The key to Japanese cooking is using the right ingredients. It is best to use Japanese ingredients. They can be made in Singapore or Hong Kong but Japanese style is best or the flavours will not be quite right. The following are the essential pantry ingredients needed to make Japanese food.
1. Dashi (stock): Dried bonito is used extensively in Japanese dishes as the basis for stocks and broths. There are powders available but I recommend using Marutomo brand flakes.
2. Miso: Red and white miso is added to dashi stock for miso soup a staple of the Japanese diet. Red is stronger and has more flavour while the white is light and sweet in taste.
3. Seaweed: There are different types used in Japanese cooking. Daichu brand dried kelp is good for udon noodle dishes, while flat sheets are used for sushi.
4. Mirin: Japanese cooking rice wine. Is used extensively in hotpots such as nikujyaga, nimono and teriyaki. I highly recommend the Mizkhan brand cooking rice wine.
5. Rice Vinegar: This is a sushi rice essential. It can also be used to make ponzu sauce by adding soy, cooking sake and a bit of dashi. Mizkhan is again the preferred brand.
6. Wasabi: Fresh wasabi is still rare in Australia but the House Spice brand Japanese horseradish paste is very good.
7. Soy Sauce: Comes in both normal and light varieties. Light soy is best for vegetable dishes or udon noodles. Darker soy is best for dipping sauces. My preferred brand is Kikkoman brand sauces.
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