Ingredients, dishes and drinks from Japan by Ad Blankestijn

Thursday, January 21, 2016



Condiment, seasoning. 調味料。

The Japanese have a wordplay (goro-awase) or mnemonic technique to remember the main seasonings and in which order they should be used during the preparation of the meal: sa-shi-su-se-so, or:  sato (sugar) - shio (salt) - su (vinegar) - shoyu (soy sauce) - miso. The traditional sweetener, by the way, is not sugar (the use of which is relatively restricted in the Japanese kitchen), but mirin. This is a sweet liquid flavoring, made by mixing steamed rice on which a koji-culture has been developed, with shochu (distilled spirits). Of the above list, sugar is modern, salt is used relatively little, and rice vinegar, miso paste and soy sauce are the major condiments of the traditional cuisine.

[Traditional soy sauce brewing vat in Yuasa, Wakayama Pref.]

That leaves out the major flavor enhancer in the Japanese kitchen, the basic stock called dashi. Dashi is not seen as a separate seasoning, but is the stock that forms of the basis of countless dishes and soups and that enhances the original flavors. It is typical for the umami concept in the Japanese kitchen.

One more traditional flavoring that should be mentioned here is sake (nihonshu). Sake is often used to give a "hidden flavor" to a particular dish.

Then there are some other flavorings which are only used in specific dishes, for example: