Japanese food and cooking evolved influenced mostly by the country's particular geography. Meat does not make a large contribution to Japan's culinary history; fish, seaweed, rice, and soy do.
Ingredients for Japanese recipes
The products of the ocean - fish and seaweed - and soy - particularly as soy sauce, miso, and a couple of other unusual products - characterize the flavors of Japanese cooking. As a matter of fact, the basic Japanese stock, dashi, is made with kelp and shaved dried tuna. Dashi is quick and easy to prepare. This stock is the basis for a myriad dishes and its aroma lingers in every Japanese kitchen. Dishes prepared with dashi frequently count on soy sauce as a finishing touch.
Dried bonito flakes - Thin slivers from a dried fish in the tuna family. You will find them in packages of different weights; buy withouth worrying as they are almost everlasting and their welcoming smell will greet you when opening the pantry. Dried tuna flakes are used almost exclusively for dashi, the basic Japanese stock contributing to many Japanese recipes.
Dried shiitake mushrooms - Wholly convenient in many Eastern Asian cuisines.
Miso - A paste made by fermenting soy beans, rice or barley with the koji mold. You will find it as a paste, thick sauce or powdered.Mix with dashi soup stock to make misho soup.
Panko bread crumbs - Considered the best packaged bread crumbs. It is easy to become addicted and use them as a matter of fact, regardless from the cuisine.
Preserved plums - Known as umeboshi.
Rice - Staple in Japanese cooking. Be sure to have the short grain variety imprescindible for sushi.
Rice vinegar, mirin - Perfect for marinades Japanese style and you will find it also good for general cooking and great for light vinaigrettes and other dressings.
Sake - Served with many meals and used in cooking. Not bad to drink.
Seaweed - Especially kombu - kelp - and nori - laver - imprescindible to prepare dashi and seaweed salads. Easy to find dried at the grocery store -re-hydrated before using them.
Sesame oil - A dark, roasted oil. This is one is used often not only in Japanese, but many East Asian recipes as well.
Sesame seeds - Better whole to toast or grind when needed. Ready toasted sesame seeds, ground or whole, are available.
Soy sauce or shoyu - Look for a sauce with no more than water, soy, wheat, salt, and a culture in thelist of ingredients. Any other additive is unnecesary and ould impair the flavor.
Miso paste can be used in other recipes.
This flavored butter goes well with roasted vegetables and vegetables. It can be put on top of the vegetables when taking them out of the oven, or served on the side so that each person can serve what they want.
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup red miso
Put the butter and red miso paste in a bowl. We mix them by crushing them with the back of a soup spoon.
We form a cylinder and wrap it in waxed paper, twisting the ends so that the package closes. Refrigerate the miso butter until ready to use.
It is not necessary to mix the butter and miso thoroughly. Some streaks of miso may remain visible.
Yogurt sauce with anchovies and miso
It goes well with meat, fish and grilled vegetables. It can also be used as a salad dressing.
1/4 cup white miso
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt (Greek yogurt)
8 anchovy fillets (crushed or finely chopped)
6-8 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons unflavored oil
2 teaspoon sesame oil
We put the white miso, Greek yogurt, anchovies, honey and rice vinegar in a container and mix them very well. Add the oil (both types of oil) little by little.
Refrigerate the sauce until ready to use.
The sauce can be thinned with a little water if it is too thick.