So maybe you've seen my recipes, looked at the ingredients list, and thought "what on earth..."?
There are a few items I always keep in the cupboard and in the fridge and pantry. If you have these few items, you'll find you can make many Japanese dishes!
- Shoyu: Japanese Soy Sauce. Kikkoman is one famous brand. Don't use non-Japanese brands, their taste is different so they can't be substituted.
- Mirin: Japanese sweet rice wine for cooking. You can substitute 1/3 the volume in sugar if necessary.
- Dashi: Japanese Fish Stock made from bonito. The most convenient forms are stock powder, called Dashi-no-moto or Hon-dashi. Scroll down below to see the other ways to make Dashi.
Other contents of my fridge/pantry:
- Tonkatsu Sauce: A condiment for many modern dishes. Made from a unique blend of spices, fruit and vegetables. This is very useful as it can also substitute for Okonomi Sauce or Yakisoba Sauce.
- Japanese Mayonnaise: many brands, pretty much the same. Used in modern Japanese dishes.
- Katsuo-bushi: Shaved dried bonito (flakes)
- Miso: Soy bean paste used in Miso soup, Miso ramen, mabo-dofu or mabo-nasu etc.
- Sake: (Ryouri-shuu) Rice wine for cooking. Can be omitted if you don't have it.
- Sesame Oil: Used in any Chinese-influenced Japanese dishes such as ramen, gyouza.
- Kombu: Strips of Dried Kelp (seaweed). Naturally enhances flavours.
- Shiitake: Shiitake Mushrooms (I buy dried shiitake because they're cheap in Australia)
The vegetables I always have in my fridge:
(And you probably do too)
carrots, onions, potatoes, cabbage, negi (Shallots/spring onions/scallions)
Other Vegetables I often use:
cucumber, pumpkin, spinach, corn, peas, lettuce, tomato, broccoli, avocado.
Hakusai: Chinese cabbage
Daikon: Big long white Japanese radish
Piiman: In Australia I use Green Capsicum (bell pepper). In Japan real piiman are small with very thin skins.
Moyashi: Mung bean sprouts (bean sprouts)
Enoki: White thin mushrooms I buy from the fridge in my asian grocery store.
Tofu: If I just say "tofu" in a recipe, then I mean "regular tofu". However, tofu comes in various forms:
Fresh Tofu: Soft, Regular, Firm
Fried Tofu: Agedofu: Usuage (thin), Atsuage (thick)
About Dashi: (Japanese Fish Stock)
Yes, commercial dashi powder (dashi-no-moto or hon-dashi) does contain MSG. Japanese people have been using it for decades and most have never thought twice about it.
If you want to make it MSG free, then make your own dashi by boiling katsuobushi in water with a little kombu. Kombu has the natural version of MSG so it's a natural flavour enhancer, and katsuobushi is what we're making stock of.
There are also dashi bags (like big teabags) which are basically dried katsuo in a teabag.
I usually use the dashi powder. It's easier.
3/5/2012 update: For the past month or so I haven't used dashi powder once! Where dashi stock is needed, I begin by boiling the katsuobushi in water, then use a sieve to scoop out the katsuobushi before adding ofther ingredients.