You should learn Japanese condiments at first when you begin cooking Japanese cuisine because Japanese food is very unique. There are many types of condiments in Japan. Probably, Many of even Japanese don’t know all of them. So I will introduce essential condiments in this article so that you foreigners can make basic Japanese cuisine.
It is a basic condiment and used for almost all Japanese food. It is made from fermented soy beans, water and a variety of roasted grains, like wheat, barley, or rice. There are dark soy sauce and light soy sauce. They are each different in taste and flavor. Generally, you should use light soy sauce when eating sashimi and sushi and dark soy sauce when eating fried food. However, which type of soy sauce you use depends on your preference.
Mirin also is used in almost all Japanese cuisine. It is a type of rice wine similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content. Mirin has a sweet flavor when used with saltier sauces. You can use it with all types of food from meat and fish to vegetables and tofu.
Miso is one of the most traditional condiments in Japan and is widely used in modern cooking as well. It is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, and so it plays an important nutritional role. Typically, miso is salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on various factors in the ingredients and fermentation process.
Sake is used like wine in Japanese cuisine. It is basically made from rice, water and *koji. Many people, even Japanese, often ask us the difference between Sake and Mirin. Mirin is sweeter than sake and it is used when cooking food with a sweet taste. On the other hand, sake is used like wine as I said at first. You can enjoy a stronger flavor or smell when you use sake.
*Koji is a steamed rice and is used in quite a few Japanese ingredients like Miso, Mirin and Soy Sauce. Koji is now famous for its health benefits and effective for preventing various forms of cancer.
Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice. Japanese rice vinegar is milder than Western vinegars. It is used not only to enjoy its taste but also to prepare for cooking. You cannot cook sushi without it.
Dashi is Japanese unique cooking stock and plays an essential part in Japanese cuisine. You cannot cook miso soup, ramen soup and many kinds of simmering liquid without Dashi because these “Umami taste” all come from Dashi. Dashi is made from Kelp and Dried Bonito flakes. You boil them in water and their flavor and smell will remain in it even if they are removed from water. This is Dashi and “Umami”. Dashi takes much time to cook, and so you can use the product below as a shortcut.