From miso-glazed aubergine and tofu “steak” to veggie-friendly ramen and more, there’s no dearth of vegetarian Japanese dishes which are as complex in character as they are rich in umami flavour! Having loved Japanese food for as long as I have, I’m thrilled to have mastered my favourite Japanese dishes at home, while innovating new recipes too (sushi cakes or miso pasta anyone?). If you’re keen on learning to cook Japanese cuisine, the starting point is having all the right ingredients in your pantry. Gathered here is a guide to get you started.
Key Pantry Ingredients For Japanese Recipes
All the ingredients mentioned in this guide, are available via Urban Platter.
Miso is a fermented soybean paste made from soybeans, grains (typically either steamed rice or barley), salt, and a fermentation starter (known as koji culture).
There are different types of miso, each distinguished by their ingredients, colour, taste and the region it is from. AKA Miso (or Red Miso) is popular for a longer fermentation period, which gives it a darker hue and a saltier, more robust profile. In comparison, Shiro Miso (Yellow Miso) has been fermented for less time and is not as strong in flavour or salt content, instead having a sweeter profile and smoother texture. If you’re confused between the two, you could always spring for Awase Miso, which is a versatile blend of both Red Miso and White Miso.
As for the uses of miso, the possibilities are endless! Traditionally, miso is used as a base for soups and stews, in addition to marinades. However, once you start experimenting, you’ll discover that the umami-rich kick of miso can elevate just about anything , including a humble one-pot pasta!
Made from rice and water, sake is an essential pantry ingredient for Japanese cooking. It imparts a natural sweetness and shades of umami to soup stocks, sauces, marinades, as well as simmered dishes and grilled preparations.
Like sake, mirin is also a rice wine, albeit with a lower alcohol content. It has a sweet flavour and is used liberally to season and/ or glaze dishes.
While you can use western vinegar in Japanese cooking, it is recommended that you stock your pantry with authentic Japanese rice vinegar. Not only is rice vinegar less acidic than western vinegar, it is also sweeter and more mild; and is a key ingredient for seasoning sushi rice and salads.
Soy sauce is an ingredient which needs no introduction, as it is used widely across all Asian cuisines for its unique mix of sweet, salty, slightly earthy, sour and savoury flavours!
However, if you haven’t already – it’s time to make a nuanced distinction between light and dark soy sauce. Dark soy sauce has a more well-rounded profile; while light soy sauce has a relatively higher salt content and given its lighter colour, it can blend well with other ingredients, thus enhancing the appearance of the final dish!
Vegan Fysh Sauce
Made with seaweed and a blend of mushrooms, Urban Platter’s vegan take on fish sauce is the secret ingredient across all my Asian recipes, for the inimitable boost of umami that it brings to the table.
Short Grain Japanese Rice
If you fancy making sushi at home, you will need to use (and season) Japanese short grain rice. In general, this is the correct type of rice to serve with Japanese curries, donburi rice bowls and other Japanese preparations too.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
I always keep a jar of dried shiitake mushrooms in my pantry as they have a much more concentrated flavour profile compared to fresh mushrooms, thus adding an intensity of flavour and “meatiness” to a variety of dishes from broths to stir-fries!
While dashi – Japanese soup stock – is often emboldened with seafood, you can stir up a vegan version with kombu (dried edible kelp) which adds both an oceany flavour and a kick of umami too!
Literally meaning something that is “sprinkled over”, furikake is a versatile seasoning featuring a mix of nori (dried seaweed), toasted sesame seeds, salts and spices.
Liked These Japanese Pantry Ingredients?
You May Also Like To Try These Recipes
We’d love to hear from you! Do let us know if you try this recipe – you can leave a comment below and/ or tag us in your delicious creations on Instagram @the_foodiediaries.
Latest Instagram Posts
Get the latest reviews, recipes & recommendations, delivered straight to your inbox: