chinese supermarket chain
395 Edgware Road Cricklewood London NW2 6LN Tel: 020 8450 0422 Fax: 020 8452 1478
544 Purley Way Croydon CR0 4NZ Tel: 020 8688 4880 Fax: 020 8688 8786
375 Nechells Park Road Nechells Birmingham B7 5NT Tel: 0121 327 6618 Fax: 0121 327 6612
Oldham Road Ancoats Manchester M4 5HU Tel: 0161 832 3215 Fax: 0161 833 2798
Hoo Hing Comments: "Same deal as Wing Yip. Only been to the Park Royal store, didn’t like it as much as Wing Yip so only been the once. Can’t remember how much Japanese stuff it actually had either but there was some!"
A406 North Circular Rd Near Hangar Lane Park Royal London NW10 7TN
Lockfield Avenue Off Mollison Avenue Brimsdown Enfield Middlesex EN3 7QE
Dorma Trading Park Staffa Road London E10 7QX
Bond Road Off Western Road Mitcham Surrey CR4 3EB
Hoo Hing Commercial Centre Freshwater Rd Chadwell Heath Romford Essex RM8 1RX
Others There is also Oriental City, which I’ve never been to and the many Chinese supermarkets in Chinatown which have some Japanese stuff and fresh produce. There used to be a lovely little Japanese shop called Unohana in Golders Green (opposite the tube station), it closed for renovation according to the sign in the window but now seems to have closed for good. It was quite expensive and didn’t have a huge range but did sell ‘sushi-quality’ fish and decent ready-made sushi and bento boxes. If it ever reopens I will post about it.
Alice | 25 January, 2008 - 17:29
Oriental City - Colindale (North London - UK)
Name: Natural Natural Address: 20 Station Parade, Uxbridge Road, Ealing Common W5 3LD 1 Goldhurst Terrace, Finchley Road NW6 3HX Website: http://www.natural-natural.co.uk/naturalnatural/indexe.html http://www.natural-natural.co.uk/naturalnatural/indexj.html
(Not formated yet!)
Wai Yee Hong Wai Yee Hong Eastgate Oriental City, Eastgate Road, Eastville, Bristol, BS5 6XX
Tel:0845 873 3388
Fax:0845 872 2288
Korea Foods Mart Unit 5 Wyvern Industrial Estate, Beverley Way,New Malden, Surrey, KT3 4PH 020 8949 2238
Seoul Plaza 1 36 High Street, New Malden, Surrey, KT3 4HE 020 8949 4329
Seoul Plaza 2 126 Malden Road, New Malden, Surrey, KT3 6DD 020 8942 9552
Seoul Plaza 3 91-93 Mill Road, Cambridge, CB1 2AW 012 2330 3610
Besides Wing Yip (see above)
There is a small Korean grocery on Bristol Rd., near Selly Oak station, which also carries Chinese and Japanese groceries.
Day-In Supermarket Chinese supermarket
http://www.dayin.co.uk/1.htmlFiled under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
Japanese grocery stores (or stores that stock Japanese food products) in Australia and New Zealand. If your favorite stores aren't listed, let us know the details in the comments!
(none listed yet!)
Japanese grocery stores (or stores that stock Japanese food products) in Australia and New Zealand. If your favorite stores aren't listed, let us know the details in the comments! (Once the information in a comment is incorporated into the main article, the comment is deleted.)Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
I need to update this section soon! In the meantime, take a look through the addresses listed in the comments.Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
Middle East, Africa, and other places.
(placeholder for now)Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
Please limit your suggestions to stores and places that are food-related: edibles, supplies, equipment, etc.
Comments: "In a city where food presentation is elevated into an artform, this store peddles food pornography of the most sordid and explicit kind. I'm surprised the wheels of my chair didn't go rusty from the dribble trailing from my open mouth. From the displays of unbearably beautifully fruit to the softly cascading clouds of dry ice that caressed impeccably fresh fish in dream-like soft-focus, this store is nothing but a delectable series of temptations." -(Loretta) Link, Map.
...are all listed on this Guide to 100 yen shops by region (Japanese only unfortunately, but it's a start!)
See these articles on Just Hungry and Just Bento:
These Japanese-food-goods oriented companies ship worldwide.
See also Overseas Shipping Services on this page.
Sites that I've tried myself are marked with a (maki).
These mailorder stores carry a wide variety of products, edible and otherwise.
See this comprehensive page on our sister site, Just Bento: Where to buy bento boxes and equipment.
These companies act as your 'friend who lives in Japan', for a fee of course. You have things shipped to them from merchants who don't ship overseas, which they will then send it to you. The commission is usually around 10%, but it pays to compare their service fee structures (some require a flat service fee on top of the percentage.)
The following 3 services frequently offer 3,000 yen off if you purchase more than a certain amount from Rakuten and some other shopping sites.
Baggage Forward Com is a service based in Osaka. They charge similar fees to the two above. Because they are based in Osaka, their packages tend to leave a day or so later than the ones leaving from Narita, in my experience.
