Translated by Sandy Lau
Ready For Japan! Vol. 12 – Make Japanese Dishes At Home With 7 Condiments
Written by Kousuke DEKI
It's easy to bring Japanese food to your doorstep by using these condiments from Japan. Learn about staple condiments and ingredients, from sukiyaki sauce to curry roux, that will give your cooking irresistibly tasty flavors. We introduce easy ways to upgrade your cooking and simple DIY recipes!
Easily Create Japanese Flavors at Home!
It can be a chore making food every day while stuck at home. If you agree, then how about adding in adding flavors of Japan into your dishes with condiments? We introduce simple ways to use these Japanese condiments and include basic recipes. Indulge in the flavors of Japan at home!
1. Soy Sauce – A Delicious Staple of Japan
Soy sauce is the classic Japanese condiment. It’s used in a plethora of dishes, from soups to simmered foods. Does it feel like something is missing in your dish? By adding soy sauce, you can often create a dimension of flavors and transform your meal into an amazing dish.
If you simply want to taste the soy sauce on its own, then how about trying chilled tofu (hiyayakko)? This simple dish is made by drizzling only soy sauce over tofu. Sprinkle some green onions on top to add color to the dish. To enhance the tofu’s flavor, add some grated ginger or katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).
Give soy sauce a try as a condiment for foods that you normally enjoy, like a sunny-side-up egg to add a whole new flavor profile to your everyday meals!
Soy sauce can be purchased at supermarkets and on Amazon.
2. Sukiyaki Sauce – A Simple Way to Perfect Your Meal!
The quickest and easiest way to make sukiyaki, a type of Japanese hot pot, is to use pre-made sukiyaki sauce. All you have to do is bring the sukiyaki sauce to a boil in a pot, then add in beef, green onions, mushrooms, other vegetables, and tofu to simmer.
If you don’t have pre-made sukiyaki sauce, you can make your own. Pour 100ml each of mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine) and Japanese sake into a pot and cook off the alcohol. Add in soy sauce (100ml) and dissolve sugar (2 tbsp) into the base to complete the sauce. Feel free to adjust the amounts of each ingredient to your tastes.
Sukiyaki sauce can be purchased at supermarkets and on Amazon.
3. Mentsuyu – A Must for Udon, Soba, and Noodle Dishes!
Mentsuyu, a variety of broth used often as dipping sauce, is another handy condiment to have. You should have a bottle of mentsuyu on hand when eating noodle dishes like udon and soba buckwheat noodles.
The flavor of mentsuyu is strong straight out of the bottle, so add water to dilute its flavor and heat on the stove. Add your cooked noodles to the soup and it’s ready to serve. Toppings are up to you, but vegetable toppings like green onions, kamaboko fish cakes, tempura, and tenkasu (bits of fried tempura batter) are some of the toppings often seen in Japan.
Want to eat cold udon? Place your udon noodles in an ice bath, into a bowl, then drizzle on mentsuyu before mixing to eat. This style is called bukkake udon. Mentsuyu also adds a delicious finish to other dishes like simmered foods.
Mentsuyu can be purchased at supermarkets and on Amazon.
4. Yakiniku Sauce – Whet Your Appetite
Yakiniku is a style of eating centered around Japanese-style barbecued meat. The barbecued meat is accompanied with savory, delicious yakiniku sauce. There are many different sauces used for yakiniku in Japan, from soy sauce-base sauces to miso, sesame, or a refreshing ponzu (citrus) sauce.
It's straightforward to make your own soy sauce-based yakiniku sauce at home. For a basic sauce, boil Japanese sake (50ml) and sugar (2 tbsp) in a pot. Add soy sauce (100ml), sesame oil (1 tbsp), one thinly sliced red pepper, grated apple (1 tbsp), grated garlic (2 tsp), grated ginger (2 tsp), and sesame seeds (1 tbsp) to finish the sauce.
Yakiniku sauce can be purchased at supermarkets and on Amazon.
5. Miso – Enjoy a Reassuring Flavor of Japanese Tradition
Miso (fermented soybean paste) is another staple condiment and key ingredient in Japan alongside soy sauce. The food most commonly made by Japanese families with miso is miso soup. For Japanese people, a bowl of miso soup with your meal, whether it be during breakfast or dinner, is reassuring to have.
Every household has their own miso soup recipe. There are no rules for miso soup, so you can also pick ingredients based on your mood that day.
Some common ingredients include vegetables, tofu, wakame seaweed, or pork. The soup is usually made by first making a dashi stock with konbu kelp, katsuobushi, and niboshi (dried sardines), then simmering the soup ingredients in the prepared stock. The last step is to dissolve miso into the soup. If you find it difficult to prepare your own stock, then you can also find powdered dashi or miso with dashi already added sold in stores.
Miso can be purchased at supermarkets or on Amazon.
6. Ponzu – Bring Refreshing Citrus Flavors to Your Meals
Ponzu is a delicious condiment containing sweet and sour flavors, made from citrus juice. In Japan, this sauce is often used as a dipping sauce for hot pot or added to grated daikon radish and eaten with grilled fish. It’s also a delicious alternative to salad dressing.
This sauce is also great with deep-fried foods like karaage fried chicken and hearty dishes because its refreshing taste cuts through the grease. Restaurants serving Japanese-style hamburger steak on their menus will often serve the dish with a grated daikon topping flavored with ponzu.
Ponzu can be purchased at supermarkets and on Amazon.
7. Curry Roux – Create Hearty and Classic Japanese Curry
Curry is a unique, well-loved dish in Japan. An abundant variety of curry roux can be found at supermarkets across the country. Japanese curry is typically served with large slices of potatoes, carrots, onions, and pork. The thick Japanese curry sauce is a flavor adored by people of all ages.
Add a dash of mentsuyu at the end and you’ll create the Japanese-style curry served at soba noodle restaurants!
Curry roux can be purchased at supermarkets or on Amazon.
Enjoy Home Cooking with Japanese Condiments!
Japanese condiments that are fairly easy to find, no matter where you are. Try making these dishes and enjoy a lighthearted trip to Japan without leaving your dining table.
Our Ready For Japan! series provides readers with experiences in Japan they can enjoy from the comfort and safety of home. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series!
All photos by Pixta