If you love Japan you probably also like the food. If you aren’t lucky enough to be living in Japan then, like me, you may wonder how to recreate some of the delicious Japanese foods at home. It can seem quite difficult knowing where to start with Japanese cooking, as it can be intricate and presented beautifully. However to get started there are just a few things which can really bring the taste of Japan to your home! Some of the foods used in Japanese food can be difficult to get outside of Asia; so here are some easy-to-access Japanese staples.
You may have wondered what made rice in Japan so sticky and delicious. This is because the grains of rice grown in Japan are different to those in other countries. In Japan, Japanese rice or Japonica rice is used. However, you could also use Medium grain rice, which is fairly similar. Incorporating these rice types makes a meal much more Japanese! This can now be found in many supermarkets, usually called sushi rice (although that isn’t necessarily accurate). Many places will deliver rice as well.
Again soy sauce is a must have ingredient for Japanese cooking. The use of soy and miso are central to many Japanese dishes. If you want to add this flavour to your cooking I’d recommend getting a Japanese brand, as some others can be a little different. Most supermarkets in the UK now sell Japanese brand soy sauce, such as Kikkoman. You can also get a light or dark soy, which are used in different ways in different dishes. If you are worried about salt content Kikkoman produced a reduced salt one too.
Bonito flakes are dried, smoked and fermented skipjack tuna and is known as Katsuobushi in Japan. Bonito flakes make a real cornerstone of many Japanese dishes, you can stuff an onigiri with the flakes, add to ramen or shake on top of noodles. This umami flavour is truly Japanese.
A dashi stock is made from two main ingredients, bonito flakes and kombu, a type of edible kelp. This stock is used much like a chicken stock in the UK, as a base for many different dishes. Dashi is used in sukiyaki, in clear broths and as a base for ramen and noodle dishes. Have this and you can make a whole host of Japanese dishes.
Not to be confused with the western vinegar that we put on chips, rice vinegar is a much sweeter and aromatic. Made from fermented rice this is a really versatile ingredient. It can be added to rice to make onigiri, or to add flavour. It can be used to make pickles and in marinades too. Taste this and you’ll be transported back to Japan.
Just having these five ingredients in your cupboard can really help you cook some delicious Japanese foods when you’re craving it.