8 Japanese pantry essentials: what they are and how to use them


8 Japanese pantry essentials: what they are and how to use them
Do you know your miso from your mirin? Your sake from your shoyu? Add these Japanese staples to your pantry.

Want to savour the authentic flavours of Japan? These beloved ingredients and popular staples of Japanese cooking will have you well on the way to enjoying a restaurant-quality meal in your very own home!

Shoyu (soy sauce)

Shoyu is made from soybeans, wheat, water and salt. Widely popular in Japan, it can be found seasoning everything from ramen noodles to rice crackers – and so much more.


A staple made from fermented soybeans, sea salt and rice koji, miso is a great way to impart a savoury note to your dishes. There are three main types available: white, yellow and red


Valued for its depth of flavour, this edible kelp is big in Japanese cooking. It comes in several varieties across Japan and can often be found in udon noodle dishes and hot pot.


A common feature in Japanese cooking, this rice wine is a key ingredient in teriyaki sauce. Similar to sake, but with a sweeter taste and lower alcohol content, it pairs well with soy sauce.


Like wine in the West, sake is both imbibed on its own and added as an ingredient to meals. It is often used to add a touch of umami to sushi, soups, stews, marinades and sauces.


Goma means sesame seeds in Japanese. The creamy sesame sauce goma dare is a common side dish in Japan, perfect for adding to salads or paired with pork and vegetables in hot pots.

Genmai Su

This unsweetened sushi vinegar is an important seasoning in Japan. It is used with sauces, dips, pickles, salad dressings, marinades, grains, vegetables and rice and has a mild taste.


Now used in Western cuisine in everything from pasta dishes to casseroles and used as light breading in Japanese food, this breadcrumb is made from white bread cooked by an electrical current.

Make your own Japanese seasoning

Part of the secret to an exquisite Japanese meal is getting the subtle ingredients right. It’s time to add these to your recipes.

Sesame seasoning

Sesame seeds, oil and paste are all popular components of Japanese cooking. White and black sesame seeds are used as a garnish, adding a nutty flavour. Various seasoning mixes, which usually combine finely chopped dried nori or other seaweed with white and black sesame seeds, are available in Asian food stores and large supermarkets.

Kewpie mayonnaise

Mayonnaise was introduced to Japan in 1925 by Kewpie. This food manufacturer’s mayonnaise, which is a little thinner than most and more French than American, comes in a soft, squeezable bottle with a Kewpie doll logo and is the most popular variety in Japan. Okonomiyaki (a kind of savoury Japanese pancake) is served with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce.



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