Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Basic Japanese cooking ingredients PART I - what they are and where you can find them

Over the last few years Japanese ingredients have become more and more available in countries outside of Japan. In Ireland you can easily find Japanese ingredients in larger supermarkets, health stores and Asian supermarkets scattered across the country. I buy most of my ingredients in the Asian Market on Drury St in Dublin (they also have another store in Merrywell Business park, Ballymount, Dublin 22). It has a great selection of Japanese ingredients at reasonable prices.

If you want to start cooking Japanese food at home you'll need some basic ingredients in your kitchen cupboard. I made a short list to begin with to keep it simple. You can always add other items to this as you start to cook more Japanese food at home. 

Most Japanese people eat rice at least once if not three times a day. So it's important to know how to prepare and cook Japanese rice in order to be able to enjoy a proper Japanese meal at home. Click here to go to my post "How to prepare and cook Japanese rice". 

I buy the Sun Clad Shinode brand of Japanese white rice. It's a large 10 kilo bag and costs just under 20 euro which is very reasonable. If you don't eat a lot of rice then you can buy a smaller bag which they started to stock recently. Superquinn also stock the smaller bag of Shinode sushi rice.

I prefer to use Japanese soya sauce when I'm cooking Japanese food. I buy Kikkoman Japanese soya sauce with less salt. It's ok to use other types of soya sauce however for authentic Japanese taste I'd recommend using Japanese soya sauce if you can get it.

Again, I prefer to use Japanese rice vinegar when cooking Japanese foods. Rice vinegar is mostly used to make sushi, Japanese salad dressings and some sauces.

The Japanese use sake the same way as we use wine when cooking in the West. Sake is an alcoholic drink made from rice and adds a nice taste to Japanese dishes. It's not necessary to buy an expensive bottle if you're only using it for cooking.

This is a sweet rice wine with a lower alcohol content than sake. It's used for cooking in Japan and adds a nice sweet balance to Japanese dishes. 

This is Japanese cooking stock. You can buy instant dashi granules like the one pictured below or you can make dashi from scratch. It's worth making homemade dashi if you have time as it tastes better and is healthier than the instant dashi. Click here to see my recipe for Japanese homemade fish stock.

Miso is made from fermented soya beans. There are many different types of miso and the miso colour can vary from light brown to dark red/brown. Generally the lighter the colour the milder the taste. So if you're new to Japanese food then I'd start off with a lighter colour one. Once miso is opened it should be stored in the refrigerator and can be stored there for a long time (I'm not sure how long exactly but a year anyway!). Click here to see my recipe for "Miso Shiru - Japanese Miso Soup".

1 comment:

  1. I recently tried Japanese food for the very first time, and I absolutely love it! Unfortunately, my financial situation doesn't allow me to go out to restaurants very often, so I am going to try and make Japanese food at home. This post was incredibly helpful for determining the basics of what I need in the cupboards. In general, how much does it cost to stock up on these ingredients? Is it expensive to purchase the more specific foods that you mentioned in your "part 2" post about purchasing ingredients?

    Hillary James | www.littletokyobrisbane.com.au


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