11 Essential Seasonings used in Japanese Cooking

By Umami Recipe
11 Essential Seasonings used in Japanese Cooking

For those who’ve traveled to Japan, the thought of what makes their food is so delicious may have crossed your mind.

While the Japanese may not have the variety of spices and seasonings that other countries have, they manage to produce tastes that are unique to their cuisine.

It is commonly known that most flavors are based on miso and soy sauce in Japanese cooking, but there are several other seasonings and spices that you may find interesting. Let's take a closer look at the seasonings and spices used in Japanese cuisine.

Here are 11 Japanese seasonings that represent Japanese food culture!

1. Miso (Soybean paste)

Miso is one of a traditional Japanese seasoning, made from fermented soybeans with salt and Koji and prepared as a paste. You may know Miso from Miso soup, but there are plenty of other dishes that use miso that you shouldn’t miss out on. Miso can be mixed into other ingredients such as sauces, soups, and dressings.

2. Ryorishu (Sake)

Ryorishu is a type of sake (Japanese rice wine) that is used for cooking Japanese cuisine. It is often used for removing the unwanted smell that comes from of meat or fish. But not only that, ryorishu draws out the umami flavor into from the ingredients.

3. Shoyu (Soy sauce)

You are probably familiar with soy sauce, the most common flavor enhancer found in Japanese dishes. You'll find a small bottle of soy sauce on your table at most Japanese restaurants. There are 3 main types of Soy sauce Usukuchi, Koikuchi and Standard soy sauce.

4. Ponzu sauce (Citrus Sauce)

Ponzu is a classic citric-based seasoning that adds a refreshing tanginess to any dish it is added to. There are several ingredients used for making Ponzu sauce, which include Yuzu or Kabosu.

5. Shichimi Togarashi (Seven Spice Blend)

Shichimi togarashi, as the Japanese name suggests is made up of seven spices: red chilli pepper, orange or yuzu peel, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, sansho pepper and seaweed. Shichimi has a variety of uses to add spice and richness to any meal.

6. Wasabi

Wasabi is a root vegetables ground into, a green paste, also well known as Japanese horseradish. Wasabi is another common ingredient that you will often see in Japanese restaurants, usually served on the plate next to your California roll or sashimi. When wasabi makes contact with your tastebuds, you'll feel a sudden hotness that begins in your mouth and travels right up through your nose.

7. Mirin (Sweet rice wine)

Mirin is a classic condiment in Japanese cooking. It's a type of rice wine that adds flavor to a meal. It is commonly used when making Teriyaki sauce and Sukiyaki sauce. Mirin is similar to Sake as both of them are alcoholic products. However, Mirin contains higher sugar contents and lower alcohol which makes mirin more suitable than wine for cooking.

8. Karashi (Japanese Mustard)

Karashi is a type of mustard that gives spiciness to daily dishes and is, a commonly used in foods such as Natto ( fermented beans), oden and many other foodsdishes. Unlike Western mustard, it has an intensely spicy taste. Karashi is used sparingly to add spiciness to your meal.

9. Katsuobushi (Dried Bonito Flakes)

Katsuobushi is made from the “Katsuo”, which translates to bonito or skipjack tuna in English. Katsuobushi is an essential ingredient for flavors rich in umami In fact, katsuobushi is so prevalent, that if you are a Japanese food lover, you have had it countless times without even realizing it.

10. Japanese Mayonnaise

You might wonder, “Japanese mayonnaise… really?”. But believe me, Japanese Mayonnaise and American Mayonnaise are totally different. Japanese Mayonnaise is made from egg yolks, rice vinegar or apple vinegar and oil. Water is not used, like in American Mayonnaise, giving the Japanese variety a thicker, richer texture.

11. Tonkatsu Sauce

Tonkatsu Sauce is a thick sauce that consists of tomatoes, celery, lemon juice, prunes, dates, carrots, onions, apples, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and 10 different kinds of spices. It's hard to make it from scratch as it has a lot of ingredients in it, but no worries! You'll easily find it at any supermarket in Japan.

Try Japanese Popular Seasonings

Did you find these Japanese seasonings interesting? There are so many condiments for cooking Japanese foods that you may have not encountered yet. Trying these ingredients will surely lead to some surprising (and delicious) results in the kitchen. So, get out of your comfort zone and try to cooking your favorite Japanese dish with them!!

Umami Recipe Team

Bringing what's new on Japanese food and culture, from traditional to current trends to your home.