DankeDanke (English and Japanese site) Comments: "I have used dankedanke a couple of times, with no problems. Shipping was very fast." -(anon.)
"Today i received my work-of-art lunchbox and can say that i-TM4U [...] is a very good and reliable shopping agent. It is very difficult to communicate with Japanese companies in English so i was glad to rely on their help with payment, shipping etc. i-TM4U was very accurate with all the info, the box was very well packed as i asked and the pricing is reasonable, too." -(Anna from Russia)
If you know of other places, let us know in the comments!Filed under: japanese ingredients shopping equipment and supplies
This handbook leads to articles about Japanese food and cooking terminology. I think that it may be even more necessary now that Japanese food has become popular outside of Japan.Filed under: japanese ingredients terminology
Miso, soy sauce, bonito flakes...these are the kinds of ingredients you'd expect to be used in Japanese recipes. But there's another ingredient that appears very often, and it's usually just called "sauce" or so-su (ソース). What is this "sauce" anyway?
This is the most popular brand of Japanese "sauce", although there are several other makers. It features a picture of a Bulldog. Some people call all "sauce" Bull-Dog sauce.
On the English version of the Cookpad site, it was decided early on to call it "Japanese Worcestershire-style sauce". It does indeed taste like that classic English sauce made with mystery ingredients including anchovies, but it's a lot thicker, sweeter, browner. "Sauce" appears on all kinds of foods, from Japanese hamburgers (which are more like 'hamburger steaks' rather than American burgers)...
...and a lot more. Besides being used as, well, a sauce, it's also used to add flavor to stews and soups, in marinades, and a lot more.
So what is this "sauce" anyway? While there are variations, called tonkatsu sauce (used on tonkatsu or breaded deep fried pork cutlets); chuunou sauce (pictured above) which just means 'medium-thick' sauce, usta- sauce, which is the Japanified version of Worcestershire (but usta- sauce is nothing like original Worcestershire sauce); okonomiyaki sauce, and so on. There's little difference between them though, except in the degree of sweetness, and a slight difference in fruitiness and viscosity. Most "sauces" list "vegetables, fruit and spices" as their ingredients, plus amino acids (umami), sweeteners, caramel coloring and other things depending on the type.
"Sauce" apparently made its debut in the late 19th century in Japan, when it was sold as a different kind of soy sauce. This didn't work out well, since it tasted so different from well, real soy sauce. "Sauce" really only took off in the post-World War II era, along with the rapid growth in popularity of westernized or yohshoku (yoshoku) cooking, which had previously been limited to the big cities.
While it's still associated with yoshoku, as its use on things like okonomiyaki and takoyaki shows it's now used as a flavoring ingredient for all kinds of cooking. For example the Japanese version of stir fried noodles, yakisoba, is flavored with "sauce", unlike the Chinese version (lo mein) which is flavored with a soy sauce base.
Well..it all depends on how much it costs for you. If you live near a Japanese, Korean or general-Asian grocery store, and it's fairly inexpensive, then by all means have a bottle around. You can use any brand you like, although Bull-Dog brand is quite reliable. (Bull-Dog sauce apparently used to be called "Inu-jirushi So-su", which means "Dog Brand Sauce". I think the name change was a good idea...)
"Sauce" can be used for things other than Japanese food - on all kinds of meaty or deep fried dishes, in stir fries, and so on.
As I mentioned above, I don't think there's a big enough difference between the "sauce" types to require stocking up on all of them, unless you want to of course or can spare the cash and space. Okonomiyaki sauce is sweeter and thinner than chuuno sauce for example, but there's not a big difference. See below for ideas for doctoring any kind of "sauce". For what it's worth, right now I have one bottle of chuuno sauce in my fridge.
If you don't have a Japanese/Asian grocery store near you, you can substitute other brown sauces. Traditional British Worcestershire sauce (such as the one from Lea and Perrins) is a great sauce and flavoring ingredient to have around anyway, but it's not really a good substitute for Japanese "sauce".
For that purpose I have at various times used A-1 Steak Sauce in the U.S., and HP Sauce in Europe. (Here in France, the latter is sold in our local supermarché in the "ethnic" food section.)
Both are a lot tangier than Japanese "sauce" though, so you need to temper it a bit. Adding sugar works, but molasses or golden syrup may work better. You can try adding some grated apple (a sweet variety, not a sour cooking variety) too. For okonomiyaki, you may need to add sugar or other sweetener in a 1:2 ratio of sweetener to sauce to come close to commercial okonomiyaku sauce. Or, if you like your okonomiyaki with mayonnaise too, add a bit more mayo to neutralize the sauce's tanginess. Of course if you like tangy sauce anyway, you can just use one of those sauces straight.
I have seen a few recipes suggesting oyster sauce as a "sauce" substitute, but to me the flavor profile is quite different, so I recommend one of those sauces mentioned above instead.
[By the way, I'm boosting up my 'Japanese ingredients explained' section. If you need a Japanese ingredient explained in detail, and you can't find an explaination here yet, just let me know and I'll see what I can do.]Filed under: japanese ingredients yohshoku