As the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan and we eagerly anticipate next summer’s Olympics, it seems like everyone’s hungry for all things Japanese – especially when it comes to eats.
So much more than sushi, Japanese food isn’t the tricky culinary slog you might think it is. But, just in case you don’t know your dojo from your miso or your edamame from your origami, we’ve rounded up some top ingredients and awesome meals to get you going.
10 tasty must-have ingredients
With these essentials you’ll be well on your way to a Japanese feast. Many can be bought in well-stocked supermarkets, but failing that buy them from an Asian store or online.
Dashi A flavour-packed stock, a dash of dashi forms the base of most soups and stews. Made with fish flakes, seaweed and mushroom, buy it as a sauce or powder.
Mirin It’s sake (rice wine, Japan’s national beverage) but for cooking, so lower in alcohol and higher in sugar.
Miso A pungent paste made from fermented soybeans, rice and other grains that’s used for soups, sauces, dressings and marinades.
Noodles Choose a noodle to suit your mood: Udon (thick wheat flour noodles), Ramen (Chinese style), Soba (wholemeal) or Somen (thin white noodles).
Nori Dried or toasted seaweed, often sold as paper-thin sheets. You’ll know it best as the edible wrapping that holds sushi together. Also a yummy snack if you’re into seaweed.
Panko Zapped with an electric current while being baked (yikes!), these special breadcrumbs don’t absorb oil so stay light and crispy. Perfect for katsu – check out the recipe below.
Rice vinegar Less acidic than regular white distilled vinegar, it has a mild, delicate and slightly sweet flavour.
Shoyu (soy sauce) You’ve got soy sauce, but is it Japanese? This stuff has a slightly different flavour as it’s brewed for longer and has less salt.
Tofu Fermented bean curd available in differing textures and used in everything from soups to sweet dishes.
Wasabi A plant, the root of which is used to make a fiery, spicy condiment. Like horseradish, it gives an intense, mouth-melting heat that quickly fades. Well, quick-ish.
Make it snacky
Super simple and fun to prepare, shoyu tamago are peeled hard-boiled eggs steeped in soy sauce, giving them a salty bite and a tan colour (kinda like the shell’s still on). Perfect snack or noodle dish topping.
A fluffy omelette stuffed with ketchup-flavoured fried rice – Omurice – may not sound very Japanese but it’s been a popular light dish for over a century. Top tip: let the rice cooker sort the rice while you whip up the omelette and other fillings.
Meals in minutes
Pushed for time with dinner prep? Donburi. That’s Japanese for rice bowl and we’ve found the perfect one for you to try. Oyakodon is a lip-smacking mix of chicken, egg, rice and sweet and salty flavours, all ready in just 20 minutes.
Pass up the instant and make your own sauce from scratch with this dead simple and delicious Teriyake salmon.
This blog wouldn’t be complete without our favourite dish from a well-known high street Asian eatery – chicken katsu curry. Turns out it’s a doddle to make at home – who knew? Cook the chicken in the ActiFry for a tasty, crispy finish.
Itadakimasu! (that’s bon appetit, Japanese style).