In December 2013, washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
It is great that many people in the world come to love Japanese food, but it’s not really easy to find tasty and reasonable washoku outside Japan.
Japanese food is not so mysterious as you imagine. In fact, Japanese home meals are quite easy to make. You just need to buy 3 items to start Japanese cooking.
Three Basic Items
Japanese home meals can be cooked in flexible ways, so most of the ingredients can be replaced with what can be found in other countries. However, the following three items are indispensable to make Japanese food. You can easily find them in every grocery store in Japan. Outside Japan, check out Japanese grocery store or online stores.
1. Japanese rice: Steamed rice is a main part of our daily meals, although bread has become popular for breakfast. Generally, a bowl of rice is served per person for every meal, which can be refilled later on as okawari. Make sure to buy Japanese ordinary rice (uruchimai), because its stickiness cannot be found in other kinds of rice.
You don’t have a rice cooker? No worries, see this article.
2. Soy sauce (shoyu): Soy sauce is versatile! It can be used for western dishes too, so don’t hesitate to buy a bottle. Simply dip any vegetables, meat or fish in it, then it will taste Japanese. Not only as dip sauce, it is used to season many Japanese traditional dishes.
3. Miso: Miso is fermented bean paste to make miso soup. It’s also used to season dishes in many ways. If you buy it in Japan as a souvenir, be careful not to bring it on the plane but put it in your check-in baggage. (It is considered as liquid.)
If you want more…
If you want to pursue Japanese cooking, consider getting the following items that will increase the variety of dishes.
Dashi: Dashi means soup, stock or broth. If you prefer home-made dashi, you will need to prepare katsuobushi (dried bonito), konbu (dried kelp), niboshi (dried infant sardines) and/or hoshi-shiitake (dried mushroom). If you want to save time, instant dashi is convenient. It’s powdery or condensed liquid, and will be mixed with water to use.
Sake: Sake (rice wine) is used to get rid of smell of fresh food and add rich flavor.
Mirin: Mirin is sweet cooking rice wine. It is used to add sweet flavor and create shiny texture.
Next, I will introduce simple steps to make miso soup 🙂