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Sea vegetables for Japanese Cooking

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Sea vegetables, a name for aquatic vegetarian more accurate than that oft-used “seaweed” have a prominent place on the Japanese table and are valued for being rich in minerals and low in calories. Kaiso (海藻) is the generic term for sea vegetables; well-known sea vegetables found frequently on the Japanese table include Kelp (kombu 昆布), Laver (Nori 海苔), sea tangle (wakame わかめ), and hijiki (no English name). Wakame is often used in miso soups or on salads; Hijiki is often simmered in soy sauce and broth (dashi). Red algae (tengusa) is another major sea vegetables. It won’t be found on the dinner plate, but it is widely consumed – it’s the major components of agar agar (kanten), a low-calorie gelatin.


Kelp (Kombu 昆布) is the king of sea vegetables. It is an essential component in Dashi, the broth used in many Japanese dishes. A natural source for glutamic acid, it is rich in umami. Kombu thrives in the cool, mineral-rich waters surrounding Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.

Some Kombu products (not the Kombu used in dashi) include:

Komochi Kombu : Kombu layered with herring eggs.

Kombu cha : Kombu that has been dried and crushed into a powder; most often used for tea, soup stocks, or for thickening non-oil salad dressings.

Musubi Kombu : Knots of Kombu, often found in fish cake stew. (Oden)

Oboro : Shaved Kombu, used for soups Tororo : Shaved Kombu, used in soups and wrapped around rice and other items.


Laver (Nori 海苔) is toasted and most often found surrounding roll sushi. 80% of Japan’s nori is harvested in the Ariake Bay and Seto Naikai in southern Japan. Before eating, nori may be warmed slightly over low heat to bring out its aroma.

Some nori products include:

Aonori: Green laver that has been dried and flaked; used as a topping on food such as okonomiyaki, Japanese savory pancake.

Aosa: Green laver similar to aonori.

Ajitsuke nori: Laver seasoned with soy sauce and mirin; popular at breakfast.

Mominori: Shredded bits of ajitsuke nori; often used as a garnish over noodles.

Yaki nori: Toasted nori, used for rolled sushi

Memo :
1. Are you looking for Japanese cookbooks and kitchenwares etc? Visit YJC store on Amazon!
2. Would you like to cook many more recipes? Download Free recipe app from here! “Recipe by YJC

* Reference of this article : Food Sake Tokyo (The Terroir Guides) 

Soy Products for Japanese Cooking

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The soy bean, a rich source of protein, is central to the Japanese diet. Soy products include tofu, soy sauce, and miso. Tofu can also be pronounced dofu, as in Koya-dofu (freeze-dried tofu) or yudofu (tofu hot pot).

Tofu in Japan can be a reservation, a far cry from the bland blocks commonly found commonly found elsewhere.

Abura-age (油揚げ) : Pieces of tofu from which excess water has been pressed, and then deep-fried

Agedashi dofu (揚げ出し豆腐) : Tofu that is rolled in a starch (katakuriko0 deep-fried, and covered in a savory soy and dashi sauce

Atsu-age (厚揚げ) : Thick pieces of tofu that are deep-fried

Ganmodoki (がんもどき) : Tofu that is mixed with vegetables from both land and sea, molded into balls, and deep-fried

Hiyayakko (冷奴) : Chilled tofu, popular in summer

Kinugoshi dofu (絹ごし豆腐) : Soft or silken tofu

Koya-dofu (高野豆腐) : Freeze-dried tofu, named after Mount Koya where it was originally made

Momen dofu (木綿豆腐) : cotton tofu or firm tofu, so called because the tofu was traditionally strained through a piece of cotton cloth

Yakidofu (焼き豆腐) : Grilled tofu, often used in hot pots

Yudofu (湯豆腐) : Tofu hot pot, a popular dish in the winter

Zaru dofu (ざる豆腐) : Very soft tofu named for the zaru, a bowl made from bamboo in which it is formed

Other soy products

Daizu (大豆) : Dried soybeans

Edamame (枝豆) : fresh soybeans, usually served boiled and seasoned with sea salt

Kinako (きなこ) : Flour made from toasted soybeans; a popular ingredients in wagashi (Japanese confections)

Miso (みそ) : Fermented paste, which is made from soybeans and sea salt combined with koji. More in detail

Okara (おから) : The pulp left over after steamed soy beans are pressed to make soymilk; low in fat and rich in fiber, okra may be mixed with vegetables, or used as an ingredient in croquette

Natto (納豆) : Fermented soybeans, famous for a their funky aroma and gooey texture.

