Japan is not just the land of exotic landscapes and volcanoes it is also blessed with an exotic array of spices that are fragrant and rich in flavour. Japanese spices add a unique flavour to the dishes and the country’s food culture. Traditional Japanese spices have been used in the country since times immemorial.
While Japanese cuisine uses five basic flavours; salt, sugar, vinegar, soya sauce and miso, the other dishes in the cuisine requires a range of herbs and spices to enhance the flavours of the dish.
Here are some useful Japanese spices and herbs you cannot miss.
Shichimi is one of the most popular spices and a unique blend of 7 spices. It has a mix of pepper, sansho powder, nori seaweed, dried mandarin orange peel, hemp seeds, white sesame seeds and dried ginger. It is a popular food souvenir at some of Japan’s famous shrine festivals and tourist sites. Shichimi is often used in soups, generously sprinkled on udon noodles and yakitori. It is also used in rice cakes, agemochi and roasted rice crackers as a seasoning.
Sansho, also known as Japanese pepper is commonly used throughout Japan. It is a versatile spice with different parts of the plant. The young buds can be picked during spring when the tree is blooming with leaves. The flower goes exceptionally well with grilled fish. The lime green berry after flowering, is used for dishes boiled in soy sauce, cooked with dried young sardines. The red mature berry is dried and ground into powder. Sansho is commonly used to flavour freshwater eels, that are popular in summer owing to their nutritional value and provide the stamina to resist the hot and humid weather. The broiled eels are lightly sauced then dusted with sansho powder to bring out the rich flavor.
Yuzu koshou is a special Japanese spice which is not found outside Japan. It adds a tangy flavor to dishes and is made from the Yuzu fruit rind, which is thick and fleshy with an aromatic fragrance. The rind is cut into fine threads then added to stews, soups and boiled dishes which adds a strong flavour. Yuzu juice is often used as a substitute for vinegar. It is also added to bath during winter which is known to prevent cold and cough.
These are black and white unhulled sesame seeds and are widely used as a topping in soups, dressings and as a main ingredient in goma tofu which, in which it is roasted and ground to give an aromatic flavour.
Myouga Ginger is an edible flower bud with a refreshing aroma and taste. It is cultivated in for its edible flower buds and flavorful shoots. The buds are finely shredded and are commonly used in summer as a garnish for tofu, soba and salads and Japanese cuisines.
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