List of Japanese Seasonings
To cook Japanese cuisine, commonly found ingredients like salt and sugar are used, but also unique seasonings, like soy sauce, mirin, sake and vinegar. Here we will see the seasonings that are famous and popular in Japan.
Soy source is an all-round seasoning that is used not only in Japanese cuisine, but also in Chinese cuisine and some Western style Japanese foods. It is a typical Japanese seasoning. Soy sauce has many types and flavors, for example some has a light, fresh taste, while others have a deep, robust taste. Moreover, these tastes are different depending on areas. Soy sauce that is used in the Kanto Region and Kansai Region are salty and not very sweet. However, in the Kyushu Region, soy source has a strong sweet taste and is generally called “Kanro-shouyu” or “Umakuti”.
Miso is a seasoning that is made from fermenting soy beans and rice together. It is used to make miso-soup, and also Dengaku*1 and many other dishes. Miso has various types, for example rice miso, wheat miso, shiro-miso, aka-miso etc. Each is used depending on the dish being made, or the ingredients. It is very famous overseas too.
Mirin is an alcoholic seasoning that is used to give a sweet taste to ingredients when you cook Japanese cuisine. It is 14% of alcohol and 40-50% sugar. There is an alternative seasoning to mirin, that is called “mirin flavored seasoning”, but there are some dishes that have to use real mirin.
Originally, mirin was an expensive alcoholic drink before people commonly drink sake. The exact origins of mirin are still unknown, but we can say that mirin is an essential seasoning to cook Japanese cuisine.
Sake (for cooking)
Sake is used to remove the smell of fish, and to add some flavors to a dish. Sometimes pure sake, which is not for cooking, is used alternatively instead of using sake for cooking. Anyway, sake is absolutely necessary to create an authentic Japanese taste.
Vinegar is a world common seasoning that has many different types, for example grain vinegar, apple vinegar, black vinegar and so on. Vinegar is very important to make Japanese cuisine as well, because there are many Japanese cuisines that use vinegar as a main seasoning, like sunomono*2, sumiso*3 and sumeshi*4
It is used not only as a seasoning but also it can prevent food putrefaction, and can also soften meats. In addition, sometimes it is used as a hidden flavor.
These are the 5 main seasonings of Japanese cuisine. Most of these are essential to cook it. Some of them are well known in some foreign countries too.