Tonyu (豆乳) : Soy milk

Yuba (湯葉) : The skin from soy milk that has been heated; best when served on its own with a bit of soy  sauce and wasabi, it can also be used to wrap foods or as an ingredient.

* Reference of this article : Food Sake Tokyo (The Terroir Guides) 

Dried products for Japanese Cooking

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Kanbutsu (dried products, 乾物) are key staples of Japanese pantry. All have a long shelf life, most are natural and without preservatives; and they can be simply reconstituted in water before use.


Aonori (青のり): Green laver, often sprinkled on Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba.

Aosa (あおさ): Sea lettuce, good in soups

Hijiki (ひじき): A black sea vegetable rich in minerals and protein

Kaiso (海藻): Generic term for sea vegetables, often added to salads

Kanten (寒天): Aga-agar made from tengusa, a sea vegetabl, and used as a gelatin

Kombu (昆布): Kelp, essential ingredients in dashi soup broth

Nori (海苔/のり): Seaweed, often used for sushi

Wakame (わかめ): A sea vegetable often used in miso soup and salads


Katsuobushi (かつおぶし): Dried bonito flakes

Niboshi (煮干し): Small dried sardines

Sakura ebi (桜えび): Dried sakura shrimp

Sesame seeds:

Goma (ごま): Sesame seeds

Irigoma (炒りごま): Roasted sesame seeds

Kurogoma (黒ごま): Black sesame seeds

Shirogoma (白ごま): White sesame seeds

Surigoma (すりごま): Crushed sesame seeds

Wheat gluten:

Fu (麩): Wheat gluten

Kuruma-fu(車麩): Car wheel shape wheat gluten


Hoshi shiitake (干し椎茸): Dried shiitake mushrooms

Hoshi warabi (干しわらび): Dried bracken, a type of mountain vegetable (Sansai)

Hoshi zenmai (干しぜんまい): Dried royal fern, a type of mountain vegetable (Sansai)

Kanpyo (かんぴょう): Dried gourd strips

Kikurage (きくらげ): Dried wood-ear mushroom

Kinako (きなこ): Dried soybean powder, a popular ingredient in confections

Kiriboshi daikon (切り干し大根): Dried strips of daikon

Kuzuko (葛粉): Starch made from the kudzu plant, used as a thickening agent, also referred to simply as Kuzu


Mame (豆): Generic term for beans

Azuki (小豆): Small red beans, often used in confections (wagashi)

Daizu (大豆): Soybeans

Kintoki (金時): Kidney beans

Kuromame (黒豆): Black beans

Koya dofu (高野豆腐): Freeze-dried tofu


Menrui (麺類): Generic term for noodles

Soba (そば): Buckwheat flour noodles

Somen (そうめん): Thin wheat noodles

Udon (うどん): Thicker wheat noodles

Harusame (はるさめ): Thin noodles made from bean starch (or potato starch)

Memo :

1. Are you looking for Japanese cookbooks and kitchenwares etc? Visit YJC store on Amazon!
2. Would you like to cook many more recipes? Download Free recipe app from here! “Recipe by YJC

* Reference of this article : Food Sake Tokyo (The Terroir Guides) 

Basic ingredients for Japanese Cooking

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Dashi だし

The most basic broth on which much of Japanese food is based. Umami rich ingredients like kelp (Kombu), Bonito flakes, dried sardines and dried shiitake mushrooms are all key ingredients to make Dashi.

* For more detail, please check this page!

Soy sauce 醤油

Made from soybeans, wheat, salt and Koji (also used to make sake and Shochu). Soy sauce requires long fermentation.

Types of soy sauce: 
Koikuchi : Dark color soy sauce. The most popular type in Japan.
Usukuchi : Lighter color than koikuch. Normally saltier. Used not to darken a dish.
Tamari : A little bit sweet. Normally Gluten-free. Often served with sashimi.

Sake 酒

Made from special Sake rice, Tane koji (seed molt), water and yeast. In the kitchen, sake brings depth to many dishes, adds a light natural sweetness, and when added to seafood helps to cleanse the fishy aromas.

