The secret to many of Japan’s most celebrated dishes is in the use of the right amount and blend of ingredients. Any recipe that may be bland, ordinary, and uninteresting at first can be transformed into a vibrant, appetizing, and scrumptious feast with the addition of spices and seasonings that can enrich and deepen the taste.
Japanese soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans, wheat and brewer’s alcohol and has become the basic sauce for all Japanese cuisine due to its rich, umami taste. Whether you use soy sauce as a cooking sauce or as a condiment to bring out the flavour of any dish, Japan Centre has a huge online range of soy sauce for every occasion and preference.
Seasoned rice vinegar is made by adding sake, salt and sugar. Additionally, mirin is also sometimes used (but only rarely). Although it can be made at home, prepared awasezu can also be readily bought at supermarkets. Seasoned rice vinegar is added to cooked rice to be used in making sushi. It is also used in salad dressing varieties popular in the west, such as ginger or sesame dressing.
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji (the fungus Aspergillus oryzae) and sometimes rice, barley, or other ingredients. The result is a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup called misoshiru, a Japanese culinary staple. High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso played an important nutritional role in feudal Japan. Miso is still widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, and has been gaining worldwide interest.
In North America, any dish made with a teriyaki-like sauce (often even those using foreign alternatives to sake or mirin, such as wine), or with added ingredients, such as sesame or garlic (uncommon in traditional Japanese cuisine), is described as teriyaki. The sauce used for teriyaki is generally sweet, although it can also be spicy. Pineapple juice is sometimes used, as it not only provides sweetness but also bromelain enzymes that help tenderize the meat. Grilling meat first and pouring the sauce on afterwards or using sweet sauce as a marinade are other non-traditional methods of cooking teriyaki. Teriyaki sauce is sometimes put on chicken wings or used as a dipping sauce.
Wasabi is generally sold either as a stem, which must be very finely grated before use, as dried powder in large quantities, or as a ready-to-use paste in tubes similar to travel toothpaste tubes.