How to Start Cooking Japanese Food with These 10 Essential Ingredients

These 10 items will allow you to quickly prepare a variety of delectable Japanese cuisine.



Going to the store as a foreigner in Japan might be a daunting experience. These ten ingredients will help you stock up on the essentials in your Japanese pantry, allowing you to quickly prepare a variety of delectable and time-saving Japanese cuisine.


1) Rice, 米こめ

Japanese rice is a short-grain rice that adheres together easily when cooked, making it ideal for rice balls and sushi. It’s also a lot more convenient to eat with chopsticks! Sushi rice is different from regular Japanese rice in that it is seasoned with sushi vinegar and used to make sushi.


2) Noodles, 麺めん

Ramen, udon, soba, and somen are among the many types of noodles used in Japanese cuisine. Ramen noodles are wheat-based, yellowish, and thin. They’re well-known for being a key component in ramen broths. Udon noodles are made of wheat flour and are white and thick. Udon noodles are typically served in a hot broth, but one of some favorite ways to eat them is to coat them in leftover curry sauce.

Soba noodles are created from buckwheat flour and are brown-grey in color. They are nutty in flavor and can be served hot or cold. Some  like to eat them with tempura on top. Somen noodles are wheat-based, white, and very thin. During the hot summer months, they’re frequently served cold.


3) Soy Sauce, 醤油しょうゆ

In any Japanese cooking, soy sauce is an essential component. An excellent Japanese soy sauce has a subtle flavor that blends well with other ingredients, bringing out the natural umami in dishes.

It’s a flexible component to have on hand for a quick stir-fry, a casserole, or a one-pot meal. The possibilities are infinite! Many like to  utilize soy sauce is in a teriyaki sauce made with honey.


Raw (uncooked) rice.

4) Rice Vinegar, 米酢こめず

Sushi rice, Japanese salad dressings, and some sauces all contain rice vinegar. In comparison to other vinegars, it has a delicate flavor.


5) Rice Wine, 酒さけ

Sake, or Japanese rice wine, is an alcoholic beverage prepared from polished rice and a bacteria culture known as koji. Although sake appears to be comparable to wine, the brewing method is more akin to beer.

Sake has a greater alcohol concentration than wine and beer, which can reach up to 18 percent.

Sake is widely used in Japanese cooking; it lends a beautiful flavor to foods while also tenderizing meat and seafood.


6) Sweet Rice Wine, 味醂みりん

Mirin is a Japanese culinary spirit with a lower alcohol concentration than sake. It gives Japanese cuisine a delicious fresh balance.


7) Japanese Seven Spice, 七味しちみ

This excellent collection of seven spices enhances the flavor of a dish while also providing a nutritional boost, with each spice providing different health advantages. Chili, orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, seaweed, Japanese pepper, and ginger are all included in this spice blend.

It’s commonly used to lend a little spice and more flavor to Japanese meals. When soups, stews, and noodle meals are ready to eat, you can sprinkle this over them. It’s also fantastic as a spice for meat, fish, and seafood.


8) Tofu, 豆腐とうふ

Tofu is abundant in protein and calcium while being low in calories. In the supermarket, there are two types of tofu: “silken tofu,” which has a soft and delicate texture and is best used in salads and soups, and “firm tofu,” which has a rougher texture and is better used in one-pot recipes and stir fries. Tofu can be eaten cold straight from the fridge or heated up in a meal.


9) Miso Paste, 味噌みそ

Miso is produced from fermented soybeans, salt, rice or barley, and koji (fermented yeast) (fermentation starter). Miso comes in a variety of colors, ranging from light brown to dark red/brown. The taste is often softer the lighter the color. Miso should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator once opened (it will continue to ferment and become more salty over time). It’s perfect for marinating meat, seafood, or even veggies.


10) Seaweed, 海藻かいそう

Seaweed is high in vitamins and minerals and is used extensively in Japanese cuisine, from sushi to basic stocks and salads. The following is a list of seaweeds that you can use in your cooking:

  • Kombu (kelp) seaweed
    It contains umami (the fifth taste) and is one of the primary elements in Japanese cooking stock (dashi). Salads and stews also get its enhanced taste from it.
  • Nori seaweed
    It’s best known for encasing sushi and onigiri rolls (Japanese rice balls). Nori is available as roasted seaweed sheets or milled seaweed (aonori). Nori sheets must be stored in an airtight container once opened, or they will lose their crisp texture. Just before serving, ao-nori (milled nori) is commonly sprinkled over okonomiyaki and yakisoba.
  • Wakame seaweed
    It’s available in little dried chunks. Miso soup and salads contain it. Use caution when adding dry wakame to a recipe because these microscopic seaweed pieces grow when exposed to water.


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