Purchase Nihonshu (日本酒)or Seishu (清酒) from the sake section. As with wine, if you cook with sake, the food will naturally pair well with sake. There are several grade in Sake, I recommend Junmaishu (純米酒) or upper.

Mirin みりん

Made from sticky rice and Tane koji (seed molt). Used to add sweetness, to soften flavors and cleanse the strong aromas. Mirin will also put a nice glaze on foods.

Purchase high-quality hon mirin (本みりん) which usually has orange color. It is sweet, but mellower than sugar. It is good in simmered foods such as yakitori and teriyaki.

Vinegar 酢

Made from sake rice, Tane koji (seed molt), water, yeast, rice vinegar and acetobacter. Vinegar is very delicate product and should be added toward the end of cooking or it loses its aroma. Vinegar, too, can help cleanse the aromas of fish. Rice wine vinegar, Komezu (米酢), is most often used.

Miso 味噌

Made from soybeans, Kome koji (rice mold) and salt in general. Key ingredients to make miso soup. Miso paste is made from one or more of three base ingredients: soy beans, rice or barley.

* For more detail, please check this page!

Other common pantry items:

Katakuriko 片栗粉
A starch originally made from dogtooth violet, it is more commonly found made from potatoes. Used to thicken sauces, it is similar to cornstarch but with a finer texture.

Goma Abura ごま油
An aromatic sesame oil used for its aroma and nutty flavors.

Wasabi わさび
Japanese horseradish, available grated and in tubes; look for products that are one hundred percent wasabi, often labeled “hon wasabi”.

Yuzu Kosho 柚子こしょう
A salty and spicy paste made from salt, yuzu rind and chili peppers.

Yuzu 柚子
The skin of aromatic citron; a popular condiment, it is available freeze-dried.

Shichimi 七味
A blend of seven spices, often including dried red chili pepper, dried yuzu peel, ao nori, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, white poppy seeds, and Sansho peppers. Blend vary; often served with noodles such as udon.

Ichimi 一味
Dried red chili pepper (togarashi), also called ichimi togarashi.

Memo :

1. Are you looking for Japanese kitchenwares and seasonings etc? Visit YJC store on Amazon!
2. Would you like to cook many more recipes? Download Free recipe app from here! “Recipe by YJC

* Reference of this article : Food Sake Tokyo (The Terroir Guides) 

Japanese Food Words

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Useful Words:
Amai : Sweet
Amakuchi : Sweet for beverages
Gochisosama (-deshita) : It was a feast (at the end of a meal)
Hashi : Chopsticks
Itadakimasu : Thank you for the food! (at the beginning of a meal)
Kanpai : Cheers (before drinking)
Karai : Hot or spicy
Karakuchi : Dry for beverages
Nama : Raw
Nigai : Bitter
Oishii : Delicious
Okawari : Refill
Osusume : Recommendation
Shoppai : Salty
Suppai : Sour

Evocative words:
Atsu atsu : Steaming hot, almost too hot to eat , like a hot pot
Fuwa fuwa : Fluffy, like a marshmallow
Gabu gabu : Drinking wholeheartedly
Hoka hoka : Hot, at just the right temperature, like a bowl of rice
Hoku hoku: Steamy, like baked potatoes
Jyu jyu : Juicy food being grilled
Kori kori : Crunchy, like a pickled daikon radish
Koto koto : Sound of a bubbling pot
Mochi mochi : Chewy, like mochi (rice taffy)
Neba Neba : Slimy and Sticky, like natto (fermented soybeans) or Tororo (grated yam)
Nuru nuru : Slimy and slippery, like a okra
Paku paku : Eating wholeheartedly
Pari pari : Thin and crispy, like a potato or nori seaweed chips
Piri piri : Something that is spicy, like too much wasabi or curry
Puri puri : Resistant, like fresh shrimp
Puru puru : Wiggly, like pudding or jelly
Saku saku : Delicate and crispy, like tempura
Shari shari : Sound of ice being shaved
Shiko shiko : Chewy, like a abalone or udon
Shuwa shuwa : Fizzy, like a sparkling water
Ton ton : The sound of a knife rhythmically hitting the cutting board
Toro toro : Melts in your mouth, like fatty tuna
Tsubu tsubu : Chunky bits, like the pulp in freshly squeezed orange juice
Tsuru tsuru : The sound of slurping noodles

* Reference of this article : Food Sake Tokyo (The Terroir Guides) 

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