Japanese Cooking : 9 Pantry Essentials

An essential guide for cooking Japanese food at home. Learn the basics of how to build your pantry to cook up a wide variety of Japanese dishes!

Japanese home cooking can be light on ingredients and surprisingly quick to make. 

The very first thing you have to do is to build your pantry. Here are some of the basic ingredients boiled down to a simplified shopping list below.

These essential ingredients will give you a good start on cooking the majority of Japanese recipes. 

  1. Soy Sauce

Japanese soy sauce, made from fermented soy beans, brings a delicate and rich salty flavor when used in soups, marinades or as a dipping sauce. Japanese soy sauce is more delicate in taste and has a complex savory flavor than Korean and Chinese soy sauce. To cook Japanese food, it’s important to use only Japanese soy sauce.

  1. Rice (Japanese short grain rice)

Often called ‘sushi rice,’ Japanese short-grain rice is characterized by its texture and stickiness. The short grains cling together without being mushy. Japanese cuisine is centered around rice. We recommend experiencing authentic Japanese gourmet rice directly imported from Japan, from local farmers. Premium rice tastes delicious and can be eaten cold.


  1. Miso

There are different types of miso, or fermented soybean paste, from fresh-tasting white miso to stronger flavored red. Miso is used in a variety of ways including marinades, dressings, sauces, etc. There are many different types of miso out there and each miso varies in taste, aroma, texture, and saltiness. For beginners, start with yellow miso.

  1. Dashi

Dashi is a stock made by boiling katsuobushi bonito flakes and kombu kelp in water and is popularly used as a base for soups to give the umami flavor. To make dashi from scratch, you’ll need either Kombu or/and Katsuobushi (or Dried Shiitake Mushrooms) on the shopping list.   If you prefer the easier route, then you can choose to use  Dashi Pack.


  1. Tsuyu

A multipurpose Japanese condiment that you can use as a basic sauce or soup broth base for Japanese dishes such as noodle soup. It's most commonly accompanied as the sauce to soba and tempura. If your local Asian grocery stores don’t carry Mentsuyu, you can buy it on Amazon.


  1. Soba

Soba is a Japanese noodle made out of buckwheat that is served both hot and cold in a variety of dishes. You can enjoy it chilled with a dipping sauce, in a hot broth as a noodle soup, or at room temperature all year round. 

  1. Curry

One of the most popular dishes in Japan, Japanese curry sauce is thicker in texture and tastes sweeter than its Indian counterpart.  They come in a convenient box that resembles a thick chocolate bar. Whenever you need to make curry at home, you just break off individual cubes for the portion you need.

     8. Nori

Nori comes in deep green sheets, wrapped in cellophane packages. It is also available in the form of pre-toasted sushi nori, and, less commonly, kizami nori, toasted and shredded for ready use as a condiment. It is the most familiar of all Japanese seaweeds thanks to its use in sushi and rolls.

    9. Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar is a milder, lightly sweet and sour vinegar made from fermented rice and heightens the flavor of many traditional Japanese recipes. You can use it  in Japanese-style salads, pickles, and various sauces. It is also the most important seasoning to make Sushi Rice.

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