Q.

Do you carry many Japanese ingredients that would appear in a normal Japanese meal?

Trackback |     
A.

We actually carry a huge selection of Japanese ingredients.  Based on my experience living and working in Japan for two years, here are some of the ones you’d be more likely to see during a trip.

 

Soy Sauce
Soy sauce, of course, plays a very important role in Japanese food.  Most of the soy sauce I ate during my two years in Japan was middle of the road every day stuff, but for sashimi, glazing senbei rice crackers, etc, people broke out the tamari soy sauce.  Tamari has a much richer, deeper flavor than basic soy sauce that’s simply superb with raw fish.  You can use it as a more flavorful substitute for conventional soy sauce too…you’ll just want to use less for many dishes.

White soy sauce is used even less often, in my experience, but some chefs use it in really fancy dishes where they want a more delicate soy flavor and a lighter, golden color that lets the bright colors of other ingredients shine.

Seafood
It goes without saying that seafood plays a central role in the Japanese diet, and they eat a huge variety both raw and cooked.  Rather than list all the varieties you might find in Japan, here are some sushi & sashimi favorites: yellowfin tuna, geoduck, uni, mackerel, and fish roes (ikura, tobiko & masago).   Seafood plates are often garnished with pickled ginger, daikon radish and fresh shiso leaves.

Depending on where you are in Japan and the time of year, you might also be served fresh oysters and clams (especially tiny baby clams in miso soup).

Wasabi
We can’t discuss sashimi without discussing wasabi.  Most wasabi paste sold in the US (and a fair amount sold in Japan) is actually fake wasabi made from a blend of horseradish, green food coloring, and Chinese mustard.  When you go out for really nice sushi or sashimi though, the chef will grate real fresh wasabi rhizomes.

Sea Vegetables
Like seafood, sea vegetables play a major role in the traditional Japanese diet.  The varieties that I was served most often were probably hijiki, wakame and noriKombu is a foundation ingredient in a huge amount of Japanese dishes where it’s used to infuse flavor into dashi stock and often removed before the food is served.

Meat
Traditionally people in Japan tend to eat more seafood than meat, though meat consumption has increased dramatically in post WW2.  Kobe beef and Kurobuta pork are widely regarded as the best of the best over there.  They also eat duck, chicken, chicken eggs and, believe it or not, a lot of quail eggs.

Japanese Citrus
Japan is home to at least three varieties of exotic citrus fruits: yuzu, sudachi and kabosu.  Yuzu is probably the most common and most beloved of the three (its flavor is incredible). We offer both yuzu juice & fresh yuzu fruit when in season as well as other yuzu products, sudachi juice and kabosu juice.

Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms and maitake mushrooms are consumed very frequently in Japan, whereas matsutake mushrooms are a highly prized delicacy that people look forward to all year.

Traditional Japanese Sweets
Mochi rice
and sweetened adzuki beans are very mainstream ingredients in Japan.  They’re used in traditional Japanese sweets, especially those served with green tea and in the winter.  Sweetened adzuki beans can also be used as a topping for summery desserts, like ice cream, agar gel desserts with fruit, and kakigori shaved ice.

Yuzu juice is also used in some Japanese sweets and beverages.  It makes incredible ice cream, sodas, and sorbets.

Produce
Shishito peppers show up a lot as a garnish or grilled/fried as bar food.

If you travel to the south island, Okinawa, you’re very likely to encounter bitter melon in dishes. It’s known as “goya” there.

Kyoho grapes are served for dessert when they’re in season.  They’re highly prized, and particularly perfect crops can sell for a lot of money because fresh fruit is a traditional gift.  They’re often served chilled with a small bowl on the side for discarding the seeds and the skins (which are edible, but slightly sour…so people often peel the grapes).

Persimmons are a winter delight in Japan.  When they come into season you’ll start seeing them on grocery store shelves and in food all over.  Sweet fuyu persimmons are often served simply peeled and cubed with a toothpick on the side as an eating utensil.  Hachiya persimmons are often dried before eating, as they can be rather astringent fresh.  If you visit an area where people have hachiya persimmon trees in their yards at the right time of year, you’ll find their balconies festooned with drying persimmons.

– Question Submitted by Chris S.




Post your comment here: