5 Essential Japanese Seasonings: "Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So"

By Umami Recipe
5 Essential Japanese Seasonings: "Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So"

Traditional Japanese dishes are usually prepared with five basic seasonings. Today, we will explore these seasonings that will give your dish that unmistakably Japanese flavor.

A useful memory technique to remember the five essential Japanese seasonings is "Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So". If you are familiar with Hiragana, the Japanese alphabet, you probably have an idea of these sounds, each of which represents a letter. For those who don't know, there are 46 basic Hiragana letters and "Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So" represent a line of letters on the Hiragana chart.

The seasoning that we will look at today begin with a letter that can be represented by "Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So". 【sa】 is for sugar, 【shi】 is for salt, 【su】 is for vinegar, 【se】 is for soy sauce, and 【so】 is for miso. It is said that if you season in this order when cooking, it will make the food tastier.

You may wonder why dishes seasoned in the order indicated by "Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So" turn out more delicious.

Let's take a look to find out!!

SA is for Sa-tou [ sugar ]

The size of the sugar molecule is about 6 times larger than that of the salt molecule so that it takes time to soak into ingredients. This is why it is recommended to add sugar first. In addition, sugar is not only for its sweetness but also its ability to soften the ingredients, making it easier for ingredients to soak up flavors.

SHI is for Shi-o [ salt ]

Salt is made up of smaller molecules than sugar and easily soaks into ingredients. Therefore, it is recommended that salt is added after sugar. In addition, adding salt has the effect of removing water from the ingredients, improving storage stability, and brightening the color of the ingredients.

Su is for Su [vinegar]

"Su" should be adding in the middle of the cooking process if you add it at the beginning of cooking, the scent will easily evaporate away, and if you add it at a late stage, the acidity will remain strong. Vinegar adds not only acidity but also enhances the thickness and smoothness of the ingredients, brightening the color of vegetables and, neutralizes any fishy smells.

SE is for Shoyu [soy sauce]

The reason why "se" representsis soy sauce is that "soy sauce" was written as "seyu" a long time ago. Soy sauce should be added at a late stage. If you add soy sauce at an early stage, the flavor of the soy sauce will be lost. It also eliminates the unwanted smells of seafood and meat and improves flavors.

SO is for mi-so

Miso also adds flavor and has the effect of removing any unwanted smells from meats and improves flavor.


Vinegar, soy sauce and miso are seasonings that add flavor and aroma. But be careful! These attributes will be lost if heated for long periods of time, so add them towards the end of the cooking to retain their best qualities. And there you have it! The five essential Japanese seasonings you must have if you want to cook Japanese food. The secret is in the order, easily remembered with "Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So". You’ll be replicating Japanese tastes in no time!!

Umami Recipe Team

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